With help from friends Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker, TV icon Oprah Winfrey has a new project that is sure to strike gold. The Great Debaters, a new film out this Christmas, which was produced by the talk show queen, is based on a true story that chronicles the journey of Professor Melvin Tolson who was under fire for his unconventional teaching methods and radical political views. One never to keep her opinion to herself and TV’s leading talk show host, OK! was able to chat with the proud producer herself.
What inspired you to make this project?
This project was brought to me 10 years ago and then four years ago we presented it to Denzel. When he said yes to direct it that was a prayer. When he said yes to both acting and directing, I was literally dancing a jig. If you look at the original script and what he did, you see the genius of him. I loved his choices. I just love the film.
What personal message did you get from the film?
For me, the message is that no matter who you are, you have the power to exceed what people believe. Nobody gets to tell you who you are. You come away from this film feeling better about your own life. You come away with a sense of emotional feeling that life can be better for you. I love that feeling.
What was your immediate reaction upon seeing the final product?
I went home, and I didn’t know what to do with all the emotion. I was full, as we say in the church. Honey. I didn’t know what to do so I went home and poured out my heart to Denzel. I wrote him a letter, then tore it up, then wrote another letter, tore it up and then wrote another letter and finally sent him a letter.
What do you love most about your life?
Oh my God. All of it. I love the variety of it. It’s filled with lots of fascinating experiences and you get to see all kinds of people and be grounded with who you are. For me, the best part of my life is my spiritual grounding — my spiritual foundation.
Would you like to act again?
You can never say never. It’s not something I pine for or dream about. I don’t have that anymore. I let that go.
By David Lasky