‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ Star Naomi Ackie Had to Re-Learn Whitney Houston’s Accent After 6 Months

The new biopic I Wanna Dance With Somebody has only been out for about a week, but the film is making waves with Whitney Houston fans worldwide. The movie, which received a lot of press as the first authorized biopic on Houston’s life, features an immersive storyline, danceable songs, and realistic performances from the cast. At the forefront of the talented cast is Naomi Ackie, a British actor who has appeared in projects like Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Ackie worked hard to transform into Houston, and as she revealed in a recent interview with Graham Norton, she became totally immersed in Houston’s world, a dedication that required her to master the singer’s signature accent.

Naomi Ackie plays Whitney Houston in ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’

I Wanna Dance With Somebody details the life and career of Whitney Houston, a singer who helped to define the landscape of American music. From her beginnings as a church choir singer to her career beginnings after striking up a friendship with record producer Clive Davis, the film highlights her rags-to-riches story and her personal demons.

According to IMDb, the film highlights many of Houston’s greatest career moments, culminating with her epic 1994 performance at the American Music Awards. I Wanna Dance With Somebody then ends with Houston’s final days when she dies in a hotel after using drugs. 

What did Naomi Ackie say about re-learning Whitney Houston’s accent?

Naomi Ackie at 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody' premiere at the Ham Yard Hotel in London, England
Naomi Ackie at ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ London premiere | Dave J Hogan/Getty Images for Concorde Media PR

Naomi Ackie physically transformed to portray Whitney Houston, diving deep to master her accent and mannerisms. As the actor noted in a recent interview with talk show host Graham Norton, people who worked on the film were shocked when they heard her actual voice. “People freaked out when they heard my British voice. On set, I would be talking as Whitney and then afterwards, I was like, ‘Bloody hell, that was a hard day, innit!'” Ackie joked.

She also said that once she mastered the accent, she had to re-learn it all over again after getting fitted with Flippers: false teeth that helped her smile to match Houston’s. “I had been working on the accent for six months and thought I had it down, then suddenly putting in the fake teeth meant I had to learn it all over again,” Ackie said. At the end of the day, Ackie had to take a step back from Houston’s music, telling Norton and the other guests, “I had to take a break because I really was immersed in her world. But now I listen to her to remember some of the moments I had filming. It was such a formative time in my life and career that I look back on it fondly.”

Critics’ comments on Naomi Ackie in ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’?

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I Wanna Dance With Somebody has received mixed reviews overall, with a 43% critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 92% audience score. While many claim that the film is full of too many cliches, there is a lot of praise for Ackie’s performance, with one critic noting, “An excellent Ackie reminds us of Whitney’s talent as a performer but she’s playing an icon, not a human.”

Another critic details how “(director) Lemmons allows Houston to write her own musical epitaph, and ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ brings Ackie to the spellbinding moment she’s earned.” With so many critics and fans giving Ackie props for her hard work and dedication, it seems likely that the actor is poised for her big break in Hollywood.