The Oscar-winning actress reflects on coming "full circle" playing Franklin in a new biopic after auditioning for American Idol with one of the late diva's songs.

By Joey Nolfi
October 15, 2020 at 05:24 PM EDT
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Jennifer Hudson manifested her role in the upcoming Aretha Franklin biopic 16 years ago, when she sang one of the late diva's tunes during her show-stopping American Idol audition. Now, nearly two decades later, the Oscar-winning actress is reflecting on her "full-circle" moment in bringing the icon's life story to the big screen in Liesl Tommy's Respect.

"I truly feel like my whole life prepared me for it," Hudson says in a video interview for EW's latest cover story. "When I look back, knowing how Aretha influenced me musically or how many times I've performed her songs. Even when I was on American Idol, my audition song was an Aretha Franklin song."

Hudson's career as an entertainer exploded after her debut on season 3 of the reality competition program, which saw her audition in front of judges Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, and Paula Abdul with a soaring rendition of Franklin's ballad “Share Your Love With Me."

"To fast-forward from then to now and to see the outcome, it's full-circle!" Hudson remembered.

"I miss hearing from her, because I feel like in teaching me about her life she taught me about life,” Hudson continued, reflecting on her relationship with Franklin — who hand-picked her for the role in the biographical drama, out next year — until the singer's death in 2018. “I still have the text chains, so every now and then I look back at them. The last time I spoke to her was Aug. 8, [2018,] and I can honestly say she sang until her last breath. I want to be like that. I want to be 80 years old and still doing what I love to do, you know? Sing my way home."

Respect is in theaters in early 2021. Read EW's full cover story and check out exclusive stills from the film.

To read more on Jennifer Hudson, Respect, and the start of this year’s Oscar race, order the November issue of Entertainment Weekly or find it on newsstands beginning Friday. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

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