When asked what the best or worst piece of advice she’s ever been given, the Butler actress recalled filming a particularly gruelling scene in 1985’s The Color Purple.
“I didn’t know anything about acting,” she explained. “I’d never even been to Universal Studios. So I walked in, first scene, first day…I looked directly in the camera because that’s what you do on television. I walked in and went, ‘How you doing, Miss Celie’ and he went, ‘Cut! Cut! Cut! What is wrong with you?’ And I’m standing there, trembling. [I was] terrified.”
“There was a scene where [Spielberg] asked me to cry. I loved being in that film so much, it just changed everything in my life, and I came to set even when I didn’t have to work, and I’d be in the background crying. So Steven goes, “I want you to do that this afternoon.” Well, I had no idea how to make that happen again.”
She added, “I had no technical skills, and when the scene was being filmed, I couldn’t cry. I could hear the film turning in the camera, and the entire room waiting for me to cry.”
her costar Adolph Caesar came to the rescue though:
“He gave me the greatest acting lesson. He said: ‘You need to learn to give yourself over to the character. Let the character take control. And if she wants to cry, she’ll cry, and if she doesn’t, not even Steven Spielberg can make her.'”