Its no small feat to play a cultural figure as towering and iconic as Aretha Franklin. But with Jennifer Hudson in their corner, Respect director Liesl Tommy and screenwriter Tracey Scott Wilson were in good hands. The film traces Franklins upbringing as a Detroit ministers daughter profoundly impacted by familial tragedy, on through to an adulthood of ascendant stardom and the struggle to assert creative and personal agency.

Handpicked for the role 15 years ago by the Queen of Soul herself, there was little doubt that Hudson possessed the show-stopping pipes to grab Franklins mic. Her Oscar-winning turn in Dreamgirls showed that she could ably convey a spectrum of emotion and backstory through song. Respect stands as a testament to Hudsons evolution as an artist. She thoroughly embodies both the larger-than-life performer onstage and the complicated human offstage, navigating through toxic relationships, family strife, and a contentious political awakening.

Hudson shares her experiences on the project in this intimate conversation with Academy Award winner and screen legend Viola Davis in the video above. Calling Respect the most personal project of her career, Hudson details the challenges of portraying a real-life figure who is universally known. She had to expand not only her acting range, but her musical abilities, too. To strip away the famous persona and find the real person underneath, Hudson tells Davis how she drew from both her own traumas and her conversations with Franklin, who encouraged her to own her voice, and its clear Hudson did just that. She commands Respect.


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