Movie Tells The Little Known Story Of the Brilliant Black Women Who Helped First Astronaut Orbit Earth
Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer said when it came to portraying the brainy mathematicians who helped the first orbit of the earth in their new movie “Hidden Figures,” getting their performances right was key.
“For me, the research part was integral,” Spencer, who played IBM whiz Dorothy Vaughn said. “There were enough negative images of black women out there. I wanted to make sure her legacy was preserved.”
Henson agreed, and said she wanted to make sure she nailed the role of Katherine Johnson, who made the calculations for astronaut John Glenn’s landing – by hand.
“When you’re portraying a person that’s very real – and in this case the woman was still alive – there’s a responsibility to get it right,” Henson said.
The stars joined director Theo Melfi and producer Pharrell at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in NYC over the weekend to promote “Hidden Figures,” which tells the story of three brilliant black mathematicians who battled blatant racism and sexism to play integral roles in the late astronaut Glenn’s orbit around the earth.
In the shadow of the Civil Rights Movement, the women Katherine Johnson (Henson), Dorothy Vaughn (Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) endured racial segregation and a seemingly impenetrable glass ceiling to pull off the country’s first orbital flight. The movie is a part history lesson, part tear-jerking drama and an all around feel good flick.
Film producer Pharrell, who created an original soundtrack, said he was excited to join the film because it was set in his native Virginia, involved the portrayal of positive African American women as well as space and NASA, which he said he’s always been “obsessed” with.
“Yes, I lost my mind,” Pharrell said.
The “Happy” singer said he actually met the Johnson, the film’s main character, at a STEM program event in 2010, and couldn’t believe he now had a hand in telling her life story.
“I met her, but I didn’t know the backstory obviously,” he said. “So to know that six years ago, I met this woman and would one day be able to aid in this beautiful illustration of her story, was just, it’s just been mind blowing.”
“Hidden Figures” opens in select cities on Christmas Day and nationwide Jan. 6, 2017.