Did Jennifer Hudson Throw Shade at Cynthia Erivo’s ‘Aretha’ Project? ‘If It’s Not a Film, It’s Nothing’

Singer and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson is undeniably talented. After her turn as a finalist on American Idol in 2004, her career took off in music and film.

She earned an Academy Award for her performance as Effie in Dreamgirls, proving that she has a knack for movie musicals. As Grizabella in Cats, Hudson nailed “Memory,” but she landed the role of a lifetime as Aretha Franklin in Respect.

She’s not the first actor to tackle the Queen of Soul onscreen, and two projects are scheduled to hit the market within months of each other. Hudson recently shared her thoughts about it.

Jennifer Hudson
Jennifer Hudson | Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Jennifer Hudson stars in one upcoming Aretha Franklin story

Originally slated for a summer 2020 release and then Christmas, the MGM-backed Respect biopic starring Hudson has been pushed back to January 2021. While she’s playing Franklin, Forest Whitaker, Mary J. Blige, Marlon Wayans, Audra McDonald, Heather Headley, and Tituss Burgess are also in the cast.

The story focuses on Franklin’s early career and her tumultuous marriage to Ted White (Wayans). Prior to her death, Franklin participated in the film’s development which took years to bring to fruition.

After Hudson’s performance of “Young, Gifted, and Black” at the BET Awards, MGM is hoping to rouse public interest in the movie and is aiming for Oscar season.

According to Hudson’s interview with Entertainment Weekly, she spent six months learning how to play piano and studied Franklin’s movements and parlance to prepare for the undertaking.

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Cynthia Erivo is also in an Aretha Franklin tale

Over at National Geographic, Cynthia Erivo is playing Franklin in an eight-episode TV series titled Genius: Aretha. Initially, this too was supposed to air in summer 2020, but the pandemic halted production. Per Deadline, filming resumed three weeks ago but stopped again on Oct. 20 due to a positive COVID-19 test.

In a press release, NatGeo touted the outing as the first and only authorized, scripted biographical series on Aretha Franklin’s life. Warner Music Entertainment, Ron Howard, and Clive Davis are part of the team behind this project. Genius: Aretha will also explore Franklin’s childhood, talent and various defining moments in her career.

In addition to Erivo, Courtney B. Vance, Pauletta Washington, Malcolm Barrett, T.I., and David Cross are in the cast. With the delay, this installment of the NatGeo anthology is projected to drop in 2021.

Jennifer Hudson shared her thoughts on Erivo’s Aretha Franklin project

When speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Hudson expressed her admiration for the late singer and shared her excitement about the film. Asked about the NatGeo miniseries, she noted how Franklin felt about her upcoming movie without speaking about Erivo directly.

“I know that Aretha was adamant that [her life] be a film. If it’s not a film, it’s nothing. I’m just honored that she picked me to play her. I mean, who can say that? And again, I would have never done it without her wishes,” Hudson said.

She is referring to conversations with Franklin about the biopic. One of Franklin’s close friends, Harvey Mason, seemed to echo that sentiment. In 2018, he told the Detroit Free Press that for Respect, Franklin envisioned Hudson in the role.

“They both sing with a lot of emotion. They both sing with a lot of range and power. It’s really hard to compare anyone with Aretha, though. I think the good thing about Jennifer is that was Aretha’s pick to play her. … There was a lot of discussion about a lot of people, but Aretha was adamant that it be Jennifer.”

Respect is slated to be released during MLK weekend in 2021.