Madeleine L’Engle’s young adult novel, A Wrinkle in Time, was first published in 1962. It was awarded with the Newbery Medal (for children’s literature) the following year and became a classic.
It has taken over 50 years for A Wrinkle in Time to make its way to the big screen. The movie tells the story of 12 year old Meg Murry (Storm Reid, 12 Years a Slave), whose father, Dr Alex Murry (Chris Pine, Star Trek, Hell or High Water), a physicist employed by NASA, has been missing for four years. With the help of three otherworldly visitors to earth, Mrs Which (Oprah Winfrey, Selma, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks), Mrs Who, (Mindy Kaling (The Office, The Mindy Project) and Mrs Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon, Big Little Lies, Walk the Line, Meg must search the universe to find her father, and stop the darkness that is permeating the universe.
The movie was written by Catherine Hand (Frozen) and directed by Ava DuVernay (Selma) and opens on March 19th, 2018.
Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling came to the W Hotel in Hollywood to talk about their celestial roles.

Can you talk a little about your characters?

A Wrinkle in Time - Oprah Winfrey
A Wrinkle in Time – Mrs Which (Oprah Winfrey) © 2017 Disney Enterprises

Oprah Winfrey: Mrs Which has been around for millennia. She is an angelic cosmic being who has complete empathy and connection to all humans and is one with the universe. She understands that love and light is all that matters and journeys throughout the universe to spread that message.”

For me she was a cross between the wisest woman I know, Maya Angelou, and my all-time favorite magical character Glinda, the good witch from The Wizard of Oz. But she had to be grounded in something. So I grounded her in Maya Angelou, who is a personal friend, mother figure, sister figure, teacher and mentor for me. There is a certainty, an assurance of purpose and wisdom that would come from Maya in such a way that sort of filled her presence.

A very Mysterious Character

A Wrinkle in Time - Mindy Kaling
A Wrinkle in Time – Mrs Who (Mindy Kaling) © 2017 Disney Enterprises

Mindy Kaling: Mrs Who is a very mysterious character because she speaks through other people’s words and sentiments. For someone like me who is very expressive and always has a lot to say and a lot of opinions, it was a really challenging role to play!

It also meant I wasn’t able to improvise on set, which is one of the first times that has ever happened.

A Wrinkle in Time - Reese Witherspoon
A Wrinkle in Time – Mrs Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) © 2017 Disney Enterprises

Reese Witherspoon: Mrs Whatsit is the youngest of the three Mrs’s…she’s only 2 billion years old. This is her first mission as a guide traveling the universe, fighting for light and goodness in people and humanity. She is new to Earth and not used to being in a human form and is very curious.”

She is innocent, almost childlike, and desperately wants to impress Mrs Who and Mrs Which, but she doesn’t understand how things work, so she is always playing with things. And sometimes she says things out loud, not realizing people can hear her, and sometimes they are inappropriate.

A Wrinkle in Time - Mindy Kaling, Levi Miller, Oprah Winfrey, Zach Galifianakis, Storm Reid, Deric McCabe and Reese Witherspoon
A Wrinkle in Time – Mrs Who (Mindy Kaling), Calvin O’Keefe (Levi Miller), Mrs Which (Oprah Winfrey), the Happy Medium (Zach Galifianakis), Meg Murry (Storm Reid), Charles Wallace Murry (Deric McCabe) and Mrs Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) © 2017 Disney Enterprises

Oprah, what was different about working on this project with Ava, compared to doing Selma with her?

Oprah: With Selma, I was with her on a film where literally we had one day to shoot everybody coming across the bridge in Selma. You’ve got to get it before it rains, and if it rains, you’re not gonna get it. And you don’t have enough money to try it again.

(With this) you have Disney money. You’ve got the Disney machine. That’s why that is so exciting, that Ava DuVernay is at the helm of that. It fills my heart every time I think about Ava and her dreads and her sneakers and these big cranes and all of these men running around, taking direction from her.

To see her be the master of that, to orchestrate all of that was powerful and inspiring. And it touches I think the part of us that recognizes, oh yeah, we can do that, we’ve always been able to do that. I was just so proud to be associated with her and her ability to make this film possible. So that’s what was different.

Mindy, was this a childhood fantasy that you’re acting out as an adult?

Mindy: I loved science fiction and fantasy growing up but it was a genre that largely did not love me back. I never saw any representation of a dark-skinned Indian woman in anything that I saw. It’s a really peculiar thing when you grow up loving something that shows you no love back. It’s such a pure love, because you’re not getting anything from it.

I broke out in TV which is so welcoming to me, and comedy which is so welcoming to me. But to be part of this movie, and to be on a green screen stage in harnesses, because you’re doing a science fiction fantasy movie.

It’s so fun because I finally feel welcomed with open arms to something that has ignored me completely. That is so profound. I think if that can be something that the miniature version of me could watch and be excited by, that’s such a huge thing.

A Wrinkle in Time - Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling and Reese Witherspoon
A Wrinkle in Time – Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling and Reese Witherspoon took part today in the Walt Disney Studios live action presentation. This was at Disney’s D23 EXPO 2017 in Anaheim, Calif. July 15th 2017 © 2017 Disney Enterprises, photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images

What was it like working with Ava?

Reese: I was so impressed with what Ava did on Selma, creating this beautifully written, directed (and) cast film.

And to have this incredible, strong, female filmmaker at the center of (this) story was really appealing to me.

It’s very flattering to be chosen to be part of Ava’s movies because she doesn’t just make a movie, she makes an experience for everyone. She cares about what happens in front of the camera and she cares about what happens behind the camera. And everybody feels like they are important.

I feel like this was a master-class in how to be a very thoughtful filmmaker, and a real visionary. So it was a privilege and an honor. I got to be this amazing celestial person, who hangs out with Oprah and Mindy all day. It really was truly a delight.

A Wrinkle in Time - Reese Witherspoon, Deric McCabe and Levi Miller
A Wrinkle in Time – Reese Witherspoon, Deric McCabe and Levi Miller on the set in New Zealand © 2017 Disney Enterprises

Part of the movie was shot in New Zealand, what was that like?

Reese: New Zealand was magical. The colors are different, the air is different…even the food tastes different there, and the people are all so lovely.

Oprah: One of my favorite days in New Zealand was also one of the most challenging as well. We were filming a scene where the three Mrs’s are standing out in the middle of this beautiful field of golden grass. It turned out to be one of the finest shots I’ve ever seen.”

A Wrinkle in Time - Reese Witherspoon
A Wrinkle in Time – Mrs Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) © 2017 Disney Enterprises

A Wrinkle in Time Oprah Winfrey Soundbyte

Oprah’s character says in the movie that we need to restore hope. Oprah was asked in times like these, is it possible to be hopeful. Click here to listen to her positive response.

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.