The Literary Roles of Oprah Winfrey

Posted by Kristina Pino

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Her illustrious career makes Oprah the sort of person who doesn't need an introduction, not really, so before we embarrass ourselves, we’ll just get right into it. In honor of Oprah’s birthday, we’re rolling out a selection of some of her boss literary roles in film. Which are your favorites?


Sofia in The Color Purple

What better way to begin this list than to note the strong Sofia, who fought back when a man tried to lay hands on her, and advised other women to do the same? Her defiance and strong character in the ’30s didn’t always steer her away from trouble, but she is a good example of the power of women holding each other up, as she made an unlikely friend who helped her when she saw the injustices being done to her. It’s not an easy story to take in, which is probably why the book it’s based on is so frequently challenged and the subject of attempted bans, but it’s a classic nonetheless.


Sethe in Beloved

You know when Toni Morrison is involved, it’s only going to be good. Sethe, a former slave, runs off to Cincinnati, and in her desperation to escape recapture, kills one of her daughters. Years later, it’s just her and her youngest, and her house is haunted by who we later identify as her dead daughter. An old friend of hers from the plantation she escaped from moves in and tries to ward off the ghost to bring some normalcy to this home, but soon she comes back in the form of a woman called Beloved. Oprah didn’t win any awards for this performance, nor did the film receive much acclaim at the time, but this list would be missing someone without Sethe.



Deborah Lacks in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Deborah is desperate to learn as much as she can about her mother, Henrietta Lacks, whose cancer cells led to some breakthroughs in science and medicine that have changed the world. She and her family have endured all kinds of pain and frustration, learning a piece of their mother was taken without permission, and an institution was presumably making money and medical advances were being made without anyone knowing who Henrietta ever was and without the family ever receiving a penny. The film itself is a little bit of a mess, but it attempts to convey the drama of not knowing your mother because she was taken way too soon, and humanizing someone whose name was removed from all the good her illness has done for others.



Gussy the Goose from Charlotte’s Web (2006)

Lest anyone think we’ll only be talking about Oprah’s more dramatic literary roles, no worries. Charlotte’s Web is a beloved story, and it’s one where both the animated and live action adaptations are excellent watches. Oprah played the role of Gussy the goose, and is just one of many big-name voices in the film, which include Julia Roberts, Kathy Bates, Steve Buscemi, and Robert Redford.


And finally, the movie we all can’t wait to see….


Mrs. Which from A Wrinkle In Time


Seriously, though.

Look at her.

We are not worthy.