Precious: Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire
Round Table Discussion
An interview with the supporting cast
by William Gooch
published January 24, 2010
A special screening of Precious was recently held in New York City for at-risk youth and arts and
entertainment journalists. Cast members Ephraim Benton, Stephanie Andujar and Angelic Zambrana were present and participated in a Q&A
and red carpet interviews. Stage and Cinema contributing writer William S. Gooch conducted the red carpet
Did you think Precious would be a hit?
Angelic Zambrana: We knew we had a something good. The book [Push]
was a New York Times bestseller. We hoped the movie would be a success and win awards but we had no idea the response would be this
incredible. I feel as though I have been walking in a state of grace throughout this entire process.
Stephanie Andujar: It was definitely amazing. Precious was my
first film, and it is amazing being a part of a film that will make history.
I felt that in some ways the movie did not reflect the book. The book was
very graphic but the film didn't depict a lot of those types of scenes from the book. Could you comment on that?
Angelic Zambrana: The director Lee Daniels felt that some of graphic
scenes in the novel were too much for audiences and would have taken away from the compelling story as translated on screen. Many of the
scenes in the book are referenced on screen but not actualized. For example, you saw Mo’Nique’s character, Mary Jones, ask Precious to
pleasure her, but you don’t see the act on screen.
How was it to work with Mo’Nique?
Angelic Zambrana: I didn’t get the opportunity to act in any scenes with
her but we would be on set during her scenes. She was really awesome.
The scenes in the classroom of the alternative school that Precious went to
seemed really natural. How much of that was on script or improvisational?
Stephanie Andujar: What Lee Daniels was going for in his direction was a
lot of organic responses to situations in the film. So that is what you see on screen.
Angelic Zambrana: The scene where Precious slaps me was not planned. In
fact, I did not know that Gabby (Precious) was going to hit me. So, I was just as taken aback during the shoot as audience members were. We
had great chemistry on set so a lot of things just developed naturally. Most of the scenes were scripted but we all had to flow with our
characters so there were little things that were not in the script.
There have been some criticisms of the film by some film and cultural critics
that Precious promotes negative stereotypes of African American women. Could you comment on
Ephraim Benton: Everyone has a story and a right to tell their story.
Even though those stereotypes are in our society, people like Mary Jones and Precious do exist. Those stories need to be told so that we can
talk about the abuse that some people are experiencing. The controversy around this film is causing folks to talk about sexual abuse, and
that’s a good thing.
Stephanie Andujar: The New York Daily News asked me if I
felt playing a former heroin addict promoted negative issues about Puerto Rican women. My character Leda was a former heroin addict and if you
read the book, you will learn that her mother was killed right in front of her and that spiraled her into some bad choices. There is always a
reason why people make choices. It is not as though just being born Puerto Rican makes you a drug addict. Precious did not want to be a teen
mother and become infected with HIV. She wanted a different life, and what Lee Daniels does so brilliantly is show her journey. People who
criticize the film are missing the journey in the film.
Did you guys do research on your own about the types of characters that you
Angelic Zambrana: Stephanie’s mother works in an alternative school, so
we got to use her a resource. We got to interview some of the girls in the school and, because we already knew our characters, we were able to
hone in on individuals that reminded us of our characters. We did do a lot of preparation before the shoot.
What was it like working with Paula Patton?
Stephanie Andujar: Paula is amazing to work with. She is a very bubbly
person, but when it was time for her to be Ms. Rain, she really become the character. She also did a lot of research with teachers who taught
in alternative schools. There was a scene where I was having some problems and Paula really encouraged me and helped me bring my best work to
Angelic Zambrana: She was very down to earth and she is a very generous
person. She gave us great advice as a female in this industry.
Who did you meet first, the character Precious or Gabourey
Stephanie Andujar: We met Gabby first and she is nothing like Precious,
but through the process, as she became Precious, we really wanted to know more about who Precious was.
Angelic Zambrana: When the cameras were rolling, Gabby was one hundred
percent Precious, but when the cameras were not rolling, she was the bubbly Gabby we know and love.
williamgooch @ stageandcinema.com