Color Purple, The: Jon Batiste Feature Acting Debut in Musical Movie

Color Purple: Jon Batiste Feature Acting Debut

Jon Batiste Headshot
Courtesy of David Needleman

After dominating the Grammy Awards with 5 wins, including album of the year, Jon Batiste will appear in The Color Purple, directed by Blitz Bazawule, making his feature acting debut.

Photo: Spielberg’s 1985 Version

Batiste will play Grady, husband to Shug Avery (Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson). The debonair, sweet-talking piano man is described as “the epitome of charm and eloquence.”

He joins a star-studded cast led by Fantasia Barrino (in her own feature film debut) as Celie, a Black woman whose personal awakening in the American South of the early 20th century is at the center of this epic story. The full ensemble boasts Danielle Brooks as Sofia, Henson as Shug Avery, Colman Domingo as Mister, Corey Hawkins as Harpo, H.E.R. as Squeak, Halle Bailey as Young Nettie, Ciara as Nettie, Elizabeth Marvel as Miss Millie, David Alan Grier as Reverend Avery, Tamala J. Mann as First Lady, Phylicia Pearl Mpasi as Young Celie, Deon Cole as Alfonso, Stephen Hill as Buster.

Oscar winner Louis Gossett Jr. as Ol’ Mister and recent Oscar nominee Aunjanue Ellis as Mama, mother to Celie and Nettie.

The Warner musical movie is an adaptation of Alice Walker’s iconic American novel, as well as the Oscar-nominated 1985 film from Steven Spielberg and Tony Award-winning Broadway musical that it inspired. Oprah Winfrey, who made her feature acting debut in that movie, is producing the new project under her Harpo Films banner.

Spielberg also returns to produce for his Amblin Entertainment. Scott Sanders and Quincy Jones, both of whom had produced the Broadway musical, are also producers.

Alice Walker, Rebecca Walker, Mara Jacobs, Carla Gardini, Kristie Macosko Krieger and Adam Fell are exec-producers.

Batiste is best known as the bandleader and musical director of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert on CBS, where he’s served since 2015. Despite this marking his first film role, Batiste is already an Oscar winner. In 2020, Batiste won the best original score prize for Disney-Pixar’s “Soul,” an honor he shared with fellow composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. In doing so, Batiste became the second Black composer in history, after legendary jazz musician Herbie Hancock, to win an Academy Award in that category.

The New Orleans-born musician earned his first Grammy nomination (for best American Roots performance) in 2018, followed by two more in 2020 for albums he self-produced, “Chronology of a Dream: Live at the Village Vanguard” and “Meditations” (with Cory Wong).

His 2021 studio album “We Are” was released to critical acclaim, contributing to Batiste’s massive tally of 11 Grammy nominations across 7 categories.

Grammy Impact

After his five Grammy wins and rousing performance during the telecast, Batiste’s music benefited 950 percent increase in streaming.