She may the epitome of a strong, confident entrepreneur, but Oprah Winfrey admits she feels “intimidated” when she’s asked to take on acting roles.
A brand unto herself, Winfrey is taking part in Variety Studio: Actors on Actors presented by Shutterstock, candidly chatting with “Westworld” actress Thandie Newton about her incredible career.
“You know, I always wanted to be an actress,” Winfrey, 63 admits. “I never wanted anything more in my life than I wanted to be in ‘The Color Purple’, and have never allowed myself to want anything as much again.”
She starred in the 1983 drama directed by Steven Spielberg that resulted in an Oscar nomination for Winfrey for Best Supporting Actress. She tells Newton her desire to be in the film, was a “deep, deep, deep, deep thing” for her based on her love of Alice Walker’s novel.
“The first time I read that book, I went and got eight more copies for everybody else I knew to read that book. This is before I even had the idea for a book club,” she adds. “I told everyone in the world, ‘I want to be in that movie. I’ll carry water for Steven Spielberg. I’ll hold a script. I’ll do anything.'”
Though Winfrey received rave reviews of her performance as the daring and headstrong Sofia, a woman in the 1930s who refuses to lessen herself and cave to the racial oppression of the time, years later, Winfrey reveals she struggled with her own self-worth over the role.
“I didn’t feel that I was [worth it]. By the time I actually auditioned for it, I knew there is a God. Because I literally called that in,” she tells Newton who agrees stepping into certain roles can be challenging.
“As an actor we have challenges… You challenge yourself to step into someone else’s shoes. And I just think that’s what makes you, as an actress, mighty. I mean it,” Newton adds. “Because you get rid of yourself, or what you think you are. And you’re just left with an empty sack, which is going to try to bring this character to life. You realize that empty sack is really pretty special. And it’s huge. And it’s capable of carrying a lot.”
Despite her lengthy career in front of the camera, Winfrey admits she feels “intimidated” by her acting gigs. Winfrey, who next stars in the adaptation of “A Wrinkle In Time”, directed by Ava DuVernay, shares a moment she had with her co-star Reese Witherspoon on set.
“I just finished doing ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ and I asked Reese, ‘How many movies have you done?’ And she said, ‘Oh, hundreds. Hundreds.’ And I was thinking, ‘I think I’ve done five. I hope she never asks me how many I’ve done.’ And I always feel a bit intimidated where you’re literally taking on the life of someone else,” she recalls.
Much to Winfrey’s delight, Newton, 44, agrees.
“It’s terrifying!… I think the moment you stop being in awe of what you do, you have to do something else,” Newton exclaims.
Winfrey and Newton are just the latest pair of celebs to sit down for Variety‘s Actors On Actors session.
Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor reunited nearly 20 years after their musical “Moulin Rouge” to hilariously reminisce about the making of the film and talk about the incredible roles for women that are being developed in TV series, like Kidman’s “Big Little Lies”.
“A decade ago, there wasn’t enough work, right? Because it was just very much film, and then you would go to television as another resort,” Kidman explains to McGregor. “But now, it’s all mixed in together, and you have exquisite performances and storytelling in many different mediums. I love that.”
That sentiment is something Michelle Pfeiffer and Sarah Jessica Parker touch upon in their discussion about the changing role of women both in front of and behind the camera on TV.
“Television has changed so much, even in the last 10 years, especially for women,” Pfeiffer says. “It’s such an amazing place.”
Parker agrees, saying, “Television is doing better by some of those areas that were, I think, legitimately criticized for lack of diversity and gender. And television seems to – not by force, but really naturally – come to female directors and writers more.”