Last fall, we traveled to a strange and magical land: Santa Clarita, California. It was here that the sprawling sets for Ava DuVernay's adaptation of Madeline D'Engle's literary classic "A Wrinkle in Time" were being constructed and stars from around the galaxy -- including Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Chris Pine -- were being pulled, as if by some unspecified, otherworldly force.
And Oprah Winfrey was there, too.
Even if she was not dressed in her fabulously celestial costume, which sparkled and glimmered, Oprah would have seemed positively galactic. Winfrey plays Mrs. Which, one of a trio of inter-dimensional beings (along with Witherspoon and Kaling), responsible for guiding a young girl (Storm Reid) towards her missing scientist father (Pine).
Just shaking her hand, you get the impression that Winfrey was born to play this role. She seems regal but down-to-earth, helpful but not pushy, and wise beyond her years (maybe things work differently in outer space?) It was here, in Santa Clarita, that Oprah told us everything we really needed to know about "A Wrinkle in Time." Behold, the knowledge she shared:
1. Her Costumes Actually Aren't That Cumbersome
While Winfrey needed some assistance actually sitting down to chat with us about the production, she didn't mind the elaborate ensembles.
"One is more fantastic than the other," Winfrey said. "I was in a metal corset the other day, which was actually more comfortable. You could sort of lean on it, you know, be in it."
2. She Rocks Some Eyebrows (Literally)
Apparently her eyebrows are inspired by the movie's many intergalactic settings. "We started out with amber eyebrows on one of the planets and we just liked it," Winfrey explained. "[Ava] was like, I' think you should have eyebrows made of stone for every planet.'" Not that the extended time in make-up and wardrobe tent (she says she shows up at 4:15am and has to be on set by 8:00am) dampened her spirits. She described her make-up as "probably the most fun makeup I've ever worn, in a lifetime."
3. She Has High Hopes for the Movie
Winfrey said that the original book "never made it to my neighborhood," so she was introduced to the empowering story and colorful cast of characters through DuVernay'. And even though she is a relative newcomer to these worlds, she can't help but have high hopes for the adaptation. "It's like doing 'The Wizard of Oz' for a new generation," Winfrey said. "It's a spaced-out Oz, and I am Glinda!"
Her models for the film were Glinda and Maya Angelou. "I hear both of them in my head as I'm speaking, and I cannot tell you how aligned I think this film is." In fact, she doesn't think it's a kid's movie at all. Winfrey continued: "I think of it as a film for generations to come, and will live on in the wisdom empowerment energy field for people in the same way as 'Oz' has." Considering the screenplay was written by Jennifer Lee, who knows a thing or two about timeless classics -- thanks to her work on Disney's "Frozen" -- and this just could be a recipe for a new favorite.4. Mrs. Which Is "A Supernova"
When we tried to get some details out of her about her character, she described Mrs. Which as "a supernova, an angel woman, a wisdom teacher."
The movie, for Winfrey, is "about finding your own sense of belief, confidence and empowerment." She went on: "It's about a lining up of what is your true frequency, which I believe everyone has. It is your flow in life. There's your line. There's your current that you are supposed to follow, that is like no one else's."
Her character, Winfrey said, is there to teach our young adventurer Meg (Reid) how to do that, "how to line up with the vibration, with the frequency that is most her, and how to have faith in that and follow it." At one point in the film, Winfrey's character tells Meg that, "You're resisting. She actually says those words. 'You are resisting,' which is a thing for everybody in life. You don't get what you want when you're in resistance against it, so you have to be at ease. You have to believe you can and then you move forward."
Later, Winfrey conceded, the movie is about, "bringing back hope." And listening to Winfrey talk, it's hard not to get inspired.
5. Her Straps Were Too Tight
Someone asked about the movie's update of the book's list of important artists and cultural figures (it now includes people like Jay-Z) and whether or not Oprah contributed any suggestions, to which the superstar said "No."
In fact, the only thing she suggested was: "I think my straps are too tight." She then laughed and said, "My vajayjay is chapped." Otherwise, those suggestions came from Ava. Winfrey said that in addition to more classical figures like Shakespeare, Mrs. Who (Kaling) quotes Outkast and other contemporary artists. "It's great," she said.
6. Later She Used Those Wires as an Excuse
For some reason her too-tight straps were brought up once again later in the conversation. Winfrey was game. "On the first day -- I'd never done wire work before," Winfrey said. "Now, anytime anybody calls me from the office, 'Sorry! I'm on the wire! The wire! I can't get down. I'm on the wire. Can't take that meeting. On the wire today!' So on the first day, it's such an ordeal getting wired up that I was like, 'I'll just hang here all day.' That was my problem. No one is supposed to stay strapped down for ten hours." No, no they are not.
7. She Was in Awe of Ava's Vision
When the subject of working with DuVernay came up, Winfrey fully admitted her admiration. "I don't know how she did it!" Oprah exclaimed. "This is what I said to her the very first time I came to Disney and was looking at the designs." DuVernay walked Winfrey through the production, showing her "each of the planets and what was expected."
There were three rooms at the studio just devoted to the visual development of the film. "All of them were covered in drawings and designs and ideas and stuff," Winfrey explained. "I said to her, 'Wow, what an incredible thing that you get to call in all of the coolest, the vibe-y-ist, the hippest of designers and creators, and you all get to sit in a room, and you're literally in the vortex of your imagination. You're right there in the center of it and just throwing out ideas."
One of the biggest questions that vexed DuVernay and her team of collaborators, technicians and artists was how to make Mrs. Whatsit (Witherspoon) fly. "Everybody had all these ideas about how to make her fly, how do you make her fly like no one else has flown and what does that look like," Winfrey said. Finally, the team came up with "the coolest thing." (Production art we were shown earlier in the day, reinforced by trailers that have been released since, suggested that Witherspoon turn into a mythical creature that is a cross between a dragon and a blade of lettuce.)
Finally, Oprah sighed and said, "I wish I was flying." Just be careful of the tightness of that harness.
"A Wrinkle in Time" opens on this planet (and many others) on March 9th. We'll have more from the unbelievable set very, very soon.