Oprah Winfrey Breaks Silence on Rumors of Taraji P. Henson Feud
Some believe that the Color Purple producer and star are at odds over the movie.
According to a fan theory that's taken hold online, two women very important to the new musical movie version of The Color Purple are locked in a serious feud. Oprah Winfrey, who starred in the 1985 film, is a producer of the 2023 film, while Taraji P. Henson plays Shug Avery. And based on some criticism Henson has publicly leveled at the production, as well as their lack of interaction at promotional appearances, some believe that the two actors are not on good terms. On the Golden Globes red carpet on Jan. 7, Winfrey broke her silence about her supposed feud with the Empire star, asserting that there's no animosity between them.
"I would just like to say about this whole Taraji [thing] … I heard I was trending yesterday, because people were saying that I was not supporting Taraji. Taraji will tell you herself that I've been the greatest champion of this film, championing not only the behind the scenes production, but also everything that everybody needed," Winfrey told Entertainment Tonight at the Hollywood event on Sunday. (The Color Purple was up for two awards at the ceremony: Best Actress in a Motion Picture Comedy or Musical for Fantasia Barrino and Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture for Danielle Brooks. Barrino lost to Emma Stone for Poor Things, while Brooks lost to Da'Vine Joy Randolph for The Holdovers.)
The TV host went on to explain that she didn't have control over how the production's budget was used or what the actors were paid, as all of that was determined by Warners Bros., the studio behind the film. Winfrey did claim that she assisted with production issues where she could.
"Whenever I heard there was an issue or there was a problem—there was a problem with the cars, there was a problem with the food—I would step in and do whatever I could to make it right," Winfrey continued. "And I believe that she would even vouch for that and say that is true."
Henson has been vocal about the film making cost-cutting measures that she found dangerous. In an interview with The New York Times published Jan. 5, the Empire star said that she pushed back when she was offered a rental car to drive herself to and from set.
"This is insurance liability, it's dangerous. Now they robbing people. What do I look like, taking myself to work by myself in a rental car?" she said. "So I was like, 'Can I get a driver or security to take me?' I'm not asking for the moon. They're like, 'Well, if we do it for you, we got to do it for everybody.' Well, do it for everybody!"
Having actors drive themselves, especially after a long day of filming, can be a safety issue. For example, SAG-AFTRA launched an investigation into production of the show Riverdale after cast member K.J. Apa got into a car accident after falling asleep at the wheel after a 16-hour shoot.
During a Hollywood Reporter panel about the film (via Variety), Brooks claimed that the cast initially didn't have their own dressing rooms and that food wasn't provided at rehearsals. "[Oprah] corrected it for us. [Taraji] was our voice," the actor explained. "This was my first studio film. Sometimes you do come in saying, 'OK, I'll take whatever they give me. I'm just happy to be here.' But [Taraji] spoke up for us."
At the Golden Globes, Winfrey also addressed gossip that she and Henson were cold toward each other during an appearance at the Empire State Building, but she said that it was because they were literally chilly. "On that particular day, we were so cold, so I don't know what kind of body language people were talking about," the 69-year-old said. "I was just trying to stay warm and that was the fourth thing we had done. There's no validity to there being a thing between Taraji and I."
Henson has also dispelled rumors that she doesn't get along with Winfrey. In a Dec. 21 Instagram post, she shared a photo of the two of them at the Empire State Building and captioned it, "Ms. OPRAH has been nothing less than a steady and solid beacon of light to ALL OF THE CAST of The Color Purple!!! She has provided ENCOURAGEMENT, GUIDANCE and UNWAVERING SUPPORT to us all. She told me personally to reach out to her for ANYTHING I needed, and I did! It took ONE CALL… ONE CONVERSATION… and ONE DECISION MAKING BLACK WOMAN to make me feel heard."
The actor has also made headlines during The Color Purple press tour for speaking out about pay inequality and the treatment of Black women in Hollywood in general. "I'm just tried of working so hard, being gracious at what I do, getting paid a fraction of the cost. I'm tired of hearing my sisters say the same thing over and over," the 53-year-old said during an emotional interview with Gayle King. "[I]t seems every time I do something and I break another glass ceiling, when it's time to renegotiate I'm at the bottom again like I never did what I just did, and I'm just tired."
For more celebrity news delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.