Jenifer Lewis Opens up About Her Friendship With Whitney Houston and Working With Houston on ‘The Preacher’s Wife’

Whitney Houston’s death not only impacted her lifelong fans, but also her close friends in the industry – one of which is Black-ish star Jenifer Lewis. The two met while filming The Preacher’s Wife and began a lasting friendship. In a new interview, Lewis speaks lovingly on working with Houston and their close friendship. 

Jenifer Lewis and Whitney Houston
Jenifer Lewis and Whitney Houston | Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Jenifer Lewis and Whitney Houston in ‘The Preacher’s Wife’

The Preacher’s Wife is a holiday comedy-drama, as well as a remake of the 1947 film The Bishop’s Wife. The film stars Denzel Washington as an angel on an assignment to misdirect a preacher and help him save his family.

Courtney B. Vance stars as the preacher, with Houston as his wife. Lewis stars as Houston’s mother. 

'The Preacher's Wife' cast
‘The Preacher’s Wife’ cast | Buena Vista/Getty Images

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Released in December 1996, the film grossed $48 million at the box office. It was a hit with critics and fans. Both Houston and Lewis’ performances received praise from critics.

A New York Times review says of Houston, “When not singing, Ms. Houston gives the same performance she did in ”The Bodyguard” and ”Waiting to Exhale,” of a woman who is determinedly self-contained, strong-willed, even bossy, but also playful with a healthy sense of humor.”

The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Music, Original Musical or Comedy Score. Its coinciding soundtrack is the greatest-selling gospel album of all time.

Jenifer Lewis speaks about her friendship with Whitney Houston and her admiration for Houston’s talent

Lewis and Houston’s bond began while working together on The Preacher’s Wife and lasted until Houston’s death in 2012. In Lewis’ TV One Uncensored special, she speaks about Houston’s talent and that being something that is an honor of her’s to personally witness.

“I was privileged to sit there in that church in Yonkers when she [Houston] was singing “Help Is On The Way” and “I Love The Lord” from The Preacher’s Wife,” Lewis gushes. “Woah, I mean to be sitting there that close and hearing her sing the genre of music that she had been raised with, gospel, the trills in her voice, the rifts, the range, the beauty, the soul, her beauty – it was a sight to see.”

Lewis also opens up about the time they spent together filming and seeing Houston’s transition as an actress. She tells the story of Houston’s insecurities as an actress and how she even had to scold Houston for not showing up to set.

Source: YouTube

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“A couple of times Whitney would come over and say ‘How am I doing’ and I’d say ‘Baby, not too well,’” Lewis admits. “She was always a little nervous about her acting skills [but] she was good.” 

Lewis explains that Houston did not show up to work during a snowstorm. Lewis did not learn of Houston’s absence until moments before her scene with Houston. An irritable Lewis called Houston to give her a piece of her mind.

“I said, ‘Hey, little girl, why didn’t you call? They have to now wash my hair in 10 below 0 to fix it for another scene that you’re not in,’” Lewis says she told Houston. “‘Little girl, Whitney, this is not a concert, it’s teamwork.’”

Lewis says Houston apologized and corrected her behavior moving forward.