Obama says he "teared up" while watching "The Butler"

Robin Williams, left, and Forest Whitaker in "Lee Daniels' The Butler."
The Weinstein Company

President Barack Obama says he got teary while watching "Lee Daniels' The Butler," a movie about a black White House servant who worked for several presidents.

Mr. Obama discussed the film during an interview with radio host Tom Joyner and co-host Sybil Wilkes of the "Tom Joyner Morning Show."

"I teared up thinking about not just the butlers who worked here in the White House, but an entire generation of people who were talented and skilled. But because of Jim Crow and because of discrimination, there was only so far they could go," the president said. "And yet with dignity and tenacity, they got up and worked every single day and put up with a whole lot of mess because they hoped for something better for their kids."

"Lee Daniels' The Butler" stars Forest Whitaker as Cecil Gaines, who is based on real-life White House butler Eugene Allen. Oprah Winfrey plays Gaines' wife, Gloria, and the film's cast also includes Robin Williams, Alan Rickman, Jane Fonda, Cuba Gooding Jr., John Cusack, James Marsden and Minka Kelly.

"All of the acting was terrific, and I thought Forest Whitaker was wonderful," Mr. Obama said. "And Oprah, my girl, she can act. She's just a wonderful actress. So I'm glad they did it."

Mr. Obama also said White House butlers have been kind and warm to his family.

"When Michelle and the girls and I first arrived, they could not have been kinder to us and warmer to us," he revealed. "And part of it, I suppose, is they look at Malia and Sasha and they say, 'This looks like my grandbaby,' or 'This looks like my daughter.' I think for them to have a sense that we've come that far was a powerful moment for them, and certainly a powerful moment for us. We love them to death. They look after us just wonderfully."