As Lily Owens, Fanning portrays a teenager struggling with typical pubescent angst, but her challenges are compunded by her feelings of self-loathing and sorrow – all tied to the death her mother. Lily’s one saving grace is her empathetic caretaker Rosaleen, portrayed by Academy Award winning actress Jennifer Hudson Describing her character Lily as being stuck between a rock and a hard place, Fanning enjoyed the creative challenge of portraying a white teenager in the South during the 60’s, whose only mother-figure is an African-American housekeeper. “It adds a certain amount of tension to the movie,” Fanning explains, “because it was looked down upon for a young white girl to be living with African-American people. This is something my character can’t understand.”
Hudson says her character and Fanning’s were bound together by shared needs. “They both have a struggle: Rosaleen wants to be acknowledged as a human being while Lily is looking for a mother. So where one is weak, the other is strong.” Director Gina Prince-Bythewood created an elaborate improv to help Fanning and Hudson get into character. Before filming began, while on location in North Carolina, the director had the actresses meet at a drugstore where they were told to purchase 10 items and eat a meal. Extras in the drugstore had been instructed by the director to interact respectfully with Fanning, but to ignore Hudson. “I couldn’t hear what that guy at the counter said to Jennifer, but I know what I told him to say,” Prince-Bythewood recalls. “When I saw her head whip around so fast, I was thinking ‘Oh my God, is she going to hit him?’ ”
Acknowledging the impact of those exercises – and the historical research she did – on her performance, Hudson says she developed an overwhelming sense of gratitude at being young today. “I was sitting watching a little white girl and a little black boy reading a book together recently and I thought ‘Wow that would have been illegal 50 years ago.’” She adds, “You have to know where you’ve come from to know where you’re going and you need to know what mistakes you made, so you don’t make them again. This was a part of our history.”
The film will be shown soon exclusively at Ayala Malls Cinemas (Glorietta 4 & Greenbelt 3).
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