American Idol alum Jennifer Hudson in playing Aretha Franklin in the Respect biopic and new photos from the film reveal just how much she transformed into the iconic singer. The film tells the story of Franklin's life, growing up from being the daughter of a preacher to become of the greatest and most well-respected singers of all-time. Notably, Franklin was not the daughter of any preacher, but of C.L. Franklin, one of the most well-known Black ministers from the mid-20th century.
In one photo, we see Hudson rocking a blue dress with golden necklaces as she portrays the Queen of Soul returning to her father's Los Angeles chapel. "That’s one thing I always wanted to remind everyone, no matter how we approach the music in the film," Hudson told EW, who exclusively revealed the new images. "Whether it’s a secular song or a gospel song, you cannot forget her roots... everything from 'Respect' to 'Natural Woman' to 'Never Loved a Man,' it always had that soul, that church, that gospel in it."
Jennifer Hudson stars as Aretha Franklin, the legendary Queen of Soul, in these new photos from the biopic Respect. https://t.co/WoSwtPouZh— Entertainment Weekly (@EW) October 15, 2020
Another image shows Hudson with Marlon Wayans, who plays Franklin's first husband, Ted White. The relationship between White and Franklin had it's high-points, but it also had its fair share of low moments. This is something, Wayans feels, is important to capture. "Rarely do you find a love that’s just perfect," he said. "People, we fall madly in love, and we find ourselves tethered to toxic things."
Also starring in the film is Mary J. Blige, who plays singer Dinah Washington. "I think Dinah loved Aretha," Blige says of the pair's relationship. "She was a mentor and a family friend and someone that was really really real and honest instead of the yes men that were kissing her ass most of the time.... But it was a tough love, and the reason I know that..." Blige then laughs, "Is because Aretha and them, they did that to us! They were tough with it. We didn’t know if they liked us or not."
Franklin's father is also portrayed in the film, as played by legendary actor Forest Whitaker. Speaking to EW, he shared that Franklin's faith was shaped in part by her being "around a lot of conversations" as a young woman. "Because C.L. and Martin Luther King Jr. were close friends, and he actually worked with Martin to do some of the marches. Particularly the Walk to Freedom walk in Detroit — that’s where Martin said his 'I have a dream' speech for the first time." Respect is currently scheduled to be released in theaters on Jan. 15.