Grammy winner Jon Batiste is set to make his acting debut in Warner Bros.’ upcoming adaptation of The Color Purple.
The film, which is being directed by Blitz Bazawule (Black Is King), is based on the Tony-winning musical from Marsha Norman, Brenda Lee, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray, which was itself adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker.
Joining a cast that includes Aunjanue Ellis, H.E.R., Corey Hawkins, and Taraji P. Henson, Batiste will play Grady, a marijuana-loving womanizer married to jazz and blues singer Shug Avery (who was played by Jennifer Hudson on Broadway and will be portrayed here by Henson).
With a screenplay by The Chi’s Marcus Gardley and music by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray, the film’s story centers on Celie (Fantasia Barrino, reprising her Broadway role), a poor Black woman living in the early-1900s South who must find her way to self-love and acceptance after suffering years of horrific abuse at the hands of her father and other figures in her life.
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Production on the musical is underway in Georgia. Oprah Winfrey, who played the character of Sofia in Steven Spielberg’s 1985 adaptation of Walker’s book, is producing alongside Spielberg, Scott Sanders, and Quincy Jones. (Sanders and Jones also produced the Broadway show.) Walker is executive producing the film, which Warner Bros. will release on Dec. 20, 2023.
Batiste won an Oscar in 2020 for the musical score of Pixar’s Soul. Though he has appeared in films before, it was as an interview subject in documentaries like Oscar Peterson: Black + White. The Color Purple marks the 35-year-old musician’s first acting gig. The five-time Grammy winner, who took home Album of the Year this year for We Are. is represented by CAA and attorneys Dan Shulman and Evan Krauss.