Author : CARA BUCKLEY
Taraji P. Henson hates math, and Octavia Spencer has a paralyzing fear of calculus, but that didn’t stop either actress from playing two of the most important mathematicians the world hasn’t ever known.
Both women are starring in “Hidden Figures,” a forthcoming film that tells the astonishing true story of female African-American mathematicians who were invaluable to NASA’s space program in the Jim Crow South in the early 1960s.
Ms. Henson plays Katherine Johnson, a math savant who calculated rocket trajectories for, among other spaceflights, the Apollo trips to the moon. Ms. Spencer plays her supervisor, Dorothy Vaughan, and the R&B star Janelle Monáe plays Mary Jackson, a trailblazing engineer who worked at the agency, too.
Slated for wide release in January, the film is based on the book of the same title, to be published this fall, by Margot Lee Shetterly. The author grew up knowing Ms. Johnson in Hampton, Va., but only recently learned about her outsize impact on America’s space race.
“I thought, oh my God, what is this we’re hearing here?” Ms. Shetterly said, recalling the moment a few years back when her father, a retired research scientist, casually mentioned Ms. Johnson’s life work. Her next thought: Why haven’t we heard about it before?
Spencer and Henson will be playing mathematicians who must deal with racial and gender discrimination.
Allison Schroeder adapted the screenplay, which is based on Margot Lee Shetterly’s book of the same name. Chernin Entertainment with Donna Gigliotti (Silver Linings Playbook) is producing the film.
Spencer has been quite busy as she is one of the voices of Disney’s Zootopia and has also wrapped The Gift, a drama directed by Marc Webb and starring Chris Evans.
Fox is planning to release ‘Hidden Figures’ Jan. 13, 2017, to coincide with the Martin Luther King holiday weekend.