Golden Globe and Grammy Award-winner and Academy Award-nominee Queen Latifah stars in the Lifetime Original Movie Event, Steel Magnolias, set to debut Sunday, October 7 at 9pm ET/PT on Lifetime. The singer-actress appears in and executive produces the film, a television adaptation of the iconic play and 1989 film of the same name.
In a conference call, the Chicago star opens up to Celebrity Baby Scoop about playing a mom in Steel Magnolias, working with iconic TV mom “Clair Huxtable,” and her plans to adopt in the future.
On if she plans to adopt:
QL: “Are you trying to get the scoop girl? You can’t get that [laughs]. Trust me. When you see me with the baby, you’re going to know I’ve got the baby. And it’s going to be my baby. It will maybe be a niece or nephew, but you can blame the baby on me.
Honestly, I’ve always wanted to adopt since I was a child. I saw an ABC special and I’ve always wanted to adopt since I was a kid. I also love the show Eight is Enough.
I’ve always loved the idea of having a house full of people where you’re the parent, and everybody can come. If something goes wrong the kids can crash there, and you just make sure you call their parents to say they are safe there.
That’s just kind of how I envisioned things. And I know I’m running a little late, but I’ve had a couple of things to do. I’m the parent to many people, whether you realize it or not. It just doesn’t look like it from the outside world.
But I would absolutely adopt. That’s something that I definitely see in the future because why not? I mean, it doesn’t have to be a baby; kids need a home. So hopefully that will be a possible thing. But I can’t speak on anything particularly right now.”
On the supportive on-set morale while filming Steel Magnolias:
QL: “I worked with veteran actors and received a great amount of support. But I also tried to give a great amount of support, because we had a lot of young actors who are extremely talented who you should watch in the years to come. I think we did a great job in casting this movie.
We got a lot of inspiration and support from the actors who have come after us and I think it was almost like a whirlpool of acting talent, love, support, pushing and challenging… it’s not all just a love fest. It’s about challenging each other and really expecting you to do your job at the end of the day. We all have to show up and do our job regardless of our life circumstances or situations. Everyone understands that life happens and we have to create a whole other life where our life doesn’t even exist. You know, our real life doesn’t exist, these characters exist. And that is our life. And that’s who we are.
I got a great amount of support and on the off times there was great conversation. Of course I mean how can you have ‘Clair Huxtable’ and not pick her brain? But she’s a super-world mom. I mean she was the Michelle Obama before Michelle Obama. So how can you have her around and not pick her brain a little bit?
It was really about us all bonding together to make sure we got the job done, to make sure we really delivered for Kenny, delivered for Neil and Craig and most importantly, delivered for you, the viewer. So that you could feel an experience that felt as real as it possibly could because this material, you know, is so – it’s great in itself. Everyone had to show up and do the best job and get off of this life and get into this life.”
On whether her grandma’s diabetes made the film a little bit more personal, considering her character’s daughter in the show dies from diabetes:
QL: “No. It did in a sense but my grandmother is so cool that you would never know she has diabetes. Shelby is really more like me in real life. She puts her mind to something and goes for it.
I don’t care if she has to rappel from a five story building or shoot some guns or ride a motorcycle or drive NASCAR or just be a mama with five kids, you know, instead of three or two and a dog. No. My grandmother has a life that’s very stable and she already raised seven kids so she’s like I’m good, you know, I’m cool. No. Diabetes didn’t really play a part in that.
I know diabetes is just one disease. When you have a family as big as mine, there are many things that affect family members in many different ways. It could be high blood pressure, it could be cholesterol, it could be obesity, it could be sleep deprivation, or sleep apnea. It could be so many different things, so an illness is an illness. Especially if it affects younger kids.
Illnesses affect your family and they impact you because you want to do the best you can to help your family members become more healthy. Just as well, my family members want me to be healthy. So it doesn’t have to be diabetes specifically.
But when there’s something that impacts a family member or friend that is difficult for them, you want to do what you can to help. And sometimes you can’t do anything and it makes you feel like you’re kind of helpless. So that emotion – those emotions, they cross a big barometer. There’s a big, broad stroke when it comes to someone who you care about or someone who you don’t even know. It could be a dog, you know, who doesn’t have food.
When it comes to someone who is feeling not at 100 percent or who doesn’t have control over his/her health, you care about that. If you have compassion in your heart you just care. Basially, when there’s a need, you show up. And it doesn’t matter what that need is. That lends to the universal nature of the film.”
On creating the mother-daughter dynamic with her character’s daughter, Condola Rashad:
QL: “I just met Condola and we just kicked it. We’re not our characters in real life, let’s be clear about that. I’m not a mama, and she’s a very healthy young woman. So it’s not like we were our characters in real life. So we just kind of met as La and Condola, and we bonded over music. She can sing amazingly, and we played music for each other. We played the records we love.
We listened to a lot of diverse groups and talked about our visions for things. She’s extremely well-practiced and well-versed, and I knew she would show up for the job. It wasn’t even just about that. It was also about getting to know each other. She’s a really, really cool girl. We didn’t talk too much about fashion, because we’re sort of in different eras. However, we cross paths in a lot of different ways. We talked about the material, we talked about the scenes, we talked about how we felt about our hair or our makeup that day. We just talked girl stuff, and we just bonded like that.
That literally took a day or two, and then it kind of all fell into place. She would be like, “Mama” and I would be like, “Hey baby,” and I would check on her every day because I automatically felt like a nurturing spirit towards her.
When she’d see me, even if we were like 50 yards apart across somewhere, she’d be like, “Mama” and I would answer. You know? We were just kind of endeared to one another. She reminded me of a younger me.
She really felt like she could be my daughter, and I’m pretty sure she kind of felt like I could be her mom, even though we know who her mom is. We felt that kindred spirit, a fighter spirit, and an adventurous spirit.
We connected on the attributes that we share together, even though we’re not related in that way. We also encouraged each other in certain ways and inspired each other in certain ways, and all those things happen in very simple conversations. And I felt protective of her.
If she wanted to try something, I was like okay, well go there but don’t go there. Like, If it was a club in Atlanta, I would say, “Okay, well this spot is popping tonight, but don’t go to that spot because you might need security.”
It was very simple, just simple conversations about normal things that really adhered us to one another very quickly that made us trust one another very quickly. To this day, I trust her and she trusts me. I think we have a bond that will withstand it – I think it translated through the movie. When it came to professional things it was like okay, now we’re business, now let’s go to work. Those were the personal things that gave us an underlying connection to really fulfill what was expected of us on screen.”
On her interaction with Phylicia Rashād, a.k.a Clair Huxtable (mom on The Cosby Show):
QL: “Clair Huxtable aside, Phylicia always reminded me of my mom, and she still does. She has a very calming voice, and she knows how to talk to you in very subtle, soothing, calming ways. But she also knows how to give you that look that lets you know you’re about to go to the bathroom and get a butt whooping when you mess up. But she’s very funny. She’s amazing.
Honestly, she really reminds me of my mom, so I felt like I had my mom on the set. I felt like I had my mom around me all the time, because when she ever wanted to say something to me or if I wanted to say something to her, it wasn’t like, “Okay you do it like this and you do it like that and you do it like this.”
The ground work was already laid, and they gave each other so much space, I felt like I was seeing my mom and myself. You put so much into your child and then you let them out into the world and release them, but they always come home. And they always need your voice. For me, it was almost like having my mom’s voice, watching her interact with Condola. There were also certain things that I requested like, is there something that you all do that can make these characters seem even closer?
It’s nice to hear someone you can talk to who’s been through the gauntlet that you’ve been through, who’s run that gauntlet and can suggest things and also celebrate things that you’ve achieved. Because I don’t look at my career and say hey, I did this, I did that, I did this.
I’m looking at the next thing generally. I don’t really have time to celebrate all that. I’m already off to the next 50 things that we’re trying to do.
So it’s nice to like talk to someone who has that same sort of mentality but they give you words of wisdom and say hey, you’re doing good here. Maybe you should check out this here. So I really enjoyed working with her. I always respected her. It was an interesting dichotomy to be with her.”
Be sure to watch the Lifetime Original Movie Event, Steel Magnolias, set to debut Sunday, October 7 at 9pm ET/PT on Lifetime.