Whoopi Goldberg tells Graham Norton why it was the ‘right time’ to make Till

Virgin Radio

7 Jan 2023, 12:30

Whoopi Goldberg and Graham Norton

Hollywood star Whoopi Goldberg has shared the reason why despite taking decades to make, this year felt like the right time to release the new historical film, Till. 

The movie tells the story of Mamie Till-Bradley, who’s 14-year-old son Emmett was brutally murdered after whistling at a white woman in 1955 Mississippi. Mamie decided to leave Emmett’s casket open for the world to see, and the events helped catapult the Civil Rights Movement. 

Till shows Mamie's journey from grief to action, and features 27 years worth of research done by writer Kevin Beauchamp. 

Whoopi is both in front of and behind the camera for the biographical drama, serving as producer as well as playing Mamie’s mother Alma Carthan. 

The film is out in cinemas now, but it’s taken over 20 years for Whoopi and her team to get the important story made for the big screen. 

Despite all the set-backs, Whoopi believes now is the perfect time for such a film to come out, and while speaking exclusively on The Graham Norton Radio Show with Waitrose , she revealed how it took a team of top filmmakers to get Till made. 

Whoopi told Graham: “You would think that we would not have to work 18, 19, 21 years to get this made, Barbara Broccoli who you know… Bond! Fred Zollo, who did Mississippi Burning, and Keith Beauchamp, who is the reason this name of Emmett Till is still in our zeitgeist, and Mamie Till because the movie is about a mother and son, it's about a mother and son and it's beautiful.

“Michael Reilly, who's just a fabulous writer, and Chinonye Chukwu, who's the director, who decided that this movie needed to be seen by everyone, so she made a movie that invites you. It's a tough movie, because it's a tough subject matter, but there's no fear, you don't need to be afraid to come see it. I have to say this was the right time, I know it took us forever to get it made, but it feels like we made it at the right time.”

Something else that stalled the movie’s progress was the investors and film studios, who “kept saying no one wanted to see it.”

Whoopi continued: “[They said] no one cared about the story. Why would we want to bring up all the things, and we'd say, ‘no one's made this movie, and we've spent a lot of time explaining to you that the reason people were able to know more, kids in particular, about World War Two was because of the Diary of Anne Frank, and this allows us to have that same feel, for young people'.... Then, George Floyd happened, and then they went, 'ah we understand, we'll give you the money.”

Whoopi and the team also thought long and hard about who should lead as Mamie, and eventually cast  Danielle Deadwyler in the role, which the Sister Act star described as “incandescent.”

“She is magnificent,” Whoopi said.  “But at its core...this is a story of an ordinary woman and her ordinary son, who are thrust into extraordinary circumstances, and this actress is off the hook, you've never seen a performance like this.”

Till is out in cinemas now. 

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