BAFTA-winning British actress Naomi Ackie (Netflix’s End of the F*cking World, Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker plays the title character in Columbia Pictures’ Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody.
Because of that, when Ackie got the call inviting her to audition, she says, she was overwhelmed by the idea of playing the icon – until everything fell into place. “I was immediately intimidated by even attempting to try it. It was just terrifying. Every time I had another round of auditions and it got closer, it still felt strange,” she says. “And then, for the final audition – it was Halloween, I was in full costume as Whitney, with the suit and the hair, singing ‘I Will Always Love You,’ and something just clicked. I suddenly understood – I could tell this story.”
The thing that clicked for Ackie is a stripping away of the legend and a focus on who Houston was as a performer. “She just wanted to sing,” says Ackie. “I understand that, because I have the same thing – with acting. It doesn’t get much more complicated than that. I also saw that she could be a goofball and be very silly, like me, and combine that with a real respect for her craft and a technical ability, which is always my goal, too.”
For Ackie, playing Whitney Houston was something of a life-changing event. “There was a power in playing Whitney that I didn’t anticipate,” she says. “I’m not a take-it-home-with-you kind of actor. Between ‘action’ and ‘cut,’ I’m all feelings, and I leave it at the door. But with Whitney, it was something different. I stepped into my own power in a way that I hadn’t been asked to do before. I wasn’t just playing Whitney Houston anymore.”
Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody is distributed in the Philippines by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International. Connect with the hashtag #IWannaDanceMovie