Kimberly Elise is an acclaimed actress who has stolen the hearts of many filmgoers since her debut in 1996 in the film Set it Off. Ms. Elise portrays Crystal in Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls, an adaptation the iconic play, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf by Ntozake Shange.
Kimberly Elise talks with theGrio about her acting process and the transformative experience of being a part of an all star cast in this historic adaptation.
theGrio: I just want to congratulate you on a breathtaking job you did as Crystal in For Colored Girls. You must be so proud.
I’m glad you enjoyed it. I really, really, really am.
This leads to my first question. How did you prepare for such an emotionally complex character?
I really had to allow myself to disconnect from myself. There are certain things I do in my regular life–like meditate, yoga, hike, strict vegetarian, all of these things. The first step for me was to take all of those things out of my life because I knew that that would take me off center; and Crystal was off center. And I knew that those things would make me not feel as connected to spirit. And Crystal was in that place. And when I took those things away from myself I was left really raw and vulnerable. I also had to go back to my theater roots and develop this character from the ground up.
I worked a lot with Michael Ealy, who plays Beau Willie in this film, and we would meet for hours, days, weeks before hand in shaping these characters and talking out their histories, present day, their lives what their futures could have been. It was a lot of technical and spiritual work until I was just stripped raw and ready to surrender to Crystal. That’s what I did so when it came time to shoot she was able to come in and take over and I was out of her way.
We went on this journey, but it really took its toll. I went to Atlanta with five gray hairs and came home with about fifty, seriously! (laughter) It’s just a commentary that when you act your body doesn’t know it’s pretend. My body thought it actually went through this experience and it manifested itself and expressed its pain. I had to sleep for days and days and reintroduce my meditation and my prayer and all those things to come back into Kim.
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