Q&A: Oprah plays life coach to 'Wrinkle in Time' co-stars

Lindsey Bahr, AP Film Writer | 3/10/2018, 6:33 a.m.
"A Wrinkle in Time" director Ava DuVernay insists she didn't consciously assemble three of the entertainment industry's most successful and ...
Actors Mindy Kaling from left, Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon pose for a portrait at The W Hotel in Los Angeles to promote their film, "A Wrinkle in Time." (Photo by [Rebecca Cabage/Invision/AP)

LOS ANGELES — "A Wrinkle in Time" director Ava DuVernay insists she didn't consciously assemble three of the entertainment industry's most successful and entrepreneurial women to play the celestial, all-knowing "Mrs." characters in Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling.

"I guess I'm attracted to that kind of energy: Like-minded take over the world-ness," DuVernay said.

Winfrey, Witherspoon and Kaling spoke recently with The Associated Press about the film, DuVernay's achievement, a changing industry and Winfrey's life advice.

Remarks have been edited for clarity and brevity.

AP: You've all become fast friends it seems.

WITHERSPOON: It's great to be around people who inspire you and lift you up. My grandma used to say, 'People are either a radiator or a drain. Surround yourself with people who radiate light and goodness and love and do not stick around the drains because they will pull you down.'

WINFREY: Oh, that's good, grandma!

AP: What do you think of the historic fact that Ava DuVernay got to direct this?

WITHERSPOON: It's extraordinary when a company of this size puts their money into it and their entire marketing into this. This is not the level of marketing I'm used to.

KALING: I'm like Carrie Bradshaw where I'm walking down the street and see a bus with my face on it.

WINFREY: That happened to me! I'm driving down the street and I see my face on a bus stop and I'm like, 'Stoppppp! Stoooopppp! That's me!'

KALING: How cool is that? I'm a 38-year-old Indian woman and I'm on a bus.

WINFREY: That is some Disney power, baby.

AP: Do you think the entertainment industry is ready to give women second chances if their film underperforms or isn't 'The Force Awakens'? Even if something is a modest success, sometimes it's treated as an anomaly.

KALING: Well we're kind of chipping away at that with your Ryan Cooglers and Jordan Peeles and Patty Jenkins.

WITHERSPOON: But a lot of female directors are allowed to make one film and if it isn't a gonzo success they're relegated to the sidelines and never given another opportunity. Meanwhile there are so many men who fail over and over and over and get hired over and over and over again and you can't just get one turn at bat. And your one turn at bat you have to hit a home run? Or you're out? That's impossible statistics.

But I love that studios are listening to audiences. When Disney makes this choice, they're saying: We care about the audience. We're listening. We hear you. You want to see yourselves. You want different storytellers.

KALING: But it can't be like, 'Well there's Ava and she's the exception.'

WITHERSPOON: Like how everybody goes 'Meryl Streep works over 50.' Yeah? Name another one. Who else makes a whole lot of money past 50?

AP: Have you felt a change in the past few months? Are people more receptive to your ideas?

WITHERSPOON: After 'Big Little Lies' it's been totally different. It's incredible what that show did for my producing career. I've been enormously grateful. I do remember a year and a half ago walking into a studio and talking about the projects we wanted to make and this guy goes, 'Well we don't really make biopics because they're not really fresh.' And I said, 'How many biopics are there about women?' He couldn't name one. And I said, 'OK, so is it fresh. Because if you've never seen it I think that is pretty much the definition of fresh.' I saw this video of little girls and someone asked them to name an inventor and all they could name were men. There are all these female inventors and they don't know any of them.