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BELOVED

Casting
SETHE (Oprah Winfrey)

SETHE (Oprah Winfrey)

Jonathan Demme, the director, admitted he had concerns that Oprah's universal popularity would not allow the audience to suspend their disbelief and accept her as Sethe. But these concerns disappeared during their first meeting. He says, "Within half an hour of listening to Oprah express herself about her connection to the character of Sethe and the immeasurable importance to her of the themes in the story, I went from being a little skeptical that we would be able to separate Oprah Winfrey from Sethe, to thinking there's no one else who can play this part."

Winfrey knew that the demanding role of Sethe would test her as an actress. Describing her character, she says, "Sethe's arc is amazing. She came from a life where she only saw her mother in the fields, and took milk from someone else's breast. At age 13 she moved to the Sweet Home plantation, where she found the closest thing to family she had ever known. Then she gave birth to her own family, and was faced with the possibility of losing all that she had. Playing Sethe took me to a mental and physical part of myself that I did not know existed." (For more information about Oprah Winfrey, please visit Oprah.com)

PAUL D (Danny Glover)

Director/producer Demme had known Danny Glover for several years, through their shared interests in Haiti and other issues. Demme says, "I'd been wanting to work with Danny since seeing him in 'Places in the Heart.' When I started reading the script, I pictured Danny, and that was it."

Glover, who cites "Beloved" as his favorite Toni Morrison work, read the script and was eager to be involved. "I was blown away by how the screenwriters had been able to capture the book," he says. Glover felt one of the greatest values of the story is the time in which it takes place, the transition period as slaves learn to live as free men and women. Says Glover, "We haven't come to terms with that experience, and the relationship that experience has to the moment right after. An enormous wave of humanity comes out of this experience."

Glover also felt a personal kinship to the story through his own life and family. "It seemed as if everything that had happened to me in my life had prepared me for this moment, to read this, and, without being terribly arrogant, to be in it," says the actor. "I was able to see my grandparents' life through this experience, because they've become an extension of this. You're able to connect the journey together, the journey that begins for a people as they attempt to become whole."

DENVER (Kimberly Elise)

Demme says, "The moment Kimberly Elise walked into our first meeting, a chill ran up my spine. She had the part before she even sat down."

In her first reading of the script, Elise understood Denver instantly. About her character, she says, "Her evolution is magnificent. The qualities and secrets that are calling Denver weren't clearly apparent on paper, but I knew that they were underneath. That was one of the challenges that I saw in the character, that she was so internalized. Her magic comes from within."

Demme saw her character as an important link between the past and future. He explains, "'Beloved' is, enormously, the story of Denver. She is a member of the first generation with the ability to take one strong step away from the horrendous psychological and social reality of slavery, towards the possibility of a better, though still tremendously difficult and challenging, future."

BELOVED (Thandie Newton)

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