Tony Award winner Anika Noni Rose currently stars alongside Denzel Washington in the Broadway revival of “A Raisin in the Sun.” Her outstanding performance has not only earned her critical acclaim but also a Tony award nomination.
She recently starred as Whoopi Goldberg’s daughter in the made-for-TV movie, A Day Late and a Dollar Short. On the big screen, Anika starred as ‘Lorell Robinson’ in Dreamgirls which went on to receive an AFI ensemble award, as well as SAG award nomination for outstanding cast.
In addition, she voiced ‘Princess Tiana’ in the animated feature The Princess and The Frog, as Disney’s first African-American ‘Princess.’ The film received three Oscar nominations and Anika became the youngest inductee ever to be honored as a Disney Legend.
Anika’s many film credits include: Imperial Dreams, For Colored Girls, Just Add Water, As Cool as I Am and Khumba. Born in Bloomfield, Connecticut on September 6, 1972, Anika received her MFA from American Conservatory Theater and holds an honorary Doctorate from Florida A&M University.
Here, she discusses her new film, Half of a Yellow Sun, co-starring Thandie Newton and Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Kam Williams: Hi Anika, thanks for the interview. I’m honored to have this opportunity.
Anika Noni Rose: Thanks so much, Kam.
KW: What interested you in making this movie?
ANR: I read the book when it came out, and I loved it! That book really excited me and moved me. And I read a lot! I remember thinking back then that it would make an amazing film. So, I was beyond thrilled when the call came asking whether I might be interested.
KW: I have a lot of questions for you from my readers. Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: Is your character Kainene very close to the character in the novel or were a lot of liberties were taken in the script?
ANR: She’s very close to the character in the novel. I tried to keep her as tight to what Chimamanda [author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie] described as possible. The only differences, I think, are the physical differences between our bodies, and there’s nothing I could do about that. [Laughs]
KW: Was that the first time you visited Africa?
ANR: No, I’ve been to Africa many times. I spent six months in Botswana shooting The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. I’ve also been to Morocco and a bunch of other places. But it was my first time in Nigeria. It was intense and I loved it, but it was a lot of hard work, because we were bringing a style of shooting that country wasn’t familiar with. So it was really a learning set, and a learning environment, because the City of Calabar certainly wasn’t ready for what we were bringing. But everybody was welcoming and stepped up to the plate, and it was a great time.
KW: How was your shoot different from the ordinary Nollywood [Nigerian film industry] set?
ANR: I’m not very familiar with Nollywood. What I do know is that they’ll finish a film in two weeks. So, it’s a very different way of shooting a feature film. It’s a bit more labor intensive, and it’s a different film language.
KW: Professor/author/filmmaker Hisani Dubose says: I’d like to know how long your journey has been to get where you are and how hard was the transition for you from Broadway to film?
ANR: I have been acting professionally since 1997. I didn’t feel that the transition was extraordinarily difficult, style-wise. The first film I did was not a great film, but I had a great time, and I learned a lot about things that were important to me, primarily, “Where is the camera right now?” and “What is the angle?” the big film I did was Dreamgirls, where I was lucky to be able to bring Broadway to the screen. But I did not feel like there was a huge difference between how I do what I do onstage and onscreen.
KW: Editor Helen Silvis asks: How did you survive in New York without a job? What tip can you share for ambitious, aspiring actors?
ANR: I was sort of lucky because I was only unemployed for three months when I first moved to New York. What actors do, when they’re not working, is file for unemployment, because you’re sort of still working when you’re auditioning all the time. Once a play ends, you file for unemployment which will assist you while you’re pounding the pavement looking for your next gig. Hopefully, that next job will come through, before your unemployment runs out. And that’s the trick used by most actors. [Chuckles]
KW: Troy Johnson says: I had the opportunity to see you recently, during a presentation you and several other actors from the new Broadway production of A Raisin in the Sun which was hosted by WYNC in New York City. What was the most interesting experience you’ve had so far doing this show?
ANR: Audiences seem to think of it as a black play, which it is. But it is also universal. What’s been phenomenal is having the lights come up at the end and seeing that the people moved by the play are from all different backgrounds. That proves the relevance of this piece today for everyone.
KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden asks: You’ve had an extraordinary career in acting and singing. What has been your favorite performance to date?
ANR: Oh, I don’t know. That’s hard to say. It would be easier for me to say which I didn’t like, because there are so fewer to pick from. I loved Caroline, or Change, and Cat on a Hot tin Roof and doing Dreamgirls, but I haven’t gotten to a place where I can say “This is my all-time favorite!” because I’m not done yet. [LOL]
To see a trailer for Half of a Yellow Sun, visit: https://www.youtube.com/