Eye on Film: “Hidden Figures” Producer Pharrell Williams

Recording artist and producer Pharrell Williams has long had an ear for creating substantive works, but with the upcoming film Hidden Figures, starring Taraji P. Henson, Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer, Williams has brought his considerable music talents to the big screen for this offering, but it is his first movie producer credit also, and for good reason.

Recently, TSL was at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York for a press conference that included all of the key participants from the film. I had the tape recorder rolling and here’s what this musical genius had to say about his involvement in this important retelling of a lost part of history.

“When it was first brought to my attention by Donna Gigliotti, my producing partner Mimi Valdez took a meeting with Donna Gigliotti, and when she told her about this project she said ‘He’s gonna lose his mind.’ Because it had so many touch points that interest me. Three African American protagonists that are women who aren’t divorcees or aren’t going at each other or are the token best friends. This was different. This was three African American women who were scientists, who were mathematicians, who were technologically advanced.”

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(Photo Credit: Radio Facts)

Along with cowboys, firemen and soldiers, the very idea of being an astronaut has sparked the imagination of many young people in the United States. That inspiration to imagine remains inside most of us throughout adulthood. Williams told the gathering of reporters of his affinity for the space agency, and how his involvement in Hidden Figures was preordained.

“This (film) included NASA and space, two things that I have always been obsessed with. And, it happened in Hampton Roads. Yes, I lost my mind. I told my mother about the story and was like ‘Oh, Mom! This is the first film I’m going to be a producer on. I had to explain the difference between being a music producer and a producer on a film. While I was excited about that advancement she was like ‘Yeah, what was her name again?’ And I was like ‘Katherine Johnson’, and she was like ‘Yeah, you met her six years ago at an organization called ‘One Hand To Another’, which is largely based on the STEM program. There was actually an African American astronaut who brought Katherine to our event. So, I met her but I didn’t know the backstory, obviously. To know that six years ago I met this woman, and to be able to aid in this beautiful illustration of her story, it’s just been mind-blowing.”

“I know that this is from the scientific community but, I’m sorry, there is a God,” he continued. “You may not call it God, but it’s at least the Universe. You cannot argue that. You come from the Universe. The Universe made you. And there’s a formula for everything, including how I got into this film. I believed. This was meant for us. And, I just feel so blessed that I got to be even a little comma in this story.”

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(Photo Credit: Deadline)

With creative works, artistic individuals often speak of a muse or inspiration that sparked them to begin creating even when they didn’t know what they were creating. Pharrell described how he started making music for the film years before he was even aware of the project.

“More proof that this was meant for all of us, at the end of 2014 I started working on 1960s-esque music. Didn’t really know why, and stayed with it. So much so that I actually released one of the songs, called Freedom. Didn’t know that we would need it. But, as soon as I got that call it was like ‘Eureka!’ This is what it was. The Universe was warming me up and tuning me so that I could prepare myself to write the song “Running” and the other song “I See A Victory” for the film. But again, most people wouldn’t know how to explain that. But, for me, two plus two equals four. But meeting her six years ago, four minus two equals two. It’s proof that it’s real. But this project has been blessed. We have real NASA historians and astronauts here to make sure everything is on par with the truth. It’s amazing.”

Hidden Figures opens in select theaters on December 25, nationwide on January 6. Starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae and Kevin Costner, Hidden Figures tells the story of three incredible women of African descent who made it possible for the American space program to eventually go to the moon. Heartwarming, intelligent and inspiring, Hidden Figures is already gaining critical acclaim. The Shadow League will have more about this incredible and much needed cinematic undertaking in the coming days.

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