Movies

Jennifer Hudson Recalls How Aretha Franklin Tapped Her For 'Respect,' Performs 'Think' in New Clip

Jennifer Hudson
Courtesy Photo

Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin performs "Think" in RESPECT.

Jennifer Hudson has the utmost R-E-S-P-E-C-T for Aretha Franklin after the Queen of Soul personally requested the former American Idol contestant to portray her in the upcoming biopic Respect.

On Tuesday (Aug. 10), Hudson chatted with Apple Music 1's Zane Lowe about how Franklin knew Hudson was the right person for the job in portraying her. Before her 2020 BET Awards tribute to the queen, J. Hud performed a torrid run of "Rock Steady," "Think," "Respect," "Daydreaming," "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" and "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)" at the 2014 awards show. While that felt like her "audition" for the role of Franklin, Hudson got the official call back from the artist herself during her 2015 Broadway run on The Color Purple, which earned her her second Grammy for best musical theater album.

"When I did the BET tribute to her, in my mind, I was like, 'This is my audition.' Although we've had conversations about it long before then, our first conversation was right after I won the Oscar for Dreamgirls," she recalled. "And then she called me during Color Purple and was like, 'It's you who I want to play me. Don't say a thing.' I feel as though I was one of the last people to speak to her before she passed. I didn't even realize just how sickly she had gotten. And I'm like, 'She called me. Wow.' And that call to me was her saying, 'I hope you're ready because it's time.'"

The Idol alum also explained that she performed the music in the film live because she wanted to channel Franklin's exact approach and emotions to those songs, even if that meant unlearning and relearning her classics like "Ain't No Way." Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios released a minute-long snippet of Hudson performing the icon's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs No. 1 "Think" in a new clip Tuesday.

"This song goes out to anyone who's ever felt mistreated," J. Hud introduced the invigorating performance from the movie with a soft-spoken tone.

"When my existence in this experience right now, whatever I'm feeling in this moment, put it in the character and let it come through the character because in some form it would resonate to what she may have been feeling a lot," she continued telling Lowe. "So she sang 'Amazing Grace' live. Well, we're going to sing it right here live. Let's have church. If she was learning 'Ain't No Way,' OK, well, Jennifer has to unlearn the song as what we know it to be today because it's not Jennifer Hudson the singer. It is the actress who's portraying Aretha Franklin. And in this scene, she's learning the song. She don't know the song yet. It's forming before your eyes. ... So whatever I was feeling, whether it was anxiety, whatever emotion, I allowed it to come through the character or use it for the character."

Respect comes out in theaters this Friday, Aug. 13.

Watch her Apple Music 1 interview, as well as her "I Think" performance, below.