The first trailer has been released for “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” the Whitney Houston biopic produced in collaboration with Houston Estate and Music Director Clive Davis.
British actress Naomi Ackie stars as 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 East Orange’s Houston, then 19, 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 his estate.
The film promises an “unrestrained portrait of the complex and multi-faceted woman behind The Voice”.
“I Wanna Dance With Somebody” depicts Houston’s life beginning with her childhood years singing at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark and uses her recordings to tell the story.
Oscar nominee Stanley Tucci (“The Lovely Bones”) and Emmy winner (“Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy”) plays Davis in the film, which takes its title from Houston’s 1987 No. 1 hit “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me).” The trailer shows scenes from when Davis first heard Houston perform in New York.
Whitney is seen in other famous moments of her career, like when she performed a standout rendition of the national anthem at the 1991 Super Bowl.
“My dream,” says Whitney of Ackie in the trailer. “Sing like I want to sing, be like I want to be. Reach as wide an audience as possible.
The vocals of “How Will I Know”, the 1985 hit song from Houston’s debut album, provide the soundtrack for the trailer along with “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”.
The clip also shows Houston responding to critics that her music isn’t black enough.
“Look, I can’t sing Black,” she said. “I can’t 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).
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 the day of Davis’ Grammys party in 2012.
Houston’s cause of death was determined to be accidental drowning, with heart disease and cocaine listed as contributing factors.
The continuing interest in Houston’s life, music, and legacy fueled a series of productions that attempted to tell her story.
The 2015 film “Whitney,” directed by Angela Bassett, starred Yaya DaCosta as Houston and Arlen Escarpeta as Bobby Brown. Singer Deborah Cox performed Houston’s songs.
“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 longtime friend and creative director of Houston, Robyn Crawford, in “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”
Crawford 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 “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”.
Clarke Peters (“The Wire”) is Houston’s father, 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 being found unconscious in a bathtub.
“I Want to Dance With Someone” hits theaters December 21..
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