The Butler: Lee Daniels And Cast Discuss Emotional Intensity Of Historical Drama

While America has made significant progress since the civil rights movement, Lee Daniels’ The Butler revisits the nation’s dark past in a raw portrayal of right and wrong.

Loosely based on the life of White House butler Eugene Allen, who served eight presidents over the course of 30 years, The Butler not only depicts one man’s real struggle to keep his family and job intact but an entire race fighting for freedom from venomous discrimination.

“I was more intimidated by the role because it was very, very complex,” lead actor Forest Whitaker, who plays butler Cecil Gaines, tells VIBE when asked about meeting the expectations of the character. “There’s so many levels and dimensions to him, and I know that when I commit to a part, I commit to it so much that all the external thinkings that other people have kind of disappear.”

With stellar performances in films like The Last King of Scotland and Bird, the Oscar-winning thespian still holds his own alongside a big-name cast that boasts Oprah Winfrey, Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr. and up-and-comer David Oyelowo, who admits his role as Gaines’ activist son was physically challenging.

“There were scenes that were tricky to get through physically like the sit-in,” Oyelowo recalls. “But I guess you get through it knowing that soon ‘Cut’ will be called and you can just walk away.”

Director Lee Daniels says the entire film covers the human emotional spectrum. “They’re not favorite scenes if they’re not in it,” he says. “They all evoke certain emotions for me from laughter to tears to being afraid to being angry.”

Actor Jessie Williams adds, “[The film’s] got everything covered. It’s two hours well-spent.” Watch the full interview with the cast above. Lee Daniels’ The Butler hits theaters Friday, August 16. —Adelle Platon (@adelleplaton)