Jennifer Hudson Opens Up About Portraying Aretha Franklin; “I Just Hope To Meet Her Requests”

Jennifer Hudson is entering into Oscar-worthy territory once again as she takes on the role of legendary soul singer Aretha Franklin in the upcoming biopic “Respect.”

The teaser for the film was aired following Hudson’s performance of “Young, Gifted and Black” at Sunday’s virtual 2020 BET Awards. Now, the official full-length trailer has been revealed, overflowing with glitz, glam, and, most importantly, unmatched vocals. Mary J. Blige, Marlon Wayans, and Forest Whitaker also star in the movie, as seen in the trailer.

“Back in April 2003, I got to open up for her in Merrillville, Indiana, where she held a concert. That was before Dreamgirls before I ever dreamed of playing her one day,” Hudson revealed to PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “I’ve gotten to pay tribute to her many times since then, but every time is like the first time.”

The highly anticipated biopic, directed by Liesl Tommy, follows the late Franklin from a childhood church choir singer to a world-renowned soul singer and civil rights activist.

“You got to disturb the peace when you can’t get no peace,” Jennifer Hudson says in one scene as Aretha Franklin.

Before her 2018 death, Franklin personally picked 38-year-old Hudson to portray her in the biopic set to hit theaters this December. Hudson also revealed to PEOPLE that Franklin even began preparing her for the role by having her take piano lessons.

“I started piano lessons. Aretha got me back in music school. It’s still a process, but the film has made me more passionate about learning an instrument and expressing myself musically.”

Coincidentally enough, Cynthia Erivo will also portray the soul icon this year in the anthology series, National Geographic’s Genius: Aretha. However, considering its postponement due to the coronavirus pandemic, there’s no word yet on when that series will debut.

Despite filming being completed, the Oscar winner says, “I still feel like she’s in me, I really do. I just hope to meet her requests. You think you respect Aretha, but once you see the film and you learn her story, you can’t help but to have a newfound respect for her.”

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