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Can Oprah Act?

I haven’t seen Beloved, the movie. Don’t really plan on watching it, even though I’m currently moving through the Toni Morrison book and really enjoying it.

For those of you who have seen the movie, I’m curious to know whether or not Oprah’s got skills. Her acting in the movie trailer didn’t necessarily blow me away.

The character of Sethe is such a powerful, meaningful role, I’m honestly surprised that a non-actor was chosen for that part.

Lots of celebrities have transitioned into acting roles: Justin Timberlake is in an upcoming movie, Madonna was in A League of Their Own, LL Cool J and Eminem have made the transition.

But Oprah? I don’t know about that. I’ve probably seen a total of 30 minutes of her show in all the years it was on television, so I’m not really a fan–I guess Jonathan Franzen and I have that in common.

If you’re interested, here’s a link to the Beloved trailer. I wasn’t able to find one on YouTube to embed in the post.

So, tell me, what’s up with Oprah? Does she hold her own in this movie? Should I watch it?

(Photo: Alan Light/Flickr)

17 Comments Post a comment
  1. havent seen the movie….my decision to see it will depend on the comments which will follow!
    In indian cinema, non-actors have generally been quite unsuccessful though!
    Cricketers, politicians and artists have tried at times to act in films. Cannot think of a big success story!


    October 25, 2011
    • Not too many in America, though there have been some successes like the ones I mentioned in the post.


      October 25, 2011
      • Bette Midler’s Las Vegas special came on the television and although I retreated to my office for some reading I realized that The Divine Miss M, who started as a chanteuse in the New York City gay baths, has not only remained a top singer and performer, but also has a rather extensive list of successful movie roles to her credit.

        This immediately brought Frank Sinatra to mind: not one of my favorites but a top moneymaker whether he was singing on stage or in recordings and also, after the “Godfather” incident, acting in the movies. I believe he got the academy award for his role in From Here to Eternity. Remember those singing and dancing movies with Gene Kelly? After Frank I began to spin out various names that first became famous as singers but then went on to even more fame as actors — Tim McGraw, Bing Crosby, Kris Kristofferson, Cher (Robert Goulet is stretching it too much) — or maybe they started as stand-up comedians or sports figures or lawyers or politicians or truck drivers or dancers or even circus acrobats.

        My brain tends to hurt when I try to remember too much, but I suspect the list of names would be quite extensive. Oprah going from talk show to movies just isn’t that unusual (even if she was an actress before she became a successful talk show host).



        October 25, 2011
  2. I haven’t seen it either. But with as much time as she’s spent in front of a television camera over the years, in front of a live audience talking to celebrities and other persons of note, I’m guessing it wasn’t a hard transition.


    October 25, 2011
    • the two acts of facing a movie making camera and that of a tv program are different. while one requires one’s acting prowess the other is dependent on body language and intellect. just a thought!


      October 25, 2011
  3. Kathryn #

    Have you never seen The Color Purple? It’s been a while since it came out but Beloved is definitely not her first attempt.


    October 25, 2011
    • Never seen it. Like I said, I haven’t watched much from her over the years.


      October 25, 2011
      • From Yahoo:

        Oprah’s an actress too.

        Sometimes we forget the most popular daytime talk show host in history is an accomplished actress who earned an Oscar nomination for her role as strong willed Sofia in Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple.

        Amid the continued ratings dominance of her hit talk show, successful magazine publication, book club popularity and her philanthropic efforts in education and hunger relief, it’s sometimes forgotten that Oprah’s a good actress who’s played a variety of roles on the big screen and in television films.

        After her last starring feature film, Beloved, met with less than stellar box office returns, it seems Oprah put her acting on the back burner. She’s still involved with entertainment behind the scenes however, with her production of The Color Purple on Broadway starring American Idol’s Fantasia Barrino in the starring role, which was played by Whoopi Goldberg in the movie.

        Oprah’s movie debut in The Color Purple in 1985, led to another powerful film, this time on TV, The Woman of Brewster Place that Winfrey also worked on as executive producer. Ironically Oprah’s first film role was almost ruined because she was slimming down. She went to a “fat farm” to lose weight, but when she learned she got the part of Sofia, she had to leave the spa, because the character was heavyset.

        Oprah’s films provide another look at this multi-talented woman. She has apparently broken the mold of talk show hosts who try their hand in films, but don’t do well. Host likes Johnny Carson, David Letterman to Jay Leno have all appeared in movies, but the roles and the films themselves were pretty forgettable. The only other talk show hosts which come to mind who also had film success is Arsenio Hall, who co-starred with Eddie Murphy in Coming To America and Rosie O’Donnell in A League Of Their Own and The Flintstones.

        Oprah’s Filmography:

        Theatrical Movies

        2007 Bee Movie – Animated
        2006 Charlotte’s Web Gussy the Goose (voice only)
        2005 Emmanuel’s Gift Narrator (documentary)
        2004 Brothers of the Borderland Narrator (short subject)
        2003 Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives Narrator (documentary)
        1998 Beloved Sethe
        1990 Listen Up: The Lives of Quincy Jones (documentary)
        1987 Throw Momma from the Train (cameo)
        1986 Native Son Janet Thomason
        1985 The Color Purple Sofia (Oscar nomination)


        1997 Ellen Therapist Episode, “The Puppy Episode”
        1997 Before Women Had Wings Miss Zora (also producer)
        1993 There Are No Children Here LaJoe Rivers
        1992 The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Herself Episode, “A Night at the Oprah”
        1992 Lincoln Narrator (documentary)
        1990 – 1991 Brewster Place Mattie Michael
        1989 The Women of Brewster Place Mattie Michael (also executive producer)
        1988 Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special Herself (guest star)


        October 25, 2011
      • Thanks Mike. Didn’t realize she was Oscar nominated, so that is saying something. Looks like her two main roles were in Beloved and The Color Purple. Maybe she’ll pick acting back up since she’s quit doing the show.


        October 25, 2011
  4. No.

    Wait wait wait… do we count her career as is?

    In that case…



    October 25, 2011
  5. Don Heath #

    She was pretty good in The Color Purple. Haven’t seen the later movie.


    October 25, 2011
  6. It’s been a looong time since I saw Beloved. I remember the film making me weep, and thinking how beautiful it was. However, I watched it in 1997, in the middle of a bitter divorce. So take that with a grain of…whatever. I definitely appreciated her strength of acting in The Color Purple, sans divorce emotions. So I’m betting it’s a good watch. As long as you don’t compare the film version too much with the book. I haven’t read it, but I find if I compare film and book versions of anything, no matter how well done, I find the film lacking.


    October 26, 2011
  7. Patti #

    I will add in giving Oprah kudos for her performance in The Color Purple – haven’t seen Beloved, but in the other movie, she was able to portray a role that required a lot of sensitivity, emotion, etc.


    October 27, 2011
  8. Oprah was fantastic in The Color Purple. While I love Beloved, I was not impressed with the film. The pairing of Winfrey and Glover simply did not work. Oprah should have resisted the pull to act in the movie. Angela Bassett would have been divine in the role.


    November 2, 2011

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