Oprah Winfrey 'The Butler:' Star On The N-Word, Trayvon Martin & Racism, 'You Cannot Be My Friend and Use That Word Around Me' (PHOTOS/TRAILER)
Jul 31, 2013 04:22 PM EDT
Media mogul Oprah Winfrey has yet to speak out about Paula Deen's recent racism scandal or her former co-star Rae Dawn Chong referring to her using the n-word, but she had plenty to say about racism, civil rights and the slur in a new interview with Parade magazine, where the star discusses her upcoming role in the film "The Butler."
Winfrey, 59, plays Cecil Gaines' wife Gloria in the film, a character who battles a drinking problem and watches her husband clash with their activist son, Winfrey's first dramatic role since the 1998 film "Beloved."
"The Butler," based on true events, explores the story of an African-American eyewitness who recalls notable events of the 20th century during his tenure as a White House butler.
Lee Daniels ("Precious") and Forest Whitaker star alongside Winfrey in a film that will raise questions about race relations in America, and joined her during their conversation with Parade.
"It's a story many have not seen with black people in these roles, because usually we're one extreme or another," Winfrey told Parade. "But to see that we are people who love our children, who have the same aspirations as everybody else - I just love that."
On the subject of the n-word, Winfrey made it clear that she disapproves of the slur, and Lee Daniels claimed was affected by the star's views. "It's a word I used quite a bit, until Oprah sat me down and talked to me about its power," he said.
"You cannot be my friend and use that word around me," Winfrey confirmed. "It shows my age, but I feel strongly about it...I always think of the millions of people who heard that as their last word as they were hanging from a tree."
Since "The Butler" takes place during the civil rights movement, Winfrey was asked if she thinks kids today understand that period in history, to which Winfrey replied, "They don't know diddly-squat. Diddly-squat!"
Speaking on their experiences with racism today, the actors confirmed that they've all dealt with it.
"I've had many incidents in my life of racism. I've been thrown on the ground," Whitaker said. "I've been frisked. I've been arrested so many times I couldn't tell you. I have no need to talk about it," adding that the new movie deals with "the valuation of life," and Winfrey was quick to bring up the shooting of Trayvon Martin.
"If you can't accept that these things are going on, you're living an illusion," Whitaker agreed. "So the question at this point is more of, how can we move the needle forward? Can we speak up? I think this film helps that in some way."
"Yeah. But do we live in a land where Martin Luther King's dream has been ultimately fulfilled? No. Has part of the dream been fulfilled?" Winfrey asked, to which Daniels answered, "Yes."
Winfrey confirmed that Americans need to see "The Butler," and Daniels added that kids needed to see it too, as he is "fighting to get a PG-13 rating."
Click here to see photos from the new film "The Butler" which premieres on Aug. 16.