Jennifer Hudson On How She Got Over Her Nerves About Playing Aretha Franklin

Portraying one of the greatest singers of all time on screen is no easy feat, particularly in the hypercritical age of social media. Even with the subject’s stamp of approval, Jennifer Hudson, whose turn as the Queen of Soul in RESPECT will debut in theaters tomorrow, admits portraying Aretha Franklin was no easy undertaking.

“Nerves come with all of that and anxiety,” Hudson tells ESSENCE. “During filming, you can’t be your best when you’re focused on something like that. But now those things are hitting me. I’m like, ‘Oh Lord, What in the world?’”

What in the world is a buzz-worthy performance in a film audiences have been anxious to see since Franklin herself declared Hudson as her chosen woman for the job. Whatever nerves she had about stepping into the Detroit legend’s shoes, Hudson apparently hid them well. She recalls co-star Hailey Kilgore, who plays Franklin’s sister Carolyn, remarking how calm she seemed on set. “I was like, ‘No I’m not. Don’t be fooled,’” Hudson says laughing as she emphasizes how important nailing this project was to everyone involved. “Everybody knew the task that it was,” she says. “It had to be a mind over matter situation.”

RESPECT is filled with A-list talent from Marlon Wayans, who portrays Franklin’s ex-husband, Ted White, to Audre McDonald who plays Franklin’s mother Barbara, and Forest Whitaker who stars as “Re’s” father, famed minister C.L. Franklin. Behind the scenes the dedication was A-1 as well, notes Hudson, giving props to director Liesl Tommy and the rest of the cast and crew. “Everybody there, from the director to the DP, to extras, to everybody in between was there out of love and respect for Aretha Franklin so it was a passion project across the board for everyone which made it so enjoyable.”

Check out our full interview with Jennifer Hudson in the video above.

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