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Also joining the production are Broadway star Audra McDonald, two-time Oscar nominees Mary J. Blige, Broadway actors Saycon Sengbloh and Hailey Kilgore, as well as Marc Maron, Tate Donavan, Tituss Burgess, and newcomer Skye Dakota Turner.
Liesl Tommy, a Tony winner best known for her stage work, is directing the drama, which follows the Queen of Soul’s rise to fame in the 1960s and 1970s and chronicles her abusive marriage. Hudson is portraying Franklin.
Whitaker will play Franklin’s father, a Baptist minister and popular preacher who was unfaithful to his wife.
Wayans will play Ted White, Franklin’s first husband, whom she married when she was 19 and who was abusive.
McDonald will play Franklin’s mother. Sengbloh will play her elder sister, Erma, while Kilgore will play her sister Carolyn.
Blige will play Dinah Washington, with Burgess playing Reverend Dr. James Cleveland and Maron playing legendary Atlantic Records music producer Jerry Wexler.
Turner, who appeared on Broadway as Young Anna Mae in Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, will play young Aretha.
Said Tommy regarding her cast: “I am thrilled with the incredibly talented cast we have assembled for our film, and I’m so proud that Ms. Franklin entrusted us to tell her story and to share it with the world. As a storyteller, hers is the kind of story we all dream of telling. Her music has inspired me since I was a little girl, and the milestones of her life and career have shown us all how to strive and thrive. To have this powerhouse group of actors — and the phenomenal talent of Jennifer Hudson in this iconic role — means we have the chance of making this film as transcendent as her glorious life and legacy.”
Tradecrafts’ Scott Bernstein (Straight Outta Compton) and Harvey Mason Jr., a music producer who has worked with both Hudson and Franklin, will produce.
The film will feature the songs “Respect,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “Think,” “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman,” “You’ve Got a Friend,” “Dr. Feelgood,” “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,” “Spanish Harlem” and “Young, Gifted and Black.” The film will also feature “Ain’t No Way;,” “Precious Lord,” “There’s a Fountain Filled With Blood,” “Amazing Grace” and “Chain of Fools.”
Jonathan Glickman and Adam Rosenberg are overseeing the project on behalf of the studio.
Whitaker, who won an Oscar portraying Idi Amin in Last King of Scotland, currently stars in Godfather of Harlem, Epix’s prequel to the crime film American Gangster.
Wayans is coming off Sextuplets, his Netflix comedy that debuted to over 50 million views in a little over a week, according to sources. He also produced the movie via his Ugly Baby Productions and starred as seven characters. Respect continues his dramatic push as he recently wrapped On the Rocks, Sofia Coppola’s drama starring Jenny Slate and Rashida Jones.
Whitaker is repped by WME, Brillstein Entertainment, and Ziffren Brittenham. Wayans is repped by 3 Arts Entertainment, WME and Lawrence Kopeikin and Kevin Yorn of Morris Yorn.
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