Uncovering the true story behind the film ‘Hidden Figures’

Katie Couric
Global Anchor

By Kaye Foley and Alex Bregman 

Man’s exploration of outer space is one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century. But “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” could never have happened if it weren’t for the women on the ground at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, who worked as “human computers” for NASA, helped put John Glenn into orbit and Neil Armstrong on the moon. Their contributions have been more or less left out of history. The new film Hidden Figures hopes to right that wrong.

The stars of the movie — Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe — spoke to Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric about the movie, which debuts nationwide on January 6.

Henson, who plays Katherine Johnson, Spencer, who plays Dorothy Vaughan, and Monáe, who plays Mary Jackson, marveled at the brilliance and fortitude of these women.

“’How did we miss this in history? Why don’t we know about these women?’” Henson said, recalling her reaction to the script. “I felt like it was my mission to do the film. It felt like a missing part of history that needed to be implanted back in.

As the movie takes place during the civil rights movement, the women also discussed the current political climate and the sense of division felt across the nation.

“I still believe the people hold the power,” Monáe said. “I think we’re just gonna have to be more strategic and smart, and we are going to have to put aside our differences for a greater cause.”

Turning to the topic of women working in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, all three agreed that they hope this movie inspires women to follow their dreams, especially in these fields.

“There’s been a marked decline of women and people of color in the STEM programs,” Spencer said. “And when I think about the implications, that means that the future of technology, science, engineering, mathematics will be devoid of the — the female voice, and that’s scary.”

“What I want girls to take away from this is a dream,” Henson added. “Hold it, keep it, dream it, and fight for it because it’s a dream I never knew belonged to me.”