Academy and Grammy Award-winning actress Jennifer Hudson brings style and soul to her lead role as Aretha Franklin in her new biopic entitled RESPECT – The Aretha Franklin Story. Here is what Jennifer had to say when we caught up with her just days before the release of her new movie.
Link2Us: It’s so wonderful to have you join us! And with premiere week finally here, we know it has been a whirlwind time for you. Can you tell us how you feel about bringing the life and music of Queen of Soul to the big screen?
Jennifer: To be hand-picked by Ms. Aretha was beyond a dream for me, because it was my own dream to play her. I made sure to put all of my heart, my soul, and everything into portraying her story as carefully and as best as I possibly could.
L2U: What would you say was the most challenging part of preparing for this role?
Jennifer: The most foreign part for me was learning the piano, which I started practicing maybe three years ago (she chuckles). And then was researching the 60’s era to understand how women existed during that time and the conditions of life at that time. It was a different experience to approach it from an actor’s perspective versus a musical fan perspective, which created a very different approach to portraying her.
L2U: As someone who was raised in the church, what was it like to visit and perform at Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, where it all began for Ms. Franklin?
Jennifer: This was a surreal experience for me. I started in the church as well, and I believe every choir and worship singer’s dream is to be like Aretha Franklin. To be able to go back to the church in which she grew up, and where her father was the pastor, must have been very, very surreal for her. I couldn’t help but to just get up there and sing myself [as well], because this is what we do in church—we sing. I just wanted to experience that as well.
L2U: To see that you have so much in common with Ms. Aretha Franklin, and see why she selected you to play her in this role. How do you believe her faith impacted her life and career?
Jennifer: Oh God! her faith was everything—and mine as well. My faith was what got me through this movie. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without it. Her faith was who she was—it was her base—which carried her through and beyond the church. And that’s what makes this movie so important because it shows how her life began in the church and ended at the church. That was most important to me, to have that element be present throughout the movie. Yea, she may have shifted into other genres, but gospel music was her base—her heart and soul.
L2U: What would you most like for the audience to take away from watching Respect?
Jennifer: There are so many takeaways. First I think it would be the power of the story. And how owning her voice, was of great importance. But I also believe the audience would be inspired to know that if she could make it, so can you.
RESPECT opens Friday August 13th, at Theaters near you.
By Charlene A. Berry