Sheryl Lee Ralph Says She and Original DreamGirls Were Shunned from Movie, Believes Beyoncé Would Have Won an Award Had She Coached Her

Actress and singer Sheryl Lee Ralph made her 1981 breakthrough debut as Deena Jones in the Broadway musical “Dreamgirls,” a role that earned her a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical. While looking back on the career-changing part, Ralph claimed that when it came time to make a feature-length film about the fictional singing trio, which famously starred Beyoncé, the actress said the original stars were shunned from the project. 

During a recent appearance on the “Unbothered” podcast with host Jemele Hill, the veteran thespian reflected on the 40th anniversary of the film while she also expressed frustration over her and the original cast members being left out of the discussion when talks of a movie adaptation surfaced. 

(L-R) Sheryl Lee Ralph and Beyoncé. Photo by Ray Tamarra/Getty Images, Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

“What was hard was when they were doing the movie, and they just acted like you had never created this. They acted like you had never been a part of this, and they were very comfortable x-ing you out,” the 65-year-old star said on seeing the success of the movie, which also starred Academy Award winners Jennifer Hudson and Jamie Foxx.

She continued, “They were very comfortable trying to silence your voice, like nobody needed to hear from you, like you weren’t as important as we are and have been to the show; that hurt.”

Later, Ralph recalled running into the “Be Alive” singer at the opening of Tyler Perry’s studios, where she was greeted by the entertainer who thanked her for her efforts. The “Moesha” star said that Beyoncé’s kind words “doesn’t heal all the wounds, but she said it, and that was that.”

“Dreamgirls” went on to be a major success, earning Hudson several awards, including an Oscar Golden Globe award for Best Supporting Actress. Still, Beyoncé failed to win anything for her role. 

“I still think to this day, had I been asked to coach or talk with her about that performance, about the evolution of Deena, she would’ve won something,” Ralph said. “Because to me, the direction for her as Deena, it wasn’t the winning direction of Deena.” Although she highlighted the Houston native’s strong performance, Ralph noted that “sometimes it’s just the small things” before stating that by now, it’s “just lipstick and lashes under the bridge.”

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