TODAY   |  March 05, 2014

Vanessa Williams: ‘Bountiful’ looks at ‘boundary issues’

Vanessa Williams, Cicely Tyson, and Blair Underwood join TODAY to chat about their new Broadway-inspired movie, “The Trip to Bountiful,” focusing on a strong-willed household. The film airs Saturday on Lifetime.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> tony nominated play "the trip to bountiful" heading to the small screen as a movie on lifetime. the story of a spirited woman determined to go home again starring blair underwood . not as the spirited woman. and as you can expect, in a strong-willed household, sparks can fly.

>> i can't stand people snooping in my dresser drawers!

>> all right, then, next time do it yourself.

>> pick that up, please.

>> pick it up yourself. i have no intention of picking it up.

>> you pick that up!

>> i won't.

>> i will!

>> you're acting like children. it's 1:30 in the morning.

>> it's like my house. vanessa , good morning to all of you.

>> good morning.

>> this play critically acclaimed on broadway. your roles critically acclaimed on broadway. you took home a tony award for this. did you have any fear, sicily, of taking this to the next step?

>> i had no idea it was even being thought about. i had no idea. when it was brought to me, i thought, that's not possible. how are you going to do that? how are you going to go from the broad, loud projection to a little intimate piece. which is the difference between the two makings. i mean, i didn't think it was possible. and i said that. so it was very difficult for me.

>> these characters are fascinating. vanessa , my friends would say of your character --

>> uh-oh.

>> she could be a long day.

>> well put.

>> she's a little tough, isn't she?

>> well, she's the daughter-in-law of mother watts and the wife. and there's a lot of tension because they've been married for 20 years and lived in a two-room apartment for 20 years with their mother -in-law. so there's boundary issues. there's control issues because they both love this man right here. so she loves her husband and mother watts loves her son. and it's tough.

>> you're tough on her. you're tough on him. come on, stick up for yourself.

>> a long day. i'm stealing that. i like that.

>> you know, he is. he can be a bit put upon, and she can be very demanding. but you know what's interesting about this. i didn't know if he was supposed to be cowardly in the beginning or weak. and the thing is, what really is happening if you look at the words, he alludes to the fact that he's had a breakdown. a state of depression. puts a whole other spin on it.

>> michelle obama held a screening of this movie not long ago and said she was blown away by the story of persistence and hopes and the ties that bind us all together. it's a story that makes us think back to the house we grew up in. the things our moms and dads and grandparents used to say to us. which gets me to ask you guys. what were the things that your moms and dads and grandparents said to you that set you on the right course? sicily, let me start with you. do you remember anything in particular?

>> well, i had a mother who was basically very religious. and so, everything that was based on was based on the tenareligion.

>> i would say both of my parents had different bountifuls, meaning what they longed for. my dad grew up in a loving home in long island, big family, passed down for years, born in the same house that he grew up in, my mother came from buffalo, urban city and she did not want buffalo to be her bountiful. her bountiful was what she made with my dad as their family. so it's interesting as a character for me to approach what jessie may's bountiful is, which is houston, compared to mother watts is, which is going back to the home she wanted to.

>> did your parents ever say something to you that stuck? that put you on the right path?

>> well, we came from a home of great faith. but think about what my grandmother said, which children are to be seen not heard. which is appropriate for luti.

>> there's a great scene in this where you're at the bus stop and headed home. you meet a little girl and you sing a hymn. do you have a favorite hymn?

>> it was my mother , she sang it all the time. and so, i mean, every time i think of something or find myself in a state where i need to have something to lean on, it comes into my head.

>> you all have beautiful voices. will you take us out with a little piece of that hymn. one of your shoes says, yes, and one of them says no.

>> i was waiting for the question that i would say no to.

>> will you take us out with a little piece?

>> vanessa . this is my story this is my song my savior all day long this is my story this is my song and i praise to my savior all the day long

>> thank god for your right foot. thanks so much.

>> thank you.

>> premieres this saturday 8:00/7:00 central