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Jennifer Hudson interview: 'Respect' star recalls amazing moment Aretha Franklin picked her to play herself

8 September 2021, 17:48

By Tom Eames

Jennifer Hudson plays the late Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin in the long-awaited musical biopic Respect, and she has deservedly won high critical praise for her portrayal.

Respect hits UK cinemas this week (September 10), and Jennifer caught up with Smooth's Jenni Falconer to speak about what it meant to play her idol, Aretha.

Watch the full interview above.

Jennifer Hudson first found fame participating in the 2004 edition of American Idol, where she ended up finishing in seventh place. At her audition, she sang Aretha's 'Share Your Love With Me'.

Speaking about how she first met Aretha back in the 2000s at the start of her career, Jennifer said: "I met her right after I was eliminated from American Idol.

"She allowed me to open up for her show in Merrillville, Indiana. So that day, I was so excited. I got to meet Aretha Franklin, and hear her perform, and also open up for her in the show."

Read more: Jennifer Hudson visits Aretha Franklin's family as new film clip shows her singing 'Respect'

On what Aretha was like as a person, she said: "Oh my God. Aretha was a very introverted person. Very quiet, but still had this resilient, strong presence. It felt royal. It felt regal.

"Eventually, we grew a relationship, and she became more like a mother figure. She was so wise. She was very conscious, and always knew what was going on.

Jennifer Hudson and Aretha Franklin in 2015
Jennifer Hudson and Aretha Franklin in 2015. Picture: Getty

"She would ask me about my son. She would know what was going on with him. You know, things like that. It always blew me away, like: 'Wow, you’re that aware and present.' So I miss her a lot, to be honest."

Talking about the moment Aretha told her she had won the role of a lifetime, Jennifer explained: "She called me, and said, 'I’ve made my decision. It’s you who I want to play me.'

Read more: 5 of Aretha Franklin's greatest live performances, from 'Nessun Dorma' to 'Natural Woman'

"And that was eight years, at the hour, of our very first meeting and discussion about me playing her. But she was a very hands-on person. Normally you get a call from a director or agent. No – she called!"

She added: "I feel so blessed to be, the one. I think of all the other church singers or singers or musicians that she’s influenced so much. We all dream and aspire, to some capacity, to want to be like her.

"So I don’t take it lightly that I was the one chosen to do it."

Respect is out at UK cinemas on September 10.