Jennifer Hudson covers the November issue of Entertainment Weekly. Inside the publication she talks about her highly anticipated big screen role as Aretha Franklin in the Respect Movie.
She and Franklin would have weekly conversations in preparation for the film before she died, and even though Aretha kept certain things close, “having to experience so much so soon, and then to have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders, that’s a lot. I can understand that,” Hudson shared with the publication. “I think she grew her shield, her wall, at a very early age, and the way she found to express herself was through her music. That was her outlet.”
For all that Franklin endured in her formative years, though, there’s one origin-story touchstone you won’t find here: the rags-to-riches rise. Her preacher father, C.L. Franklin “was basically the king of his time, hugely popular and influential, a mentor to Martin Luther King Jr. So she grew up in this household where politics was as normal as singing,” according to screenwriter Tracey Scott Wilson. The movie’s depiction of Aretha’s childhood is filled with Black luminaries of the era; not only MLK, but names like Ella Fitzgerald, Sam Cooke, Dinah Washington (the latter portrayed vividly by Blige). And with the Holy Spirit, too: “Even the tones when C.L. was preaching, you would feel that in her ‘What you want, baby I got it,’” Hudson says, her mezzo-soprano rising casually to meet the classic refrain. “It was always there, you know? Everything from ‘Respect’ to ‘Natural Woman’ to ‘Never Loved a Man,’ it always had that soul, that church, that gospel in it.”
The Respect movie hits theaters in January 2021.