In the new civil rights drama Selma, Oprah Winfrey plays Annie Lee Cooper, a real-life activist who was integral in the 1965 Selma-to-Birmingham marches and the passage of the Voting Rights Act, led by Martin Luther King Jr. The film has been gaining major Oscar momentum since premiering last month, and it feels especially timely in the wake of the protests in Ferguson, Missouri and New York. While Winfrey approves of the demonstrations for equality in black communities, she's still waiting for a galvanizing force to emerge and lead the way toward real change.
"I think it's wonderful to march and to protest and it's wonderful to see all across the country, people doing it," Winfrey told People in an exclusive interview.
"What I’m looking for is some kind of leadership to come out of this to say, 'This is what we want,'" she added. "This is what has to change, and these are the steps that we need to take to make these changes, and this is what we’re willing to do to get it.’”
Winfrey goes on to note that the marches that led to the passing of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination in voting, were successful because they happened out of an "order and a design for change.”
"I think what can be gleaned from our film," Winfrey says, "is to take note of the strategic, peaceful intention required when you want real change."
Selma opens wide on January 9. (People)