By IVAN THOMAS-HICKS
The Mother of Broadway is bringing her talents back to the big screen in a major way. Audra McDonald portrays Barbara Siggers Franklin, the mother of Aretha Franklin in the much anticipated biopic, RESPECT. The film follows the highs and lows of the legendary late singer’s life as she encroached upon the road to stardom that made her an international sensation.
Joining the six-time Tony Award winner are Jennifer Hudson who plays Franklin, Marlon Wayans who plays Franklin’s first husband Ted White, Forest Whitaker is Rev. C.L. Franklin, noted civil rights leader and Franklin’s father, and Mary J. Blige is the legendary Dinah Washington to round out the principal cast. The film is directed by Tony Award nominee Liesl Tommy, and features some of Franklin’s most popular songs including “I Say a Little Prayer,” and the Otis Redding classic, “Respect.”
“I would’ve said yes if they told me I would play the person to grab coffee,” said McDonald with a laugh. “It’s Aretha Franklin and there’s never been a moment in my life where she didn’t exist as my life always included her. I wanted to be a part of a film where she wasn’t only attached to it, but it would really take care to tell her story with the nuance and respect she deserves.”
McDonald, who described the late singer as “divine, life-changing, and soul-changing” also revealed that it wasn’t hard for her to channel her own sensibilities as a Black mother in order to transform her emotions to mirror those of Barbara Franklin, who had been separated for a period of time from her children after divorcing their father.