Janelle Monae attended a special screening of the Fox 2000 drama Hidden Figures where she discussed her big screen debut and the significance behind what it means to play a black scientist.

Hidden Figures tells the untold true story of African-American women mathematicians, Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan, who worked at NASA during the Civil Rights era.  The story revolves around these brilliant African-American women who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in U.S. history, the momentous launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, and his safe return.  Glenn flew the Friendship 7 mission in 1962, and became the first American to orbit the Earth. Monae will play the youngest member of the trio, Mary Jackson. Taraji P. Henson will play Katherine Johnson, and Octavia Spencer will play Dorothy Vaughan.

“I cried because I had never heard of Katherine Johnson or Dorothy Vaughan or Mary Jackson. But I know these women and their struggles. I am Mary. I am so honored to play her. This film is so important because it shows black people and black women in a different light.” – Janelle Monae

The film is based on the adaptation of Margot Lee Shetterly’s book, Hidden Figures: The Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race that is available for pre-order now and will be published in September by HarperCollins. Shetterley’s father worked with the women whose lives are the film’s subject and often told her stories about them. The only one still living is Johnson, who turns 97 in August. She was given the presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama last year.

“It is so important, that we as women, African-American women, tell our stories. These three women opened doors for us and literally helped change the world […] It’s important for children, especially inner-city children to see their future selves in a different light. We’re not all the same. There’s so much depth to us, and films like this help to change the stereotypes and make studying STEM cool. It’s absolutely the coolest thing to be able to send someone into space.” – Janelle Monae

Mahershala Ali, Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons, Kirsten Dunst, and Glen Powell are also set to star in the film.  Ted Melfi will direct alongside producer Peter Chernin and Jenno Topping who will produce through Chernin Entertainment, and Donna Gigliotti will produce through Levantine Films.  Pharrell Williams will also serve as a producer and music composer.

Mark your calendars!  This film will be released January 2017 (MLK weekend).  Check out the fascinating blog for Margot Lee Shetterly, the author of Hidden Figures, and you can pre-order your copy of Hidden Figures HERE.

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The HBR Media Team is a collective group of black women filmmakers, writers, and studio/network executives who are passionate about bringing visibility to women of African descent working in film and television.

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