Steel Magnolias (Lifetime): Queen Latifah And Producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron Talk

Steel Magnolias (Lifetime)

Steel Magnolias is coming to Lifetime in a brand new and exciting way. This version of the legendary play and 1989 film stars Queen Latifah as well as Alfre Woodard, Jill Scott, Phylicia Rashad, Adepero Oduye and Condola Rashad. During a talk with press, TV Equals was able to speak with Queen Latifah (who also acts as executive producer) and producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan about this adaptation and what to expect.

Receiving support

Queen Latifah said she received great support from her castmates when working on effectively portraying her character, M’Lynn.

“Well first of all, I mean when you’re working with veteran actors…I received a great amount of support. But I also tried to give a great amount of support because we had a lot of young actors who are extremely talented who you should watch, you know, in the years to come,” she said. “But I think we got a great cast and the thing about the support of it is of course I got a great amount of support from our veteran actors. You know, in…Phylicia and Alfre… [T]hey’ve always been supportive. But I think we got a lot of inspiration and also support from the actors who have come after us and I think it was a very, you know, very much a – it was almost like a whirlpool of acting talent, love, support, pushing, you know, challenging because it’s not all about just a love fest.”

Universal themes

One of the biggest draws to this interpretation of Steel Magnolias is the all-black cast, but Meron also stressed the universal themes Queen Latifah and the producing team found in Steel Magnolias. 

“I think that our point of view is that we think Steel Magnolias is a timeless and universal piece and it just works in whatever community you set it in that you don’t even have to underline it. It just works,” he said. “And I think that that really defines what classic material it is. And part of the reason why we also wanted to do it is because, you know, women roles are written as well as these roles. And we want to show off our great actresses.”

The journey of Steel Magnolias to Lifetime

Zadan spoke about the process it took to get this iteration of Steel Magnolias to the television screen.  He said that one thing he and Meron realized when coming up with this version of Steel Magnolias that they had to have Queen Latifah in it.

“Well basically we had the idea of doing this production of Steel Magnolias. And we spoke to Queen Latifah about it and she got excited about it,” he said. “And we decided to reunite because prior to this of course Neil and I had the greatest experience of our lives doing Chicago with Latifah. And then we had the second best experience of our lives doing Hairspray with Queen Latifah. And then we thought wait a minute, two is not enough. We need a third. And now we feel that we need a fourth…[S]o we decided that we had done really fun and exciting and quality work together as a team.”

When they went to Lifetime with their idea, they got an instant response.  “…[W]e went to Lifetime and we said, you know, we have this team, are you interested in this movie? And without a second’s delay they said to us ‘When can you start shooting? You know…don’t even talk to us about it. Just start shooting. Just like schedule it, put it together, go. Go. Go make the movie,'” he said. “And it turns out that this story and this piece is Nancy Dubuc’s absolute favorite play and original movie. And she thought that it would make a great new version for a new generation with this cast.”

No pushback

As fans of movies know, there are times when race relations and film converge. Recent examples include Idris Elba being cast as Heimdall in Thor and the late Michael Clarke Duncan cast as Kingpin in Daredevil. Meron said so far, their film hasn’t received any negative reaction due to the characters being retold through African-American characters.

“[I]f there is push back we’re not aware of it. And I think more than most films we’ve done, you know… [w]hen we go out and we talk to people they’re so excited about seeing this film because it means so much to them. And especially that they’re getting this new version is very, very impactful. So no, I don’t think we’ve experienced any push back at all,” he said.

Steel Magnolias airs Sunday, October 7 at 9/8c on Lifetime.