Fans are anticipating the release of Respect, the biopic on Grammy Award-winning soul singer and gospel artist, Aretha Franklin. Following the rise of Aretha Franklin’s career from a child singing in her father’s church’s choir to her international superstardom, Respect is the remarkable true story of the music icon’s journey to find her voice.
In an exclusive behind-the-scenes special of the film, director Liesl Tommy spoke about her observations while working on the film. “The thing that kept coming to me was the idea of a woman who has the greatest voice in the world, but still doesn’t know what her voice is,” she recalled.
Franklin is portrayed by actress and singer, Jennifer Hudson, who debuted in the entertainment industry with an audition on American Idol, singing Franklin’s classic song, “Share Your Love With Me.” Hudson believed that her career was preparing her for the role. “I truly feel like my whole life prepared me for it, knowing how Aretha influenced me musically or how many times I performed her songs,” she shared with Entertainment Weekly.
At first, she was hesitant to play such an iconic figure but was affirmed by Franklin who hand-selected her. Hudson thought to herself, “if she said I can do it, [then] I guess I can.”
Over the course of Hudson’s career, she and Aretha developed a strong relationship. She realized that Franklin was teaching her pivotal life lessons.
“We spoke weekly, you know. I got [to pay] tribute [to] her, I don’t know how many times throughout my career. I feel as though in the midst of these conversations she taught me more about life while in the midst of teaching me about her life,” Hudson said in an interview. “When I got to portray her, that’s when I realized she was really speaking from experience and it wasn’t just someone just telling you anything, but to know like there were words of wisdom coming from the queen of soul.”
Carolyn Franklin, Aretha Franklin’s sister, is portrayed by actress Hailey Kilgore. She commended Hudson for her tenacity. “Jennifer has never once been unsure of herself. As a female in this business, that is very rare.”
The movie is also releasing a soundtrack, with Hudson singing an original song called, “Here I Am.”
She admitted that singing Aretha’s popular song, “Respect,” was quite intimidating for her. “I think the one that’s stopped me in my tracks the most when I realized, ‘whoa,’ Jennifer do you realize what you’re singing was ‘Respect,'” she recalled. “When I got to “Respect,” I’m like sometimes you have to stop and have that moment where you’re like, ‘oh, my God.”
Acting as Aretha Franklin wasn’t just an ordinary role for her, she said, “This is a heavy life to portray and I wanted to honor that.”
Be sure to watch Respect in theatres on August 13th, 2021.