Kimberly Elise has got to be one of most envied actresses in Hollywood. Since kicking off her career just a decade ago, she’s twice starred opposite Denzel Washington – once as his wife. This month, she re-teams with the Oscar winner for the much-talked-about film, The Great Debaters, which just nabbed a Golden Globe nod for Best Picture. rang Elise a day following the film’s nomination to talk movies, motherhood and why she “gets” Denzel. Listen in… Your character, Pearl Farmer, is the mother of one of the film’s debaters. Tell us how you came to be a part of the project?

Kimberly Elise:
Well, I got a call from Denzel, via my agent, expressing his interest in me doing this film. He was very professional about it. [laughs] I was already familiar with the script and thought it was such a magnificent piece, so that phone call was really all it took. Having worked with Denzel on John Q. and The Manchurian Candidate, how was your experience working with him as your co-star and director?

K.E. I totally ‘get’ him as an actor. We have a mutual trust and comfort level, so I know when he needs space or when we need to come together to collaborate. Denzel is highly intellectual and because directing is such a challenging job, there was this fire that just ignited in him. He’s such a natural. Every day, I noticed this light in his eyes that I’ve never seen before – it was pure euphoria, excitement, passion. As the mother of two, how do you hope this film will be received by the younger generation?

K.E.: The kids in the film are intelligent and passionate about their dreams, just as so many of our children are. Also, this is very much an underdog story. Many [young] people feel that they’re alone on an uphill battle and that nobody believes in them, so to watch these kids triumph in the end should offer hope as we all continue our ascent in whatever direction we’re going. Have your daughters seen the film?

K.E.: Not yet, although they were there for the filming and got to participate as extras during the scene at the train station. They didn’t go to the premiere because it was a school night, but they’ll get to see it on opening day. Now that the film’s been nominated for a Golden Globe, how do you feel about all of that Oscar buzz swirling around?

K.E.: I’m very, very happy about the Golden Globe nomination – it’s a victory for us. I try to take one award show at a time, so I’m just pausing to celebrate this one!

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Photo Credit: Giuliano Bekor