Queen Latifah, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron discuss roles as executive producers (Exclusive Interview)

“Queen Latifah, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron discuss roles as executive producers”
By Michael Aaron Gallagher of StayFamous.Net


Queen Latifah stars as “M’Lynn” in "Steel Magnolias." Photo by Kevin Lynch. Copyright 2011.
Queen Latifah stars as “M’Lynn” in “Steel Magnolias.” Photo by Kevin Lynch. Copyright 2011.
With an all-star cast that includes Queen Latifah, Phylicia Rashad, Alfre Woodard and Jill Scott, the new Lifetime original movie Steel Magnolias debuts October 7. Based on the 1987 play by Robert Harling and the beloved 1989 film starring Sally Field, Dolly Parton and Julia Roberts, comes this contemporary take on a classic story of love and friendship in the South.

In a recent interview with StayFamous.Net, award-winning actress and executive producer Queen Latifah (What Happens in VegasScary Movie 3 and The Secret Life of Bees) and the award-winning duo Craig Zadan (Footloose, The Bucket List and Drop Dead Diva) and Neil Meron (Chicago, Hairspray and A Raisin in the Sun) of Storyline Entertainment talked about their collaboration on the film.

Michael Aaron Gallagher: “Why did you decide to become involved in this project as an executive producer and what was your specific role aside from acting?”

Queen Latifah: “I got involved with this project because Neil and Craig called me. I worked with them and I trust them… I know how hard they work and how much they’ll put into it. I wanted to be a part of it.

Executive Producer Neil Meron and Executive Producer and star Queen Latifah behind the scenes of the all-new Lifetime Original Movie, Steel Magnolias. Photo by Eric Liebowitz. Copyright 2011.
Executive Producer Neil Meron and Executive Producer and star Queen Latifah behind the scenes of the all-new Lifetime Original Movie, Steel Magnolias. Photo by Eric Liebowitz. Copyright 2011.

And my role I think outside of just being an actor was really to help facilitate – helping to create a great cast and then also to really create a great tone on the set. To make sure that everyone was taken care of whether it was cast or crew.

You know, you have to take care of your crew and if there were things that needed to be dealt with that were critical I was there on the ground to be able to see it in – maybe a different aspect than Neil and Craig were so I could, relay that to them or relay things to Kenny Leon.

My role is not to be the boss on the ground so to speak or the director, to wear everyone else’s hat, but really to be someone who sees things from the gaps that need to be filled… And that’s what I do. Then I take that hat off and I give it back to them so that I can be an actor. So it’s not to, kind of act like I’m, running the joint, you know? It’s a team thing. And that’s kind of where I come from when it comes to wearing these two hats.

And of course to make sure that everyone knows about this film, about how great it is and… what we’ve made and what we want you to share – the experience that we want you to share in Steel Magnolias.”

From Left, Director Kenny Leon with Executive Producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron behind the scenes on the all-new Lifetime Original Movie, Steel Magnolias. Photo by Eric Liebowitz. Copyright 2011.
From Left, Director Kenny Leon with Executive Producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron behind the scenes on the all-new Lifetime Original Movie, Steel Magnolias. Photo by Eric Liebowitz. Copyright 2011.

Michael Aaron Gallagher: “Neil and Craig, what do you like about working together? You guys have collaborated a lot with Storyline Entertainment. What makes you a successful team?”

Neil Meron: “I think we share a similar vision and when our opinions differ I think it only makes the work even stronger because, there’s a lot of respect and it’s great to know that we have this mutual trust that one can not be present and still feel that the mutual vision is being executed in the same way that either one of us would do.

And it’s fun…. we love what we do and we love the projects we work on. And hopefully it comes through in the finished product.”

Craig Zadan: “I think that the other answer is that Neil and I share a desire for great quality in our work. And if we are offered projects or we look at projects or consider projects that don’t have that quality then we don’t do them.

So our first priority that we share is that the movie or the TV show or the Broadway show or whatever it is, they have the highest possible quality which is why we would never go to Queen Latifah with anything without that quality.

We would be embarrassed if we went to Queen Latifah and said would you do this with us and we weren’t 100% sure that it was going to be potentially really good. So I think that Neil and I share that…”

Queen Latifah: “And that’s why I would take that job without even having read the script first…”

Craig Zadan: “That’s right.”

Neil Meron: “Queen Latifah actually did the same thing with Hairspray. We had a lunch with her and she says I’m in. And she hadn’t read the script. She just believed that we were going to make the best movie we can. And hopefully we haven’t let her down.”

Queen Latifah: “No. You’ve never let me down. And if I could speak to them that’s what people believe. They believe that they will do their [best]. I think it’s that high quality….They’ve got their eyes on the prize. It’s tunnel vision. We’re going to make this a success in every possible way. But it comes from the heart. There’s passion. They’ll not sleep at night. They will make sure that it’s right and make sure everyone is taken care of. And I mean that’s important… these guys are the best.”

From left, Phylicia Rashad (“Clariee”), Michael Beasley (“Spud”), Jill Scott (“Truvy”), Phylicia Rashad (“Clariee”), Alfre Woodard (“Ouiser”), Tory Kittles (“Jackson”), Queen Latifah (“M’Lynn”) and  Afemo Omilami (“Drum”) star in the all-new Lifetime Original Movie, Steel Magnolias.
From left, Phylicia Rashad (“Clariee”), Michael Beasley (“Spud”), Jill Scott (“Truvy”), Phylicia Rashad (“Clariee”), Alfre Woodard (“Ouiser”), Tory Kittles (“Jackson”), Queen Latifah (“M’Lynn”) and  Afemo Omilami (“Drum”) star in the all-new Lifetime Original Movie, Steel Magnolias.

Neil Meron: “And we love actors by the way. We love actors.”

Queen Latifah: “Sometimes…”

Craig Zadan: “We love Queen.”

Produced by SONY Pictures Television, Steel Magnolias airs Sunday, October 7 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Lifetime.

“Queen Latifah, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron discuss roles as executive producers”
Copyright 2012 by Michael Aaron Gallagher

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