Naomi Ackie’s greatest challenge of all? Transforming into the “Greatest Love of All” singer Whitney Houston.
BAFTA award winner Ackie stars as the late icon for musical biopic “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” in theaters December 21. The film, written by Oscar-nominated “Bohemian Rhapsody” screenwriter Anthony McCarten and directed by Kasi Lemmons (“Eve’s Bayou,” “Harriet”), charts Houston’s life and legacy, starting with her groundbreaking record deal with Clive Davis, played by Stanley Tucci.
“My dream: Sing what I want to sing, be who I want to be,” Ackie as Houston says in the trailer. While Houston is criticized for not being “Black enough” and her tumultuous marriage to Bobby Brown (Ashton Sanders) makes headlines, the biopic focuses on her early days as a New Jersey choir girl who became the bestselling and most awarded recording artist of all time. The “no-holds-barred portrait” gives a never-before-seen look at Houston’s “complicated and multi-faceted” career.
Whitney’s sister Pat Houston produces the feature, along with Davis and screenwriter McCarten. Larry Mestel, Denis O’Sullivan, Jeff Kalligheri, Matt Jackson, Molly Smith, Trent Luckinbill, Thad Luckinbill, Matt Salloway, and Christina Papagjika also produce.
“Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” alum Tamara Tunie portrays Houston’s mother, while Nafessa Williams and Clarke Peters also star.
Houston made her acting debut in “The Bodyguard” opposite Kevin Costner, before later famously playing the Fairy Godmother in “Cinderella” on TV. She also produced “The Princess Diaries” and “The Cheetah Girls” before her 2012 death at age 48. Houston drowned in a hotel bathtub following a drug overdose. Houston’s life was the subject of two documentaries: “Whitney: Can I Be Me” in 2017 and 2018’s “Whitney.”
“I Wanna Dance with Somebody” lead star Ackie previously shared that she believed portraying Houston onscreen would be an “impossible thing to achieve” as an actress.
“But many people told me the same thing: If I wasn’t scared and nervous, they’d think something was wrong with me,” Ackie told People. “The biggest challenge was letting my fear of the magnitude of this task take a back seat. Nothing good comes from sitting in fear for too long.”
She added, “Fans can expect to see her life like we see are our own. Ups and downs, triumphs and disappointments, all of it mixing together to make up a life.”
“I Wanna Dance With Somebody” premieres in theaters December 21 from Sony Pictures Releasing.
Check out the trailer below.