The new movie "Black Nativity" tells the story of a 15-year-old boy spending Christmas with his grandparents for the very first time, while his struggling mother gets back on her feet. It's based on a stage play by the American poet Langston Hughes.
Forest Whitaker, Jennifer Hudson and Angela Bassett co-star in the film and joined “CBS This Morning” to discuss working together on the holiday movie.
Whitaker and Bassett told the co-hosts that this was the first time they had worked together in front of the camera. Whitaker directed Bassett in “Waiting to Exhale” and in this new film, they play husband and wife.
“I’ve been wanting to, you know, just be eye-to-eye,”
said Bassett. Whitaker called her an “amazing actress.”
“I was 15 years old and I was at Eckerd College there in the library trying to find something to do for the talent show and I came across this album of Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis doing the portrait of Langston Hughes,” she said. “I was just mesmerized in their everyday course. With Ms. Ruby, with Langston Hughes and his words just spoke to me.”
The movie was shot in Harlem, where Hughes was known as a Renaissance man. Whitaker told the co-hosts that they were working within that heritage.
“I think it was all that legacy we were living in,” he said. “The church itself was a sort of beacon of the community and as a family; I think we sort of represent that history.”
Hudson plays Naima, the boy’s mother, who had to give him up because she was struggling to make money.
“Like any other parent, you want what's best for your kid,” said Hudson. “So the best thing was to send him to her parents.”
This is Hudson’s first singing role since being in “Dream Girls” and she told the co-hosts that this role was “extremely different” even though both movies are musicals.
“I feel like Kasi's [Lemmons] approach with 'Black Nativity,' the director, is just so completely different and it was all led by her vision and once I saw the film, I was like ‘Oh I get it now,’” she said. “Whereas with 'Dream Girls' it was like – it felt more musical. … With this one, you forget, the songs are more like your lines.”
Also, Whitaker talked about consulting with the Reverend Calvin Butts of the Abyssinian Church in Harlem.
“He talked to me a lot about the inner workings of family and how it affects the kids and the other people and that really helped me as well as going to see him preach,” said Whitaker. “I think the stuff with the choir working together like in the rehearsals and stuff really helped me feel what it's like to be up on the pulpit and try to connect with your congregation and the people.”
For Forest Whitaker, Jennifer Hudson and Angela Bassett’s full interview, watch the video in the player above.