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Jennifer Hudson: “I Made Major Sacrifices To Perfect ‘Winnie’ Starring Role”

The trailer for the upcoming Winnie Mandela biopic, starring Jennifer Hudson as the titular character, and Terrence Howard as Nelson Mandela, was met with much ridicule and derision when we unveiled it last fall; and rightfully so in my not-so humble opinion! The film was woefully miscast, and it’s evident; the acting just doesn’t look strong; the accents were poor; the makeup team did a horrible job aging J-Hud, and more. I embedded it again below if you missed it the first time.

The trailer quickly went viral, much to the chagrin of the film’s production team, who felt that it was essentially an unauthorized leak. Although I’m not sure how much of a difference an authorized unveiling would have made. The proof is/was in the pudding; unless they planned on cutting a much better trailer than what we all saw. And I wouldn’t be surprised if, given the terrible reception that first trailer received, they re-cut and re-release another.

Anyway… maybe this will help soften some of the damage that’s already been done for some… maybe not. I stumbled upon this April 17th write-up on J-Hud, in which she talks about the immense sacrifices she made for the Winnie role, to ensure her performance was authentic enough.

For example, the piece states that one of her preparation rituals was to lock herself inside a prison cell day and night, for the duration of the shoot, in order to help feel and understand what the real Winnie Mandela went through while she was confined.

And maybe even more extreme, J-Hud revealed that she didn’t have any contact with her relatively new-born child throughout the film shoot in South Africa, in order to mentally prepare herself for the role, stating, “I was only playing her for four months, but this was her life, what she went through, and that’s a story that is so worth being told. I wanted to make it as real as possible, even down to being away from the baby – I didn’t see him the whole time I was away.

She essentially lived in “absolute solitude” for the entire duration of the film shoot, and pushed herself to her absolute physical and psychological limits in order to do justice to the part.

I remember the crew saying to me ‘We can bring the baby here,’ and I was like ‘It’s OK.’ Winnie was away from her children, and she couldn’t see them either. It made it that much more real to me, being away from my baby too. I got to feel what Winnie felt, and that’s basically what it takes to make the character that much more real to me,” J-Hud added.

Serious ish, right? The Christian Bale school of acting.

None of us has seen the film yet, so, who knows, maybe it really was just a badly put together trailer, and not at ll indicative of what the film itself is like. I’m hopeful, if only for J-Hud’s sake.

The real Winnie Mandela didn’t authorize the making of the film, and was expressive of her contempt of it. But it still got made. It hasn’t screened anywhere publicly just yet, so, we really don’t have any real sense of how it all plays out. I however expect that it’ll show up on the festival circuit this year. If anything, it’ll probably be released in South Africa first.

15 comments to Jennifer Hudson: “I Made Major Sacrifices To Perfect ‘Winnie’ Starring Role”

  • hollaj

    soooo i’m guessing there are no actors in south africa. that would be the only excuse for this trainwreck.

    • IyaToyin

      If it’s an American movie studio, they are often partial to American actors. Shame, isn’t it? The narrowness of Hollywood…

  • Patra Reynolds-Brown

    I like JHud and all but nothing – and sure not work – should keep a mother away from her newborn infant unless it is necessary for survival.

    This sounds very very off to me reading between the lines. You took on a part to play a woman in a movie who did not want you to play her and you stay away from your newborn baby to do that?

    If she wanted to feel what Mrs. Mandela was feeling so much maybe listen to the woman when she was not feeling this movie being made! How can you claim to want to get inside the skin of a person who is making it clear that she did not want you to. Playing up “sacrifices” makes her look crazy as a mother and as a black woman going against a black woman to side with some white producers.

    I don’t want to see this movie. This put a really bad taste in my mouth even more than that laugh out loud trailer.

    • Tamara

      Definitely some method acting…

      Maybe she had to resort to such drastic measures because she didn’t have access to Winnie to study her? or at minimum speak to her about her life?

      Long answer: I hope she does a good job. I mean, I root for JHud and have since forever. I just want her to have a good career (to followup that Oscar win) :P

      Short answer: I have no desire to see this movie whatsoever. :|

  • LvFlg

    well at least Ms. Hudson’s heart is in the right place [ie] she is making the most of what was presented,to her.
    BUT the real kicker: how could the producers make a
    film about this Winnie Mandela and NOT consult the Winnie Mandela????? They do that and think they will have a favorable outcome.

    • rollercoaster

      I agree. I believe that Mrs. Mandela should have had a larger role in shaping the film. It’s a shame they couldn’t have used S. African actors, which would have made a heap of sense.

      • Lynn

        I agree with you i wish they gave Nelson Mandela creative freedom w/ this project. I mean just because it is a Hollywood studio movie doesn’t mean they can’t get an unknown actor.

        In my opinion i would like to see Chiwetel Ejiofor & Naomie Harris take on Nelson & Winne.

        • Tamara

          In my opinion i would like to see Chiwetel Ejiofor & Naomie Harris take on Nelson & Winne.









          I’d be more excited about viewing it.

          Both actors are some serious talent who don’t get recognized enough for their work. But they DO get quality projects, which I think says a lot, too. But neither are American, are they? That makes a difference, no? I think there might be a discussion on this board about that….let me find it and go ‘there’ and comment ‘there’ instead of highjacking this post any further. :P

  • etomi

    Hollywood being the Hollyweird it is, I wonder if they went to Ms. Hudson after asking, and being refused by, Angelina Jolie first and Halle Berry second. And, I also wonder in what world Nelson Mandela has green eyes? [Here I had intended to do a diatribe about Terrence DAYSHAWN Howard, but why waste my time? This dud (not a spelling error) is so obsessed with his eye color - and makes mention of it at least once in any interview- that he couldn't even brave lenses to make this characterization a little more real! SIGHhhhhhhhh]

    I am with you hollaj about the studio not attempting to choose from a large pool of South African actors/actresses for this film, and will go one further… What about British Africans with whom we are already familiar, like Eamonn Walker, Chiwetel Ejofor, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Lennie James (for God’s sake — he is BRILLIANT!), Sophie Okenodo, Adrian Lester, and on and on.

    I take off my hat to Ms. Hudson for trying to make the best of a sorry, impossible situation by doing her best to give the film some gravitas, but a week after this mess debuts it will be out on DVD.

    • Jug

      Not sure I can add anything, but DAMN RIGHT! That list of actors would have DESTROYED this and made it really something special. With JHud & Terrence “Wet Nap” Howard (thank god he worked on his delivery in L&):LA, dude was becoming a eunuch before my eyes), it just screams “We wanted to grab American $’s”. I like it when actors have the sense of self to say “I’m too old for something” or “I’m not right”. Sometimes it’s fear but often it’s knowing yourself and the material…but this wasn’t one of those times LOL

  • Ok people. Here we go again.

    Acting is a skill. In the best case scenario, you start with a person with some natural talent, nurture said talent with mentors and teachers and exposure and hard work and a decent actor with a certain ability goes out into the professional world.

    It BREAKS MY HEART that here, at Shadow and Act, we don’t seem to understand that process. And the Black artistic and acting community continues to suffer from sub par work on EVERY LEVEL, from the chitlin circuit to the Oscar winners.

    She doesn’t disappear into her roles. She does however, disappear into her singing, which is why she won her Oscar. That song. Period. And it was enough and I don’t dispute that it was an Oscar worthy seven minute song. But her performance does not rival Meryl Streep, Judi Dench, Cate Winslet, Helen Mirren, Whoppi Goldberg or Monique to name a few winners and nominees. Take the song out of the equation and she never would have even been nominated.

    And do you know how I know she is not a skilled actor, nor does she possess a natural talent for it? THE ABOVE ARTICLE! If she knew a damn thing about acting or method acting for that matter, she would know that there are a MILLION other ways to find access into a character’s mind and spirit. She would have concentrated on SOUNDING believable first. MOST actor’s worth their salt would have spent the time not in a jail cell, but nailing the accent, which is half the battle. Actors use their imagination first and foremost when creating a role. You don’t have to live in the jail to imagine what it must have been like to be there. If JHud was playing a pedophile, would she molest children to “get into the role”? How about a murderer? How about a surgeon? Would she request to actually perform surgery? How about a drug addict? This story REEKS of something foul because for her to sacrifice like that, and NOT EVEN NAIL THE ACCENT is some bull! I mean, really! This, Tambay, is not some serious ISH. It is NOT how real actors conduct themselves. It is how rookies and amateurs think of acting.

    How did we as a people stray so far from who we once were. We birthed the Harlem Renaissance. We know what it is to have the soul’s of artists. It is a shame we haven’t continued that strong tradition of artistic merit.

    • Hi Michelle,

      I can always count on you to bring the real thang. And what the heck are you doing up this late? Don’t tell me, some people do their best work in the wee hours of the morning.

      Now, if I had any disagreement with your post, I’d say Ms Hudson did not win solely on her 7 minute song. I was taken by her performance long before that song. But wait, for me, it was a combination of her “steady” acting and all her songs. Yep, I think the whole movie just grabbed my soul.

      Hey, how much responsibility (fault) lies at the feet of the director and her handlers? And I didn’t view the clip because when I saw Terrence Howard, I saw disaster.

    • You do realize that my “serious ish” comment was sarcasm, right? Hence the “ish,” and my trashing of the film’s casting and acting, particularly of its 2 leads. I should have added a smiley face at the end :)

      No folks, just for the record, I don’t think staying away from your new-born baby for several months, so that you can “get into” a role, is at all sensible, nor does it imply ability. Maybe it suggests will and naivete, but not necessarily ability. It’s unnecessarily extreme, which is why I made the analogy to Christian Bale, whom I also think sometimes goes to extremes to “get into” a role. Though, to his credit, he’s a far better actor than J-Hud is.

  • Curiousier Than A Muthafugga

    No comments on how the quoted article has a picture of the melanin challenged Kate Hudson in place of the brown sugary Jennifer Hudson?

  • Tambay, my bad. I didn’t read the sarcasm. Perhaps because it was late, as Carey pointed out. So, I apologize.

    And you know Carey, cool…she did have moments in Dreamgirls, outside of the song. I will grant you that. And perhaps my critique of her performance was too harsh. That said, I just feel like black female actors have very few people out there representing what they can bring to the table. And on the real, I take this really personally.

    But, God bless her. I think she has an amazing voice. And I think that she is a true singer and I applaud her vocal talent. I realize that JHud is not the problem, rather a symptom of a much larger issue.