When you put two powerful presences in the same movie, you know you’ve got big screen gold on your hands and that’s exactly what Joyful Noise writer and director Todd Graff did when he cast the iconic duo Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton.
The two powerhouse actresses/singers shared some of their limited time to chat with HB about the movie, their roles and how they manage to keep their own faith in Hollywood. Make sure you check out Joyful Noise on January 13th!
Dolly, what have you been doing for the last 20 years?
Dolly Parton: I’ve been doing a lot! Dollywood and all sorts of things. I’ve been touring. People think you don’t do anything because you’re not on the big screen. I haven’t had any good scripts come along. I’ve had a lot of junk. Right after Straight Talk, it was a time where I was too old to play young parts and too young to play old parts. But then something like this came along and I could play my age—I have a grandson and a young spirit. I thought this was the perfect script for me. The character was everything I believe myself to be. She’s got a big heart, big hopes and big hair. [laughs]
Would you consider doing one of each other’s songs?
Dolly Parton: Sure!
Queen Latifah: Well, she wrote the songs from the movie, so I guess I already did. You still owe me some joints. [laughs]
Dolly Parton: I do a rap thing by her in my stage shows.
Queen Latifah: You’ve got to pull it up on YouTube, it’s the best.
Dolly Parton: Yes, we would! We would even do a duet outside the movie.
Two dominant female iconic brands—you’ve done so much in entertainment. Do you take ownership in that?
Queen Latifah: Dolly was very much an icon to me growing up—the way she carried herself. She was very gifted up there and I developed early, so she was of the people that I saw that carried it well. She’s got grace, poise, talent and quick wit. She’s definitely inspired me and I’ve tried to continue that carrying myself a certain way, how I feel about women and how we should be treated through my raps and my career. Whatever great benefit it’s had is fantastic.
Dolly Parton: We did great together because we are totally two individuals. She’s got her space, I have mine and I respect that. We admire each other for that. We don’t have to be best girlfriends, going to eat out—I know who she is, she knows who I am and we respect each other and our space—just like you do all people that are strong in their faith and themselves. Every day it’s something that we admire in each other that’s new.
Dolly, because your role was written for you, what challenged you as an actress?
Dolly Parton: I don’t think anything challenged me as an actress, but let me tell you what did scare me—is when I found out I would have to learn choreography. I’m always clapping on the off-beat. To learn to dance, I freaked out! I can’t even walk and chew gum! I thought, oh no! I worked so hard. The little routines that I did with everyone else, you have no idea how long that took me. That’s the first time I had to do something like that and I was scared! It was out of my element. I’m no dancer. I was panicked. I prayed for God to dance through me. [laughs]
Queen, where did you go emotionally to get through your most powerful scene in the movie?
Queen Latifah: The elevator scene with Kiki was about embodying the words from that scene. Todd’s a great writer. He put the nuts and bolts there. We needed to curve it here and there to make it personal. Although I’m not a mom yet, I have been that 17-year-old girl that needed to get checked. I know the pain I caused my mom when we communicated about that. I also witnessed the birth of a friend of mine’s two children. So when a mom says, “I brought you into this world, I can take you out…” I really understand what it is to push someone out of your body and bring them here. It’s a great deal of love and pain. You put a lot into a child, so to have them go away from the path that you set for them is difficult. Especially when you’re missing a man and no one knows how cold your sheets are at night. I tried to imagine all the things Vi Rose does in a day—cleaning bedpans, being compassionate and kind, coming home taking care of two teenagers (one with special needs), trying to keep your faith, lead a choice—she was all about controlling everything. That was the moment that pushed her over the edge.
Being that you’re both women of faith, how do you maintain your beliefs in a place like Hollywood?
Dolly Parton: My faith is very personal to me. God is just my best friend. There’s only one God and we each try to get to him in some way. I just keep myself anchored. I don’t worry about what other people do or say. He’s my personal savior. I claim that. I speak to God just like He’s my best friend. When I get upset, I argue with Him. [laughs] The more personal your faith is to you, the stronger it is and the more you get out of it.
Queen Latifah: I conquer with all of that. I’ll add that I do a lot of things that make me have to lean back on Jesus. I’m not perfect, but having faith has allowed me not to become “of Hollywood, hip hop or the hood.” I step into those worlds, but God quickly reminds me of what the truth really is.
View the Joyful Noise trailer below!