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Jennifer Hudson & the Respect Cast Talk Aretha's Activism & Legacy

Jennifer Hudson & the Respect Cast Talk Aretha's Activism & Legacy


Out chats with JHud, Marlon Wayans, and Audra McDonald about the lasting, inclusive mark that the Queen of Soul left on the world. 

The Queen of Soul is getting her story told on the big screen.

United Artists Releasing and MGM's latest biopic Respect tells the story of the formative years of the life of the late, great Aretha Franklin, one of the music industry's biggest and most well-respected and legendary names. Besides being a Grammy-winning singer-songwriter and a role model to many aspiring artists, Aretha also left a mark on the world as a passionate civil rights activist and proud LGBTQ+ ally, and the film does a good job of showcasing that underneath the musical genius was a human being who cared about and fought for others.

Out got to sit down virtually with the cast of Respect, including Oscar-winning lead actress Jennifer Hudson (who was hand-picked by Aretha to star in the film), Marlon Wayans, and Audra McDonald, and chatted about Aretha's legacy of equality, what younger generations of fans can learn from the Queen, working on a project that was helmed by so many amazing Black women, their favorite Aretha deep cuts, and more!

"I love that," Jennifer Hudson told Out when asked about what it was like showcasing Aretha's activism in the film. "Even introducing the younger generations to it, and to her in another way, and even those before. It's a lot of things in there that we don't know about the human, the person, and I think it's so impactful and powerful for her to use her platform, as huge as she was at a time, like that, for what was going on during that time. It made her even that much more honorable."

"I think that's the genius of Tracey Scott Wilson and Liesl Tommy," Broadway icon Audra McDonald, who played Aretha's beloved mother Barbara Siggers Franklin in Respect, added, complimenting the movie's writer and director for making the causes Aretha cared about a main focal point. "If you were to do a film of Aretha's entire life, it would be a 20-hour film. So they had to pick a particular moment, a chunk of time in her life to tell the story, and they focused on the right one. We see Aretha as the triumphant sort of icon, legend, that everybody's bowing to for very good reason in the end, but seeing how she became that person and what affected her life to that, I think is the juicy part of this film. And so, a lot of that has to do with her activism. And I think it's very important to show that aspect of her and where it came from. So I was pleased to see that they focused on that. I knew it about Aretha, but I was pleased to see that as something that they focused on."

Respect is now playing in theaters!

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Raffy Ermac

Raffy is a Los Angeles-based writer, editor, video creator, critic, and the digital director of Out.

Raffy is a Los Angeles-based writer, editor, video creator, critic, and the digital director of Out.