Academy-award winning actor Forest Whitaker has opened up about the crucial lessons he took away from both meeting Bishop Desmond Tutu in person and depicting him in his latest blockbuster “The Forgiven.”
Bishop Tutu is internationally renowned for his peacekeeping efforts and monumental work as the pioneer of the post-apartheid “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” that sought to bring South Africa together. He became famous for referring to South Africans as the “rainbow people of God” due to their intrinsic ethnic diversity.
The new movie follows Bishop Tutu as he engages in a series of meetings with an apartheid-era murderer and racist, Eric Bana, as he seeks redemption and forgiveness.
Whitaker caught up with the TODAY show’s Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb to talk about the role and what he has learned.
“I have a foundation that works in peace-building, so I got to meet with him,” Whitaker told them. “He gave me some advice.”
When asked about what advice Tutu bestowed on Whitaker, he simply replied:
“The key is to be able to forgive. Without forgiveness there is no future,” Forest added.
Whitaker, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in 2006 epic “The Last King of Scotland,” talked some more about the movie’s emotive plot.
“Desmond Tutu is sent by Nelson Mandela to deal with the Apartheid issues of separatism and racism. He meets this man who sends him a letter from prison who typifies all of that – he’s Afrikaans, racist, a violent murderer and kidnapper,” Forest explained.
“They meet in the cell and we start to explore whether this man can be redeemed and whether Desmond Tutu is capable of being able to forgive some of the most heinous and disgusting acts.”
When Whitaker is pressed on what we can learn from these powerful encounters, he says that “it is possible for anyone to be redeemed, and it is possible for us to go the core of somebody and understand our connection between them.
Unless we do forgive, we hold inside of ourselves something that takes power over us.
“And becomes toxic and cancerous in your own soul,” added host Kathie Lee Gifford.
“The Forgiven” is set to hit theaters tomorrow, Friday 9.