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Oprah Winfrey debunks unfair treatment claims on The Color Purple set, maintains no ill-will with Taraji P. Henson

The cast of the musical remake have previously opened up about the challenges on set, and both Oprah and the Empire star's support

Oprah Winfrey and Taraji P. Henson attend THR Presents Live: The Color Purple at Crosby Hotel on December 11, 2023 in New York City
Beatriz Colon
Beatriz Colon - New York
New York WriterNew York
9 January 2024
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Oprah Winfrey is putting a stop to any speculation about how the cast of The Color Purple was treated on set.

Earlier this week, lead star Taraji P. Henson opened up to the New York Times about the musical remake of the 1985 classic (which Oprah starred in), produced by the veteran media mogul alongside Steven Spielberg.

In her conversation with the Times, the Empire star spoke candidly about what she "fought" for while on set, like proper transportation for the cast. Revealing that they had initially been given rental cars as their method of transportation while filming in Atlanta, she explained: "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!"

WATCH: The cast of The Color Purple assemble on the purple carpet for the world premiere

Oprah, speaking with Entertainment Tonight at the Golden Globes – the film's actresses Danielle Brooks and Fantasia Barrino both received nominations – defended her support for the movie and its cast, and maintained no ill will between her and Taraji.

"People are saying that I was not supporting Taraji," she said, before maintaining: "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."

She noted: "So whenever I heard that there was something that people needed... I'm not in charge of the budget because that's Warner Bros. That's the way the studio system works."

Oprah Winfrey on the set of "The Color Purple" in 1985© Getty
Oprah had a breakthrough performance in the 1985 version of the film

"We as producers, everybody gets their salary and everybody is negotiated by your team," she further explained, and ultimately stated: "Whenever I heard there was an issue or there was a problem, there was a problem with a cars or the problem with their food, I would step in and do whatever I could to make it right. And I believe that [Taraji] would even vouch for that and say that is true."

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Danielle, who stars as Sofia and was nominated for the supporting role, also recently opened up about the initial challenges on set in a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter, and credited both Oprah and Taraji for correcting them.

Oprah Winfrey, Taraji P. Henson, Fantasia Barrino and Danielle Brooks attend the State of the Industry and Warner Bros. Pictures Presentation during CinemaCon on April 25, 2023© Getty
Lead stars Taraji, Fantasia, and Danielle with producer Oprah in April

"I remember when we first came and we're doing rehearsals, they put us all in the same space," she initially said, before sharing: "We didn't have our own dressing rooms at the time. We didn't have our own food… [Oprah] corrected it for us. [Taraji] was our voice."

Last month, Taraji went viral after she teared up during an appearance on Gayle King's SiriusXM show, while discussing the ongoing pay disparity she has experienced even after her critically-acclaimed and award-nominated performances in movies such as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Hidden Figures.

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She earned praise from fans and fellow actors alike when she said: "I'm just tired of working so hard, being gracious at what I do, getting paid a fraction of the cost," adding: "I'm tired of hearing my sisters say the same thing over and over. You get tired. I hear people go, 'You work a lot.' I have to. The math ain't math-ing.

MORE: Taraji P. Henson responds to claims she shaded Ryan Seacrest at 2018 Oscars

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 16: (L-R) Honoree Fantasia Barrino and Oprah Winfrey attend Variety Power of Women Los Angeles presented by Lifetime at Mother Wolf on November 16, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Randy Shropshire/Variety via Getty Images)© Getty
Fantasia and Oprah at the Variety Power of Women event in November

"I'm only human. It seems every time I do something and 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 tired. I'm tired. It wears on you."

In her 2016 memoir, Around the Way Girl, Taraji recalled the difference in salary between hers and that of Brad Pitt's after they starred in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which earned her an Oscar nomination for her supporting role. In the book, she recalled asking for $500,000 and receiving $150,000 instead, while Brad made $10 million for the 2008 book adaptation.

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