*Jennifer Hudson is speaking out about portraying late music icon Aretha Franklin in the upcoming ‘Respect” movie.
In a new interview with PEOPLE, the Oscar-winner and singer gushed about the experience and paying tribute to the Queen of Soul.
“Back in April 2003, I got to open up for her in Merrillville, Indiana, where she held a concert. That was before Dreamgirls, before I ever dreamed of playing her one day,” Hudson tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “I’ve gotten to pay tribute to her many times since then, but every time is like the first time.”
“I started piano lessons,” she says of just one of the ways she got into character. “Aretha got me back in music school. It’s still a process, but the film has made me more passionate about learning an instrument and expressing myself musically.”
The film’s director Liesl Tommy, said this of Hudson, “Jennifer may be one of the most talented people I’ve ever worked with,” she says. Adding, “we were both so humbled by the task that we just agreed that there would be no ego in the process and that Aretha would be the diva in the room at all times, not us.”
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Months after filming, Hudson says of Franklin: “I still feel like she’s in me, I really do. I just hope to meet her requests. You think you respect Aretha, but once you see the film and you learn her story, you can’t help but to have a newfound respect for her.”
Earlier this year, the “American Idol” winner said she was “overwhelmed” with emotion after wrapping production on the biopic.
“It is officially a wrap on @respectmovie wrap it up, it’s done!” Hudson shared on Instagram. “Too overwhelmed to get into it right now but words can’t express how grateful I am to be chosen by the queen herself and to live out yet another dream! It was my honor, to honor the Queen’s request! The one and only Queen of Soul.”
Prior to her death from pancreatic cancer at age 76, Franklin handpicked Hudson for the role. In 2018, JHud sang “Amazing Grace” at Franklin’s funeral.
“We were in talks a long time about me playing her,” Hudson said in an interview with Sunday Today (via PEOPLE). “So I just hope I make her proud [and] do her justice.”
“Respect” follows the rise of Aretha Franklin’s career from a child singing in her father’s church’s choir to her international superstardom.
The film is set to drop in December.