Respect: Jennifer Hudson On Shedding ‘Real Tears’ Playing Aretha Franklin – Exclusive Image


by Ben Travis |
Updated on

How do you find a performer worthy of portraying the legendary Aretha Franklin on screen? Well, you let Aretha Franklin herself pick – and for upcoming biopicRespect, she chose the immensely talented Jennifer Hudson after seeing her lauded performance in Broadway’s The Colour Purple musical. The life story of the iconic soul singer – who passed away in August 2018 – is at the heart of Liesl Tommy’s film, tracing Franklin through the ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s, and early ‘70s. It’s a time period that spans the civil rights movement, her ascent to musical stardom, and the domestic abuse and depression she endured along the way.

Respect – exclusive

For Hudson, playing Aretha came down to one central feeling. “It was about her presence,” she tells Empire in the new issue, on sale Thursday 5 August. “It was about how royal, how regal, how dominating of a presence she had. Being around Aretha Franklin is not easy!” And with the hardships Franklin faces through the years, it was a role that took Hudson to some very personal places, tapping into real, painful emotions. “The things that she went through… the loss of her mother at a young age… and the triumphs,” she says. “But whatever I do, I’m in it. It has to resonate. Everything comes from a real place. Those are real emotions. Those are real tears.”

Empire – September 2021 cover

Read Empire’s full Jennifer Hudson interview – talking her experiences with Aretha Franklin, her work on Respect, and her roles in Dreamgirls, Chi-Raq and Cats – in the Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings issue, on sale Thursday 5 August. Respect comes to UK cinemas on 10 September.

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