How Gabrielle Dennis Felt About Backlash Over Her Portrayal of Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston fans are quick to criticize any actor who dares to portray her in a film or television project. The Game star Gabrielle Dennis knows firsthand. She played Houston in The Bobby Brown Story and was met with much criticism.
Gabrielle Dennis as Whitney Houston in ‘The Bobby Brown Story’
Dennis knew she was taking a risk by accepting the role of Houston in The Bobby Brown Story. The marriage between Houston and Brown was chronicled in the two-part television biopic that aired on BET in 2017.
At the time, she called it one of the biggest challenges of her career. “It’s on a platform that’s our platform, so it’s going to get a different set of eyes and a heightened level of attention,” she told ESSENCE. Regardless, she said it was a true honor to star as “The Voice.” Moreso, she learned more about Houston as a person and not the superstar, which she says was the most rewarding part.
“She was fun,” she said of Houston’s personality. “I think the research was the most fun part. Getting to learn how much of a fun-spirited, loving person she was, who had her friends’ backs and loved to laugh [was fun]. The research was the most special to me because I felt like, in my own way, I got closer to her.”
The actor says she felt enormous pressure to do well in her portrayal as Whitney Houston
Dennis shined as Houston, with fans praising her performance as one of the best on-screen portrayals in a biopic. But ahead of filming and amid casting confirmations, skepticism regarding whether she could deliver arose. Many questioned the resemblance between Dennis and the iconic singer. There were also questions regarding whether Dennis could mock Houston as an entertainer.
Making things worse, Houston’s family has been adamant that they do not support any biopic or documentary special that they aren’t involved in.
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“That one just came unlike any other job. It came with this level of pressure not only from the fans’ perspective because you’re portraying someone that people think that they know, but there’s also the pressure of approaching it with the level of respect and tenderness because this was a real person who has real loved ones,” Dennis told The Jasmine Brand.
She also notes that she had minimal time to prep for the role. “It was challenging also because I didn’t have a lot of time. Literally, I was at an open house trying to buy me a house on Saturday I got the call [and] I stepped out [to take it]…They was like ‘But you got to be here Monday.’ I was like ‘Huh? Monday who?’”
Luckily, she took on the challenge. “It was challenging because it was just like you were thrown into the fire. But it also speaks to the fact that they trusted me enough with the role to know that with the time constraints we know your acting abilities can bring enough of what we need out of this.”