Oprah Winfrey sat down with "Lee Daniels' The Butler" co-star Forest Whitaker and director Lee Daniels for a chat with Parade magazine. The three powerhouse figures discussed the N-word, racism and why today's young people needed to watch the movie.
"You cannot be my friend and use that word around me," Winfrey expressed her disgust for the derogatory term. "It shows my age, but I feel strongly about it. ... I always think of the millions of people who heard that as their last word as they were hanging from a tree."
"It's a word I used quite a bit, until Oprah sat me down and talked to me about its power," Daniels admitted, while Whitaker said, "I don't use the word. Never did."
On their experiences of racism, Whitaker recalled, "I've been thrown on the ground. I've been frisked. I've been arrested so many times I couldn't tell you. I have no need to talk about it." Daniels added, "I can't even get a taxi [in New York]. I send my [white] assistant out to get a taxi because I can't."
"Do we live in a land where Martin Luther King's dream has been ultimately fulfilled? No. Has part of the dream been fulfilled?" so Winfrey asked. "Yes," answered Daniels. She continued, "Are more people judged by the content of their character than by the color of their skin? Yes. Is everybody judged by the content of their character? Absolutely not."
Three of them agree that today's generation need to see "The Butler" to educate themselves on the civil rights movement because they know "diddly-squat" about it. "I showed the film to my relatives ... because I figured they're the harshest of audiences. And my 30-year-old nephew said to me, 'Did some of this stuff really happen?' And I was very upset by that," Daniels said.
The director added, "And kids need to see this movie. I'm fighting to get a PG-13 rating."
The movie follows the story of Cecil Gaines, a butler in the White House who worked from the Eisenhower through Reagan administrations. He witnessed the civil rights movement and assassinations of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. Whitaker plays the butler, and Winfrey portrays his wife.