Joining Hudson in the Liesl Tommy-directed movie is Forest Whitaker; Marlon Wayans; Tony, Grammy and Emmy-winner Audra McDonald; Multiple Grammy winning, and Academy Award and Golden Globe-nominee Mary J. Blige; Marc Maron; Emmy-nominee Tituss Burgess; Tony-nominee Saycon Sengbloh; Tony-nominee Hailey Kilgore, and Tate Donovan. Emmy-nominee Tracey Scott Wilson (The Americans, Fosse / Verdon) penned the script.
It was also announced today that after a worldwide casting search, the role of young Aretha Franklin will be played by Skye Dakota Turner (Broadway’s Young Anna Mae in Tina: The Tina Turner Musical). She is repped by The Green Room.
Said Tommy, “I am thrilled with the incredibly talented cast we have assembled for our film, and I’m so proud that Ms. Franklin entrusted us to tell her story and to share it with the world. As a storyteller, hers is the kind of story we all dream of telling. Her music has inspired me since I was a little girl, and the milestones of her life and career have shown us all how to strive and thrive. To have this powerhouse group of actors – and the phenomenal talent of Jennifer Hudson in this iconic role – means we have the chance of making this film as transcendent as her glorious life and legacy.”
Producers are Scott Bernstein (Straight Outta Compton) and multiple Grammy nominated producer Harvey Mason Jr. (Dreamgirls), who has produced music for both Aretha Franklin and Jennifer Hudson. Aaron L. Gilbert and Jason Cloth are executive producers.
Said Bernstein and Mason Jr., “We were given the rare privilege to work with Ms. Franklin directly to curate the stories she most wanted to share and the moments in her life that made her who she was. Over the years, she imparted to us how important it was to her that we share her story on the big screen and how important it was to have Jennifer in this role. To have that kind of deeply personal trust and insight from Ms. Franklin was nothing short of amazing for everyone involved.”
The production has exclusive rights to such Franklin hits as Respect; I Say A Little Prayer; Think; (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman; You’ve Got A Friend; Dr. Feelgood; Do Right Woman, Do Right Man; Spanish Harlem; and Young, Gifted and Black. The film will also feature Ain’t No Way; Precious Lord; There’s A Fountain Filled With Blood; Amazing Grace; and Chain of Fools.
Among the Franklin family members, Whitaker will play Reverend CL Franklin aka the man with the “Million-Dollar Voice,” Aretha’s father and manager. He served as the pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan. Whitaker is repped by WME and Brillstein Entertainment Partners.
Wayans will portray Ted White, Aretha’s first husband. He is repped by 3 Arts Entertainment, WME and Lawrence Kopeikin and Kevin Yorn of Morris Yorn.
McDonald stars as Barbara Franklin, Aretha’s mother. She’s repped by WME.
Sengbloh (Broadway’s Eclipsed, CW’s In the Dark, ABC’s Scandal) is Erma Franklin, Aretha’s eldest sister. Stewart Talent and Impression Entertainment rep the Tony-nominee.
Kilgore stars as Carolyn Franklin, Aretha’s sister. She is repped by Abrams Artists Agency, One Entertainment and Jackoway Austen Tyerman Wertheimer Mandelbaum Morris Bernstein Trattner & Klein.
Those playing music legends in the pic include Blige as Dinah Washington. APA reps the multiple Grammy winning, and Academy Award and Golden Globe-nominated artist.
Burgess stars as Reverend Dr. James Cleveland, who was known as the “King of Gospel.” CAA and Soffer / Namoff Entertainment rep the Emmy-nominee.
Donovan (Rocketman) stars as John Hammond, Columbia Records’ influential music producer. He is repped by Gersh and Authentic Talent and Literary Management.
Heather Headley (Broadway’s Aida) will play Clara Ward, the famed gospel artist and leader of The Famous Ward Sisters. CAA reps the Tony and Grammy-winner.
Marc Maron will play legendary Atlantic Records music producer Jerry Wexler. He is repped by ICM Partners, Avalon Management and Granderson Des Rochers.