The first trailer is out for ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’, the Whitney Houston biopic, produced in conjunction with Houston’s estate and music manager Clive Davis.
British actor Naomi Ackie plays the New Jersey music legend in the TriStar Pictures film, directed by Kasi Lemmons (“Eve’s Bayou,” “Harriet”) and written by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Anthony McCarten (“The Two Popes,” “Bohemian Rhapsody”).
Clive Davis, who signed the then 19-year-old East Orange’s Houston to Arista Records in 1983, is a producer on the film alongside McCarten and Pat Houston, Whitney’s sister-in-law, longtime manager and executor of her estate.
The film promises an “uninhibited portrait of the complex and versatile woman behind The Voice.”
“I Wanna Dance With Somebody” depicts Houston’s life beginning with her childhood, singing at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark and using her recordings to tell the story.
Oscar nominee Stanley Tucci (“The Lovely Bones”) and Emmy winner (“Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy) star Davis in the film, which takes the title from Houston’s No. 1 hit “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me) from 1987. ).” The trailer shows scenes from when Davis first heard Houston perform in New York.
Whitney can be seen in other famous moments of her career, such as when she performed an alien rendition of the national anthem during the 1991 Super Bowl.
“My dream,” says Whitney of Ackie in the trailer. “Sing how I want to sing, be what I want to be. Reach as wide an audience as possible.”
The vocals of ‘How Will I Know’, the 1985 hit from Houston’s debut album, along with ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ form the soundtrack for the trailer.
The clip also shows how Houston responds to criticism that her music is not black enough.
“Look, I don’t know how to sing Black,” she says. ‘I don’t know how to sing white either. I know how to sing.”
Ackie, 30, won a British Independent Film Award for her performance in the film “Lady Macbeth” (2016) and a BAFTA Award for “The End of The F—ing World” (2020).
The actor’s other films include “Yardie” (2018), “Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker” (2019 — she played Jannah) and “The Score” (2021). Ackie played Alicia, wife of Denise (Lena Waithe), in the third season of the Netflix series ‘Master of None’.
Houston was 48 when she was found unconscious in a bathtub at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles on the day of Davis’s Grammys party in 2012.
Houston’s cause of death was determined to be accidental drowning, with heart disease and cocaine as contributing factors.
Enduring interest in Houston’s life, music and legacy has led to a series of productions that have attempted to tell her story.
The 2015 Lifetime movie “Whitney”, directed by Angela Bassett, starring Yaya DaCosta as Houston and Arlen Escarpeta as Bobby Brown. Singer Deborah Cox played the songs of Houston.
“Whitney: Can I Be Me?”, a documentary directed by Nick Broomfield and Rudi Dolezal, was released in 2017 and “Whitney”, a documentary by director Kevin Macdonald, was released in 2018.
Nafessa Williams (“Black Lightning,” “Twin Peaks: The Return”) plays Houston’s longtime friend and creative director Robyn Crawford in “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”
Crawford has said she had a romance with Houston before the singer ended their intimate relationship early in her career.
Tamara Tunie (“Flight”, “See”, “Cowboy Bebop”) plays Whitney’s mother, singer Cissy Houston, in the new film. Clarke Peters (“The Wire”) is the father of Houston, John Houston, and Ashton Sanders (“Moonlight”) plays singer Bobby Brown, who was Whitney’s husband for nearly 15 years when they divorced in 2007.
Kris Sidberry (“Detroit”, “Castle Rock”) plays Pat Houston, Whitney’s manager and wife of her brother Gary (played by Daniel Washington).
Bria Danielle Singleton, 16, plays Whitney’s daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, who was born in 1993 and died in 2015, aged 22, months after she was found unconscious in a bathtub.
“I Wanna Dance With Somebody” hits theaters December 21.
Thank you for trusting us to deliver the journalism you can rely on. Please consider supporting NJ.com with a subscription.
Amy Kuperinsky can be reached at: email@example.com and followed @AmyKup on Twitter.