She's ruled over some wily convicts as a saucy jailhouse warden in "Chicago," but in her latest film, "Beauty Shop," Queen Latifah extends her rule over a very different cast of brash, outspoken young ladies.
The spinoff from the "Barber Shop" series, out Wednesday, is directed by Bille Woodruff ("Honey") and takes Latifah's "Barber Shop 2" character, Gina, out of Chicago and into her own beauty salon in Atlanta. Filling out Gina's Beauty Salon is an unusual assortment of characters, played by Alicia Silverstone, Andie MacDowell, Djimon Hounsou, Alfre Woodard, Mena Suvari and Kevin Bacon, who portrays her former boss and salon rival, Jorge Christophe. Of course, housing a cast of lively ladies can lead to some interesting conversations in the shop, but Latifah notes quite a bit had to be toned down for the film's PG-13 rating.
"We wanted this to be for everyone, so we had to pull some of that stuff back," she said. "I wish I could have let it go more. Obviously we can't duplicate every conversation that's had in a beauty shop, because then we'd have an R-rated movie, no question."
The castmembers had to go through an intense beauty shop "boot camp" in Inglewood, California, to train for their roles as hairstylists. "We went to a shop called Golden Touch and a guy named Randy took us through the paces," Latifah said. "Like, 'Here's how you cut, here's how you hold the scissors, here's how you hold the comb.' I dropped the comb a few times, I'm not gonna lie. But just a few."
Latifah worked to keep a very casual atmosphere on the set. "I'm not one of those people who gets aggravated at every little thing. I've got more patience than that. I just want to have a good time doing what it is I love."
The Oscar-nominated actress has been approached to depict celebrated vocalists Pearl Bailey and Mahalia Jackson in two separate biopics, but the one artist Latifah says she would really like to portray is jazz legend Bessie Smith. "I've seen pictures of Pearl where I thought I was looking at a picture of me," she said. "But Bessie Smith is the one I'd really like to do."
It's been a slow, progressive climb for the performer, who now has more than 15 years of entertainment-industry experience under her belt, but Latifah says she wouldn't have it any other way.
"I'm glad I didn't just come out platinum and disappear like a lot of people have," she said, crediting her loyal fanbase for her long-lasting success. "My parents didn't create a fearful child. They allowed me to fall if I needed to, but they encouraged me to get back up and try again."
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