May 2, 2017
Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson Explain Why 'Hidden Figures' Is Not A 'Black Film'

Actresses Octavia Spencer and Taraji P. Henson had a lot to say recently about their new movie, Hidden Figures.

During an interview with the New York Times, the two actresses made it clear that the new film should not be classified as a "black film."

Henson expressed her frustration over that particular phrase being used for movies that she does in general depending on the number of African-Americans featured in the cast.
"I hate when I do a film, and it has a lot of African-Americans and they call it a 'black film.' I don't wake up and go, 'Let's see, this weekend, I'm going to see a Chinese film. I'm going to see a black film. No, I'm going [to] see a white film with a black person in it.' Who does that?"
Hidden Figures focuses on the amazing true story of female African-American mathematicians who became valuable assets within the space program at NASA in the Jim Crow South during the early 1960s. The leading ladies of the cast include singer Janelle Monae, Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson, and Oscar winner Octavia Spencer.Even though the main story of Hidden Figures focuses on three African-American women, the cast also consists of such names as Kirsten Dunst, Kevin Costner and The Big Bang Theory actor Jim Parsons.

Perhaps the diverse cast and the empowering story played a part in Octavia deciding to express herself the way that she did during the New York Times interview.

"This is a female-driven movie about contributions that women really made, to our world, not just our society. That's a big statement."
In the film, Empire star Taraji P. Henson plays Katherine Johnson - a math savant who calculated the rocket trajectories for the Apollo trips to the moon and other spaceflights. Her supervisor Dorothy Vaughan is played by The Help actress Octavia Spencer. Mary Jackson, a young engineer with a lot of potential, who also worked for the same agency, is portrayed by singer Janelle Monae in the Ted Melfi-directed film.

In addition to the leading ladies featured in front of the camera, there are quite a few powerful people working on this film behind the scenes.

For instance, the film's director Ted Melfi is definitely one of the most powerful players helping to create the film and bring this adapted story to the big screen. Theodore "Ted" Melfi last worked on the 2014 movie, St. Vincent starring Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy.

According to the New York Times, Melfi claimed that he was in talks to direct the new Spider-Man movie when the opportunity to direct Hidden Figures presented itself. The report states that Melfi "knew he would have to back out because 'Hidden Figures' was too good to pass up."

Pharrell Williams is another powerful player that did not hesitate to join the production side of Hidden Figures.

He learned about the story and the project from his producing partner.
"She knew I was going to lose my mind upon hearing about it. And when I did, we got on the phone with everybody, and we begged."
Williams became one of the film's producers and has reunited with Hans Zimmer to work on the score. Pharrell has also written songs for the film.

Hidden Figures - starring Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer - is currently scheduled to premiere in theaters on January 13, 2017.

[Image by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images]