During a special screening of Hidden Figures at the Essence Festival, Janelle Monáe discussed her big screen debut and what it means to play an historic black scientist. Monáe portrays Mary Jackson, one of three African-American women mathematicians who were instrumental in the space race during John Glenn’s launch into orbit. The Associated Press quotes Monáe: “It is so important, that we as women, African-American women, tell our stories. These three women opened doors for us and literally helped change the world.”
The Grammy-winner went on to discuss what a shame it is that Jackson and her fellow unsung heroes, Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughn, are not as well known as other NASA visionaries. She says that when she first received the script, “I cried because I had never heard of Katherine Johnson or Dorothy Vaughan or Mary Jackson. But I know these women and their struggles.” She added, “ I am so honored to play [Jackson]. This film is so important because it shows black people and black women in a different light.”
Monae costars in the film with Taraji P. Henson and Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer. The movie is scheduled to be released January 13, 2017.