Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time comes to theaters this Friday, giving fans of the book their long-awaited big-screen adaptation, while also introducing the fantastical and inspirational story to legions of new young fans.

Directed by Ava DuVernay, the story centers on Meg Murry (Storm Reid), who together with her little brother, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) and friend Calvin (Levi Miller), travel across universes in search of her long-lost father (Chris Pine). Along the way, the trio gets helps from the three mystical beings – Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) – who encourage Meg to find her inner strength, accept her faults and triumph over the evil entity known as It to save the universe.

At the recent press day, the entire cast, DuVernay and writer Jennifer Lee joined in a lively press conference. Here is some info and inspirational thoughts about the making of A Wrinkle in Time:

On adapting the beloved novel:

Jennifer Lee: We talked a lot about what makes Wrinkle so amazing. It has resonated for decades and decades because there is a timeless quality to the themes that she was dealing with. We did look a lot at, what do those themes mean today, and how do you stay true to that, but re-interpret them in a way that we see our world? We just had a lot of conversations about what we were inspired by, and then what that meant to us growing up, and to children and the world now.

On meeting Ava DuVernay for the first time:

Lee: It was fantastic, actually. I had daydreamed of Ava directing this and never imagined [that it would actually happen]. She walked in and I said, “Really?!,” because her incredible, evocative, emotional storytelling is what this film needed. This is a journey across the universe, but at the heart of it is a family story that empowers young girls. So, Ava walked in, and she was so gracious and kind to me. She embraced me in the process with her, and I’m very grateful. Right away, I was smitten. I would follow her anywhere.

On DuVernay finding her inner child:

Ava DuVernay: This is a film for young people and people who are young at heart. I had to ask myself, do I still have a heart? Is there still an inner child in me? Can I tap into the 11-year-old, 12-year-old and 13-year-old in me, and find that light that I used to have, that dreamer? I got to do that for two years. I got to really get in touch with all that I thought I would be when I was young, and really tap into that and try to create some magic.

On how she came to play Mrs. Which:

Oprah Winfrey: When Ava went to New Zealand and posted pictures from scouting there, I had been in New Zealand the year before, in Auckland, and did not get to the South Island, and I had wanted to do that. Everybody says, “You didn’t get to the South Island? You haven’t really seen New Zealand.” So, when I heard that she was going to be filming in New Zealand, I said to her, “I’m going. I’m just gonna go.” And she said, “What do you mean, go?” I said, “I’m just gonna go hang out with you for however long it takes. I’m gonna block it on my schedule. I’m gonna be there. I’m gonna watch you shoot because I can.” She said, “Well, if you’re really serious about that and you’d actually come to New Zealand, why not take a look at the script? I’ve been wanting to ask you to do this, but I didn’t want to pressure you because of our friendship.” I said, “Okay, I’ll do it!”

I didn’t even know what it was. Ava’s got it like that. And then, I thought, “Okay, let me read the book and see what this is.” I’d never read the book, even though I’m a reader. It just never got to my neighborhood. It wasn’t until I was called for the fitting for the costumes, with [Costume designer] Paco Delgado, that I realized, “Whoa, this is some kind of movie!” And then, the first day on the wires, I went, “This is really some kind of movie! What kind of movie is this?!” It’s all just been delightful. When you look up the word “delight,” there’s my picture, for being in this film. The whole process has just been one big delight.

On being the sassy Mrs. Whatsit?

Reese Witherspoon: My agent called me and said, “Ava DuVernay wants you to be in a movie,” and I said, “Yes! Great! When do I show up?!” They were like, “Oh, no, she has to take a meeting with you.” So, I sat across from her like, “Really, you want me?!” It was very flattering to be chosen to be part of Ava’s movie because she doesn’t just make a movie, she makes an experience for everyone. She cares about what happens in front of the camera, and she cares about what happens behind the camera. Everybody feels like they are important, special, honored, and valued for their contributions. I feel like this was a master class in how to be a very thoughtful filmmaker and a real visionary, in so many ways. It was a privilege and an honor, and I got to be this amazing celestial person, who hangs out with Oprah and Mindy, all day. It really was truly a delight. The fact that I got to stand next to these extraordinary women, who I’ve admired for so long, was extraordinary. It was really a beautiful experience.

On playing the eccentric Mrs. Who:

Mindy Kaling: It’s absolutely incredible. I can’t believe that I was selected to do this. It’s such an honor to act with all these incredible actors. I loved science fiction and fantasy, growing up, but it was a genre that largely did not love me back. I never saw any representation of a dark-skinned Indian woman or an Indian girl, in anything that I saw. It’s a really peculiar thing when you grow up loving something that shows you no love back. It’s such a pure love because you’re not getting anything from it. I broke out in TV, which was so welcoming to me, and comedy, which was also so welcoming to me, but to be a part of this, and to be on a green screen stage in a harness because I was doing a science fiction/fantasy movie, it was so fun. I finally feel welcomed, with open arms, to something that has ignored me completely. That is so profound. If that can be something that the miniature version of me could watch and be excited by, that’s such a huge thing. That was exciting.

On how this project differed from other Ava DuVernay projects:

Winfrey: First of all, you have Disney money. With Selma, we were like, “Are we gonna have enough money? How much do I have? Let me try to help you out here.” With this, we had the Disney machine. That’s one of the reasons why this was so exciting. Ava was at the helm of that. That makes me well inside. It fills my heart, every time I think about Ava and her dreads and sneakers, these big cranes, and all of these men, running around and taking direction from her. To see her be the master of that and orchestrating all of that was powerful and inspiring. I was just so proud to be associated with her and see her ability to make this film possible. That’s what was different. I was with her on a film where we literally had one day to shoot everybody coming across the bridge in Selma, and we had to get it before it rained because if it rained, we were not gonna get it, and there wasn’t enough money to try it again. That was a big difference.

On being the Happy Medium:

Zach Galifianakis: I think it’s good because it’s nice for young boys, young men even, to see that it is okay to have a sensitive side of you. I think when young boys in this climate, they are seen as sensitive. And they’re made fun of, but that doesn’t mean they’re not, it means they’re stronger to me. And I wish we would just kind of change that. You know, I come from a very masculine upbringing and a lot of people do it. I love the way I was raised, but looking back, we need balance. It’s time for balance. I think that’s what the Happy Medium is.

On playing Meg Murry’s cool parents:

Gugu Mbatha-Raw: Well it was really fascinating because I’d never played a mother before and I’d also never played a scientist before, and it was kind of great because we got to meet this wonderful astrophysicist who was kind of the consultant on the movie, Stephon Alexander, and he wrote this incredible book, The Jazz of Physics. And Ava introduced us to him, we got to talk to him a little bit about inside his mind and what it might mean and what it might take to sort of pursuing those theories. We visited JPL, which was really fun to be able to kind of again sort of getting into the mind of an astrophysicist. And yeah, for me, I was really drawn to the fact that even though Dr. Kate and Alex Murray are obviously a love match, they’re also intellectual equals and it’s like a meeting of minds and that’s sort of the spark and discovering tessering and that pioneering spirit that they have is really what sort of keeps her hope alive when he’s been gone for so long.

Chris Pine: I think that’s what I really enjoyed about this character is that his brain is just, it’s hungry and searching and exploratory. And obviously that ambition to do great things is propelled him forward to do some wonderful things scientifically, but unfortunately that kind of shadow side of him, ambition, it disconnects from what is most important in his life and what requires his daughter to reintroduce him to, which is the spirit and the beauty and regenerative quality of being next to human beings, touching and feeling and holding and kissing. All those things that make us human.

On the exquisite father/daughter relationship in the film:

Storm Reid: Yeah. Of course, my dad hasn’t been missing for four years, so I didn’t really know how to really translate that at first, but I really had to just tell myself that I had to step in Meg’s shoes with all the situations she’s going through, because thankfully I’m not getting bullied and my dad isn’t missing and I’m not going through the things that Meg is going through, so when I did step in her shoes and then knowing that relating back to my life and my relationship with my dad, and me and my dad are very close, and kind of thinking about him being missing for four years really helped me bridge the gap between how I would feel and how I would go through that. So, that really helped and then working with him and seeing how focused and how intense, and how, I felt the connection and I felt like the pain and the love through that when I was working with Mr. Chris was really helpful as well, so it really helped, working with you and then just becoming Meg and putting myself in that situation.

On hopes of restoring peace and the light:

Winfrey: I think the darkness is there to help bring out the light in all of us. If you think about it, if we turned all the lights off in this room and just one person holding a candle, you would start to dissipate the darkness. You would banish the darkness. Look at how much darkness it would take to actually engulf all of the light that every candle would hold in this room. It just takes a little bit of light. That’s what we’re hoping for. If everybody can get that message, that’s how we have hope in the world. We’re looking for warriors who can bring hope back.

On what DuVernay hopes young people will take away:

DuVernay: We’re living in a chaotic time, as adults, but imagine if you’ve only been on the earth for 10, 11 or 12 years. So, I wanted to be able to just give a little breather and to say, “Who you are is enough. You’re gonna make it through, by finding something in yourself that guides you.” We all have that little voice inside of us, and a lot of times we don’t listen to it. A friend of mine [that would be Oprah] had a tremendous episode of peer pressure, of gigantic proportions, that I’d never experienced or seen, just a couple of weeks ago, when a lot of the country was saying, “You should run for President.” She said, “The voice inside of me says that I am not your President. I can do good in the world, in a different way.” I probably would’ve even said, “If everybody thinks I should, I’m gonna give it a try.”

I feel like I tried and gave everything I had to a film again. There’s love in every frame of this movie, and there’s love in every frame of everything that I do. I don’t have children. I won’t have children, by choice. These films are my children. They’re what I leave behind. They have my name on them and my blood in them. From there, you offer it up to the world and you hope that they can see our intention. This was an extraordinary experience for me. We really held hands on this and became a family, trying to just give a little bit of sweetness to the world, in these dark times. It’s a tough time right now. This film really saved me, in a lot of ways, from going down dark holes. It kept me in a really light-filled place, so I’m grateful for the past few years of working on A Wrinkle in Time.

A Wrinkle in Time opens in theaters on March 9th.