Oprah’s Wrinkle in Time Recipe: One Part Glinda the Good Witch, One Part Maya Angelou


The sun had just gone down outside a soundstage 40 miles north of Los Angeles when a shimmering celestial being appeared. With blond tendrils, iridescent lips, and an hourglass figure, she radiated power, wisdom, and kindness—Oprah Winfrey, in a dress covered with lights.

“It’s a little warm in here . . . with all the current going through the body,” Winfrey said, raising her bejeweled eyebrows at costume designer Paco Delgado, who flashed a nervous smile.

It was March 2017, on the set of A Wrinkle in Time—Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s classic fantasy novel—which Disney is releasing this month. In a bit of typecasting, Winfrey plays Mrs. Which, a supernatural being who is the wisest entity in the world. “As I read the script, I heard the voices of Maya Angelou and Glinda the Good Witch in my head, and my own stuff that I’ve said, and I thought, Yeah, I could do that,” Winfrey said while the crew set up the next shot against a blue screen.

A Wrinkle in Time’s Mindy Kaling.

Photograph by Atsushi Nishijima/© 2017 Disney Enterprises, Inc.; All rights reserved.

In the book (as in the movie), which Frozen writer and co-director Jennifer Lee adapted for the screen, a teenager named Meg Murry (Storm Reid) travels through time and space to find her missing scientist father (Chris Pine). Along the way, she is aided by an ancient trio: Mrs. Which, Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling). Though L’Engle’s 1962 book is beloved for its courageous, bookish heroine, and its ideas have often been mined by other science-fiction and fantasy filmmakers, DuVernay’s film is the work’s first big-screen adaptation (a TV-movie version aired in 2004). It is also the first live-action movie with a production budget of more than $100 million to be directed by a woman of color, with a cast and crew reflective of DuVernay’s deeply felt beliefs about inclusion, right down to the 14-year-old Reid, who is bi-racial.

DuVernay, who has directed two Oscar-nominated films—the Martin Luther King Jr. drama Selma and 13th, a documentary about race and incarceration—first met with Disney about its planned Marvel adaptation, Black Panther. She later took the Wrinkle in Time job after determining that the studio’s rules for its comic-book characters might be too rigid for her. Wrinkle felt like an open field, and one where she could create a long-wished-for image of a heroine. “To see a girl of color hopping planets and saving the universe is important in the culture, for all kinds of people,” DuVernay said. That Reid’s Meg is also guided on her journey by women deepens the meaning.

In the film, Meg learns how to travel in the fifth dimension, or “tesser,” in the parlance of the book, from Winfrey’s Mrs. Which, in a scene that harks back to the inspirational advice the former talk-show host has doled out to her TV audience, and friends, through the years. “When they’re tessering for the first time and [Mrs. Which] is explaining that it’s . . . finding your flow, having faith in who you are, well, I’ve said that to my girls a hundred times,” Winfrey said. “That’s what life is—finding your lane, being able to align with whatever is your real purpose, who you really are, being true to yourself.”

DuVernay’s movie will expose L’Engle and Winfrey’s expansive ideas to a new generation. “I picture two years from now, a year from now, being someplace and kids recognizing [me] as Mrs. Which,” Winfrey said, “and their parents saying, ‘No, honey, that’s Oprah . . . she used to have a talk show.’ ”

Get Vanity Fair’s HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.Rebecca KeeganRebecca Keegan is a Hollywood Correspondent for Vanity Fair.

[contf] [contfnew]

Vanity Fair

[contfnewc] [contfnewc]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *