What happens when you mix a lot of old school with a bigger than life persona? You inherit a vast amount of sass and craziness in the economically stressed town of Pacashau, Georgia. Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton team up where the satire is fierce, so is the music in Joyful Noise, a new film based on a gospel choir looking to capture a national competition.
Oscar nominee Latifah plays Vi Rose Hill who was crowned the choirmaster after Bernard Sparrow dies abruptly (Parton’s husband played by Kris Kristofferson). Vi Rose is set on sticking to the old gospel styles along with her conservative and stubborn demeanor. Making a comeback to film in 20 years is the fiery, no-nonsense Parton who plays G.G. Sparrow (Gorgeous Grandma). The big haired, flashy- clothed momma has her eyes on renovating the Divinity Church Choir’s music for the National Joyful Noise competition. She hopes this will make the town of Pacashau feel a sense pride again.
Parton and Latifah have an amazing chemistry and started the digs early on the set. Both made snide remarks to each other during production to get into character. It was no surprise that one of their favorite scenes of the movie was a restaurant food fight. Boy, those ladies know how to throw a dinner roll! They didn’t disappoint during a roundtable interview in Manhattan, no worries, no food was hurled.
Parton brings pure energy to a room before she even steps into it.
Director and screen writer Todd Graff said Parton presence is amazing even off camera.
“I heard her before I saw her because she wears these gigantic spiked heels and she clatters down the hallway, singing all the time. She walks in dressed like she’s about to go on stage.”
Latifah has a naturally way of making you feel comfortable enough to have a cup of coffee with her. She was a mix of earthiness and effervescent, recalling how refreshing it was to praise the name of “Jesus” in a movie, where religion is often watered down to placate to the studios and the masses.
Here’s a glimpse of the ladies discussing their faith, inspiration and their new movie released in January.
[Tell us] The first time you read the script.
DP: I couldn’t let somebody else play that character [G.G.]. She’s too close to me. … I had to do it. I mean it was so perfect for me. And I’ve been looking for something great. I’ve been praying for something great and I haven’t had a good script come across in a long time so Todd Graff said he kind of had me in mind. [Graff] He spent a lot time on this character. I was looking for something great, so this is perfect. God was working through him to get me something good, because I’ve been praying hard for something good.
He [Graff] told us of the great example of the “F” bomb [originally written in a scene].
DP: I told him we can’t do no “F” [or blasphemy] word in this movie. Seriously, we said we’re not having it so…
QL: So Dolly and I secretly made a pact that ‘Look, we’re going to go in there [and] tell him….’ But he got it… and he worked with us [removed the obscenity].
I take it that you are women of faith.
DP: Very much so.
QL: We agree. [Laughter]
Did you have a history in a choir?
DP: Not a choir. I was telling other people. I…
QL: Give it to ‘em sister! Preach it now.
DP: My grandfather was a holy roller, preacher, Pentecostal, Church of God. We had congregational singing. Everybody was singing and shouting all at the same time. We had special singing. My family’s very musical. My sisters and I used to sing. We’d sing at all the weddings, all the funerals, and all the shindigs… We didn’t have the choirs but I used to love go to the gospels singings when you had those gospel quartets and when people would come around. I loved that.
How has this film inspired you in your faith?
DP: Anytime you can do something to uplift mankind. I pray everyday that God would let me be a blessing, and a light in the world. To kind of let me do things to uplift people, especially during this day and time. [And] working in this film there was always these wonderful little things that kept happening. Little coincidences. I call them God winks or God smiles. Just to let you know God’s hand was in it. So I just think I felt inspired being able to work around so many good hearted people, so many people that were sincere in their faith. We’re all sinners. But that’s why we have this religion to forgive us and to help us. We’re not supposed to be perfect. We try to be perfect. We strive to do better. But it was such an inspiration to work with this subject, knowing that we’re doing something that was uplifting people with all the hard times and the economy. That’s what’s this story was about. So, for me personally it just made me feel good that I was involved in something great and mighty and bigger than us.
QL: Absolutely and for me…
QL: There she goes… She’s going to get those tongues going now! You all think I’m playing.
QL: For me I must say that I appreciated being part of a film where the word “God” or you can say “Jesus”. I’ve been doing this for a while now and so often I see the word “Jesus”, the name “Jesus” rather or the word “God” omitted or changed. Everyone is trying to placate to every religion or non religious person or Christian or Jewish or Muslim or atheist. It’s always got to be this broad brush painted for everyone. And it was just refreshing to do a movie that is based in Christianity for a change. To be able to really enjoy that, to enjoy the music, to enjoy the faith… It was nice to go to work sometimes and realize I’m playing this role and being inspired by this role and kind of hear, hear God talk to me during a movie in this way.
Fix me Jesus was authentic [Latifah sang this solo]. Can you talk about that scene?
QL: You have no idea. Yeah. I believe it was authentic. I definitely have my own issues that I deal with in life--my own challenges that I face. My mom was even hospitalized during the filming of this movie so. Times like that you know you really… when you’re feeling kind of low—it’s just like that… I felt Vi Rose. What she was going through was easy for me to kind of sort of be a conduit because I have my own challenges that I was facing in life. I was talking to God myself. You know, “Fix me Jesus.”
The food fight scene…
QL: That was my favorite. I mean Jesus is cool and all, but having Dolly in a headlock was the best thing ever.
DP: We spent a day and a half doing this. We were sliding all over floor….
QL: I was gentle.
DP: I was like please be gentle. Don’t break my hair… I am all about a laugh. I’m all about what’s going to make the people come see it. I don’t care if she breaks my neck if we get the scene right. Oh, she really got into it. I said “I think your getting to serious about this.”
QL: Well you were kind of good throwing those hard rolls too! She’s got a good arm.
Make sure to catch up these two ladies for more laughs in Joyful Noise and check out National Choir Appreciation Sunday on Jan. 8.
Show a token of appreciation for the folks providing them with awesome music and worship. Would you please “Like” National Choir Appreciation on Facebook .