'The Butler' an Emotional Project for Star-Studded Cast

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Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his iconic "I Have a Dream" speech in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. 

This year, many Americans are pausing to honor the 50th anniversary of the turning point in the civil rights struggle.

Meanwhile, film director Lee Daniels' new film, "The Butler," is offering a rare look at that time in American history through the eyes of a servant.

Star-Studded Cast

Members of the star-studded cast recently spoke with CBN News about the emotional project, including Oprah Winfrey, Forest Whitaker, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lenny Kravitz, Terrence Howard, Jesse Williams, David Oyelowo, Yaya DaCosta and Daniels. CBN News spoke with each of the actors. Watch more from the stars below.

Whitaker plays the title role in the film inspired by Wil Haygood's 2008 Washington Post article and eventual book. The article and book tell the story of Eugene Allen, a real life butler who served eight presidents in the White House.

Whitaker won an Academy Award for his performance as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland." But he described the character of White House butler Cecil Gaines as the most intimidating role of his career.

"There were so many elements to learn," Whitaker told CBN News. "First, his profession, his vocation - he doesn't express certain feelings and emotions out on his sleeve. He can't speak about a lot of different things. So that would mean I would have to communicate to you, as an audience, my thoughts without any words."

Whitaker's character also ages nearly 70 years throughout the film, where he plays opposite Winfrey. In her long-awaited return to the big screen, the media mogul plays Cecil's wife, Gloria Gaines. Gloria is a wife and mother struggling to keep her family from falling apart under the pressures of racism.

Oprah's 'Every Woman' Role

In her interview with CBN News, Winfrey described Gloria as every woman of that generation. 

In preparing for the role, Winfrey said, "I was looking for my mother and my aunts and my grandmother and that entire generation of women who stood by their men. They worked hard every day."

"That is what I was reaching for," she continued, "and also understanding that every one of them had their own dreams, their own aspirations, their own desires."

"They didn't just want to stand by and raise children every day," she said. "There were times when they wanted to do more than sew, and so they had to repress all that fire."

Winfrey credits director Daniels and acting coach Susan Batson for making Gloria come alive in her.

A Biblical Theme?

And Daniels credits God. The Oscar-nominated director says he actually prays for the fictional characters in his film "that God would take us to deliver the right message to the right people."

At its heart, "The Butler" is a story about the love between a husband and wife - and the love of a father and son at odds about how to fight injustice.

Oyelowo plays the role of the older son, Louis Gaines. He compares the film to the biblical story of the prodigal son.

"What's beautiful about the story is that these two men - one older, one younger - they are both fighting the same thing in very different ways," Oyelowo said. "And by the end of the movie, they are both able to celebrate an unforeseen victory that they wouldn't have imagined would take place."

Oyelowo is part of an all-star cast that also includes Jane Fonda, Robin Williams, and Mariah Carey.

Oscar buzz already surrounds the film, which takes a look at history through the eyes of a humble servant.

The fruit of the spirit also shines through - a fact prompted these final words from Winfrey:

"I am telling you when I first saw this film, you are putting it together. It's one thing," she said. "And then the first time I saw it, it took my breath away, just the opening track from Forest."

CBN News' Efrem Graham spoke with each of the actors. Watch more:

Forest Whitaker:

Jesse Williams:

Lee Daniels:

Cuba Gooding Jr. & Lenny Kravitz:

David Oyelowo & Yaya DaCosta:

Oprah Winfrey:

Terrence Howard:

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CBN News
Efrem Graham

Efrem Graham

News Anchor & Reporter

Efrem Graham is an award-winning journalist, who comes to CBN News from the ABC owned and operated station in Toledo, Ohio.  He received his master's degree from the Columbia University Journalism School. He also holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.  Follow Efrem on Twitter @EfremGraham and "like" him at Facebook.com/EfremGrahamCBN.