Full Cast Revealed for MGM’s Aretha Franklin Biopic ‘Respect’

Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, Mary J. Blige join the film "Respect." (Credit: Deposit Photos)

Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, and Mary J. Blige are joining Jennifer Hudson in the Aretha Franklin biopic Respect, MGM has announced.

Also taking on roles in the film are Tony Award winner Audra McDonald, Broadway star Heather Headley, Tate Donavan, Tituss Burgess, Marc Maron, Saycon Sengbloh, Hailey Kilgore, and Skye Dakota Turner.

Franklin died in August 2018 at age 76. The film, to which Hudson has been attached for over a year, will follow Franklin’s life from singing in her father’s church, to becoming one of the most iconic figures in the music industry.

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The authorized feature is directed by Tony-nominee Liesl 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,” Tommy said in a statement.

Straight Outta Compton producer Scott Bernstein and music producer Harvey Mason Jr., who has written and produced songs for Franklin and Hudson, will produce the film.

The drama will feature some of Franklin’s hit songs, including “Respect,” “I Say A Little Prayer,” “Think,” and “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman.” Respect begins shooting Nov. 1, 2019, and will arrive in theaters next summer.

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Below are details on the cast and their roles.

Forest Whitaker (Godfather of Harlem, The Last King of Scotland) stars as Reverend CL Franklin. Known as the man with the “Million-Dollar Voice,” Franklin served as the pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan. Franklin was also the father of the American singer and songwriter Aretha Franklin and her manager early on in her career.

Marlon Wayans (On the Rocks, Sextuplets) stars as Ted White, Aretha’s first husband.

Audra McDonald The winner of a record-breaking six Tony Awards, two Grammy Awards, and an Emmy—stars as Barbara Franklin, Aretha’s mother.

Saycon Sengbloh (Broadway’s Eclipsed, CW’s In the Dark) stars as Erma Franklin, Aretha’s eldest sister.

Hailey Kilgore (Broadway’s Once on This Island, NBC’s The Village) stars as Carolyn Franklin, Aretha’s sister.

Mary J. Blige (Mudbound) stars as famed recording artist Dinah Washington.

Heather Headley (Broadway’s Aida) will play Clara Ward, the famed gospel artist and leader of The Famous Ward Sisters.

Tituss Burgess (Dolemite Is My Name, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) stars as Reverend Dr. James Cleveland, who was known as the “King of Gospel.”

Marc Maron (Joker, GLOW) plays legendary Atlantic Records music producer Jerry Wexler.

Tate Donovan (Rocketman) stars as John Hammond, Columbia Records’ influential music producer.

2 thoughts on “Full Cast Revealed for MGM’s Aretha Franklin Biopic ‘Respect’

  1. Why are all the other cast members listed with their accolades except J-Hud? She’s an Oscar winner, too. Please put some R-E-S-P-E-C-T on her name.

    1. The movie was announced over a year ago with Hudson as the star, and we’ve written about it before.

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