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‘Hidden Figures’ Cast Reflects on Racial Divides, John Glenn at Screening

Variety logo Variety 12/11/2016 Mannie Holmes
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“Anywhere close to what John Glenn did, that’s a successful life,” said Glen Powell at a special screening of “Hidden Figures” at the SVA Theatre in New York Saturday evening. “So it’s a celebration.”

Powell, who plays the late legendary astronaut, never got to meet Glenn, but was grateful for his role in the film and learned a lot about him to get into character.

“You fall in love with the guy. It did really feel like a real loss the other day when he passed because it felt like you lost a member of your family,” he continued. “He really was like the granddad of America, so to speak. He was a special soul and he was one of the last great heroes we’ll ever have.”

Jim Parsons, who plays Paul Stafford in the film, says that in many ways, “Glenn is the reason why we have this movie.”

“He was the one who was like, I don’t care if it’s a woman, I don’t care if it’s an African-American, I don’t care who it is, that person has the brains to get me down safely,” said Parsons. “And when you can take things to that kind of base level, like he did at that moment, that’s when you become color blind, gender blind, everything blind.”

“Hidden Figures” tells the true story of the team of African-American women behind the historic moment of sending the first American out to space to orbit the earth, led by talented mathematicians Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae).

Spencer spoke passionately about her role in the film and the character she portrayed.

“The fact that she made these huge contributions to the world and no one knew her name, I felt compelled to be a part of the telling of her story,” she told Variety. “I’m just excited to be introducing her to the next generation of STEM enthusiasts.”

Also in attendance from the film were Kevin Costner, who portrays NASA’s Al Harrison, producer Pharrell Williams, and director Theodore Melfi.

Melfi introduced the screening with a personal story about an unjust experience with Spencer in a first-class lounge, and revealed to the audience what the film really means to him.

“I wanted to dedicate this film to everyone in the world who has ever sat through unconscious bias their whole life, who has not gotten a cup of coffee, who has not gotten the promotion, who has not been paid properly because of the color of their skin or their gender or their sex,” he said. “I hope to God this movie is just one small chink in that bad armor.”

Cheers in the theater erupted throughout the screening, at many of the inspirational and powerful moments. Guests were then invited to an after party at the Altman Building in Chelsea, which was buzzing with a DJ, a variety of food and drinks, and a photo booth.

“Hidden Figures” is set to open in limited release on Dec. 25 and nationwide on Jan. 6, 2017.

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