INT: Jennifer Hudson

There is no doubt that Jennifer Hudson is blessed with a powerful set of pipes! She proves her superior vocal abilities by pouring her heart and soul in every song while demonstrating her dramatic talent in the upcoming Oscar worthy performance as the remarkable Effie in the Broadway musical turned film, DREAMGIRLS.

Anyone familiar with the original Broadway production is well aware of the importance in accurately casting this important character that represents the heart of the film. With her audacious and triumphant performance, Hudson proves her ability of inhabiting the role of Effie originally played by Jennifer Holliday. A third season "American Idol" alum and a newcomer to the silver screen, Hudson makes her debut as the talented singer in search of fame who is betrayed by all the people she loves. Her rendition of "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" is chilling, heartbreaking, tear jerking and moving. America should be ashamed for eliminating Hudson on "American Idol", but look who has the last laugh now?

I enjoyed meeting Jennifer Hudson last week when she sat down to chat with us about her experience on "American Idol", working with an all-star cast and making her mark in Hollywood with a breakthrough performance immortalizing Effie in the new film DREAMGIRLS. See what she had to say.

Jennifer Hudson

So is it what you expected?

This is more than what I expected.  I didn’t know what to expect actually. 

Did you go after the role? 

Did I go after it?  They actually called me to come and audition for it, but I really wanted to do it.  Once I learned of Dreamgirls and they called me to come out and audition for it.  Binder Casting out of New York asked me to come out to New York and audition for the part. 

What was your reaction when you found out you got the part? 

Oh, I was so excited.  The first thing I did was call my mother (laughs).  I said hello, I got the part and it was so exciting.  Had a little intimate party to celebrate it. 

What was the nature of your audition? 

Well, for my first audition they first requested that I did not sing “And I Am Telling You…” so they wanted me to sing a song that would tell the story, that could be portrayed and to draw people in as a storytelling thing.  So I asked if I could sing the song “Easy to be Hard” from the Broadway production Hair and so I sang that number in the place of “And I Am Telling You…” and portrayed it in the same way and I also did the scene of “What About What I Need” when Effie gets told she’s going in the background of the group. 

What about all this talk about Oscar nominations? 

Wow, goodness, there’s so much excitement going on.  I think that is such a great honor and I can’t believe I’m hearing this, you know?  All I wanted was the part so I’ll have to cross that bridge when I get to it. 

Are you superstitious at all? 

Um, no.  I’m just a person of faith and I think that if it’s meant for me then I guess it will happen, but I try not to think about it or worry about it too much. 

Which category do you prefer: supporting or lead? 

Oh, no, I’m content with whatever (laughs) I’m just in awe to even be considered so hey. 

What is going on with all the controversy talk with Beyonce? 

I don’t know, I just think that people just automatically do that anyway.  Anytime something good is going on they’ll find some way to throw something into there.  I don’t understand why it always has to be that way, you know?  It’s an ensemble cast and we all had a great part in it and whatever happens it’s a part of our work as a whole. 

Did you ever see the play? 

No, I was born the year it came out so I was a little too young. 

Have you met Jennifer Holliday? 

No, I’ve never met her, but I can’t wait. 

What was it like to act with all these big stars? 

It was my dream because Beyonce and Jamie are two of my favorite artists and to be able to work with them and be a part of such a great cast was an honor really and it was a learning experience really to just learn from the best. 

What did you learn? 

Goodness, I mean, just watching how they build their characters, things like that and just watching how they approach the characters and stuff like that.  They would give me advice like Beyonce always told me make sure you take your time and evaluate things before you make a decision and Jamie would always tell me give 100 percent, never half do anything.  And just to watch them work and figure out, Jamie’s an Oscar winner, why?  Let me try and figure that out and learn from him in a steady intimate way. 

Were you familiar with Florence Ballard? 

Before Dreamgirls came out, no I didn’t.  I knew of the Supremes.  Well, Diana Ross and the Supremes.  But once I started my research I learned of Florence Ballard and read into her story.  She had a hard life and that’s one of the things that made me angry.  I thought that Effie was her voice and that’s one thing that motivated me to help trigger the emotion because as I ran through and discovered her story I got very upset for her. 

Do you have some experience acting in school? 

In school they always just had me do the solos in the plays.  I didn’t get a chance to act.  But the only other acting experience I’ve had that’s still no comparison to this, was working on the Disney Cruise ship where I would narrate the show Hercules the musical and I did all the vocals.  And I was also in Big River, but I didn’t have any lines to sing from. 

Tell us about American Idol. 

Well I was part of season three and I made it to seventh place, but I was the controversy girl.  I was eliminated.  Simon told me I was out of my league and you might forget the runner-ups, you’ll never see them again, things like that.  But here I am, so. 

Everyone was upset when you were voted off, but if you won do you think you would have had this movie? 

I don’t think so and I wouldn’t change a thing so I’d rather be a Dreamgirl any day.

Are you going to buy Simon a ticket to the show?

No, I’m not.  I already gave my tickets away, but I’m sure he’s already seen it.  It seems like everybody in Hollywood has seen it by now.  But no, Simon is not on my guest list. 

Do you believe that there is a conflict between church and performing? 

No, I mean I don’t see the conflict between the two.  If I have to work on Sunday I say Lord I got to go to work today.  Church is my favorite place to sing and be, but I don’t have perfect attendance. 

Talk about your New Year’s Eve gig?

That gig in particular?  Goodness, I always take it one step at a time.  I have to get through this and first and then I’ll think about what’s next.  All I know is I perform here on the 30th, but I’m not even sure of the full details of it all. 

It’s a big gay party. 

So I’m looking forward to it. 

Why do you think this movie has such a huge gay audience? 

I don’t really know, but I’m on it. 

How much fun were the costumes in this movie? 

Costumes were so exciting and the wigs was my favorite and the makeup.  I took a picture of every single hairdo.  It’s a girl’s dream to be able to dress up in the different hair and costumes.  I love it. 

Do you like singing the Supremes songs? 

The only time I’ve actually ever sung a Supremes song was on American Idol and I forgot the words, but I have not sang many of their songs.  I do love their songs, though. 

Any music deals of your own coming up? 

I just signed my record deal with Arista records.  Clive Davis.  Because it’s very fresh still we have not even had that creative meeting to decide what kind of material is going to be on the record. 

That’s Whitney Houston’s label. 

Whitney and Aretha! 

When you were filming, were you guys actually singing as you were recording? 

Everything was prerecorded, but I sang along as if it was a live performance as we were shooting to keep the performance level up to make it that much more real. 

What’s next for you?

Well, what I want to do is once again like I say do the album, but I want to balance both movies and music and continue to do them both.  That’s a little snippet of what I’d like to do. 

Is there any talk of an Aretha biography? 

Oh my God, I would love to do that.  That’s something I really want to do. 

Have you talked to her? 

I’ve been in concert with her and we’ve crossed paths quite a few times and I just did a tribute to her recently back in September to air January 9th, but we haven’t even talked about a biography.

Talk about what it was like playing a mother. 

That was one of the more challenging things for me because I don’t have any children and I’ve never been a parent so that was quite different, but I tried to draw from anything that was close to me like my sister has a daughter and by me having a nephew I’m like okay, I know how I am with him so let me just use that towards that, but that was very different. 

What would you ay you and Effie have in common?

I think my inexperience with American Idol and her career in music…my journey on Idol and being eliminated from Idol and going against the odds seeking my dreams and being a dreamgirl.  You know, she was one of the dreams and then she was kicked out of the group, but she still goes for it. 

Talk about the catfight with Beyonce?

The “it’s all over” scene?  It was actually quite fun.  I anticipated it to be not so much fun because it’s an intense scene, but it was a lot of fun to shoot.  There was a lot of “I’m sorry,” but we have to be mean to each other now.  There was a lot of that because we’re both like “Oh, I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes.”

Have you seen the film with an audience? 

I saw it twice.  The first one was cast and crew and the second was with my hometown of Chicago so I got to see it with them, but I think it was press.

At that moment of applause, do you want to get up and take a bow?

Oh, no.  I was up in my chair like this about to roll up and die.  Before it came on I’m not ready for it.  The first time I just wanted to stand up and say no, no I’m not ready for them to see that scene yet so I get really nervous when that scene comes up. 

Have you met Loretta Divine? 

Oh, I have met Loretta Divine, for real.  She’s amazing and she’s a beautiful spirit to meet and it’s such an honor to meet her.  Just to be in the movie with an original Dreamgirl.  I would love to meet, well, I met Sheryl Lee Ralph, but I wanted to meet them all. 

What do you think about Sheryl?  She seems to have a lot to say about the movie?

I haven’t really heard what all she had to say, but I recently performed for her Divas Simply Singing event and once again it was an honor to meet her. 

Diana Ross? 

I’ve never met her at all.  I haven’t heard from her.  Miss Ross! 

Is this what you vision your type of music?

You hit it on the head, definitely, because I love just real music and more of the style of what Effie does, but that doesn’t really sell today.  Right now, at the same time, I’m preparing to do my project and I’m okay what am I going to do?  I want to do real music, but I also want to do music that sells without selling out so I’m still trying to figure out how to approach this so it’s definitely something that’s fresh in my brain. 

Why do you think labels think people can’t handle real music? 

Well, there’s a time for everything and real music is a little out though, but I think it could make a comeback and Dreamgirls is a great way to bring it back and make people appreciate it because being in one of the screenings, I went into a couple more but just for the end, and it was the kids of today who wasn’t around when Aretha and Whitney were out, but they received it so well and I was shocked. Like wow, they taking this in?  So I think this will help to bring it back to being real music and music that sells. 

What do you think of Hip Hop? 

I don’t think this is real music today, that’s my whole thing.  I think the Motown era and the sixties music and time before the 70’s on back.  I love real music and that’s one of the things I was most familiar with was the Motown music.  Before I even started doing Dreamgirls, I was very familiar with the music if nothing else.  But there are some artists, like Beyonce or Fantasia that are in there. 

What was the biggest lesson you learned from Idol? 

Well, if I could get through Idol I can get though anything for one.  Idol I learned so much from it, just the experience of it.  It’s about a lot of hard work, like a celebrity prepping boot camp.  It’s nothing compared to this, but it’s a good starting point to teach you so much about the industry.

Source: JoBlo.com



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