Lifetime's adaptation of Beaches plans to stay fairly true to the original source material, which starred Bette Midler as aspiring singer C.C. Bloom and Barbara Hershey as heiress and lawyer Hillary Whitney. But the upcoming movie will find small ways to update Garry Marshall's cult classic, including casting NAACP Award winner Nia Long as Hillary.
However, Long's race won't factor into the role or the storyline at all. "It isn't necessary," Long told reporters at the Television Critics Association winter previews on Friday.
"It's really how we all live now. We live in a diverse world," added director Allison Anders. "I think that, for me, was really exciting too — to see these girls' friendship. And also that Nia is playing the more privileged character than [Idina Menzel] is playing. So that was a cool twist for me."
Long's take on Hillary will feature a few updated elements from the original, which followed Hillary struggling to balance her promising law career with her marriage and becoming a single parent. As executive producer Alison Greenspan explained: "I think there's one other thread with Nia's storyline that makes it different from the original, which is that she's a woman who has a career and finds her true joy and passion in being a mother. And that debate of working career versus motherhood is something that will touch a lot of women, and it's a new angle on that journey."
Praising the way Lifetime's Beaches provides a nuanced look women's lives, Menzel, who plays C.C., said she hopes the remake will help kickstart a conversation about the topic. "If it can open a new discussion at this time about where women are and how we balance and navigate all these passions we have with our careers and our family — I think it's similar to back then, but I think things have changed. And it's just another way to start a conversation," Menzel told reporters.
Through all of this, Beaches, of course, will remain a story about the power and beauty of female friendships. "I just think it's a film that touches women on such a deep level, touches men on such a deep level, but this is a film about friendship, about sisterhood and about girl power," Long said. "Your friendships are the things that keep you grounded and I think, for me, Beaches is always a reminder of that."
Beaches premieres on Lifetime on Saturday, Jan. 21 at 8/7c.