Liesl Tommy is bringing us Respect while Jennifer Hudson shines as Aretha Franklin!
Global (29 June 2020) – South African born Director Liesl Tommy has brought Aretha Franklin to life in a new biopic starring Jennifer Hudson.
Released during the BET Awards, the trailer starts off with Hudson singing her iconic song “Respect” (which the film is coined after) with the word spelt out behind her in giant neon-style letters before clips of her rise to fame are shown.
The film will be directed by Liesl Tommy and features Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, Audra McDonald, Marc Maron, Tituss Burgess, Saycon Sengbloh, Hailey Kilgore, Skye Dakota Turner, Tate Donovan, and Mary J. Blige. RESPECT drops on Oct. 9, 2020.
Watch the trailer below:
Liesl Tommy has directed theatre all over the United States, including Center Stage (Baltimore, Maryland), Dallas Theater Center (Dallas, Texas), California Shakespeare Theater (San Francisco, California), Sundance East Africa, Berkeley Repertory Theatre (Berkeley, California), and La Jolla Playhouse (La Jolla, California).
She is known for re-envisioning classic plays by creating retellings drawn from her own personal experiences and stories in life. Tommy’s aesthetic is physical and visceral, and she is interested in portraying the violence of being a human on stage through physical violence and violent exchanges.
Tommy was born and raised in Factreton, Cape Town, South Africa, during the apartheid era, and was racially segregated because she was a non-white citizen. Her family moved to Massachusetts, U.S. when she was 15 years old, and she attended Newton North High School. While in high school, she states that she found a common language and purpose through theatre and made that her main focus.
Tommy’s training as an actor has influenced her directorial style, particularly the way that she runs her rehearsals. She finds textual analysis and table work important during the rehearsal process and refrains from putting the play on its feet until she knows the actors have a sense of their characters. She also tries to give the actors the chance to drive the piece so that the audience has a chance to see people being free onstage.
Tommy explained her directing philosophy: “My job as a director is to drag that story and drag that audience along for a ride they’ll never forget. I don’t care about having a signature. I just care about how to make the story as rock and roll as possible and as thrilling as possible. I do have a strong point of view, and there are certain things I explore over and over again in my shows because there are things I’m working through as an artist.”
Tommy has made it a mission of hers to advocate for a more diverse theatre experience in her shows.
After graduation, she studied acting in London and attended a conservatory program through Trinity Repertory Company in [Providence, Rhode Island]. While in acting school she developed an interest in directing and her teachers gave her the opportunity to direct a show once a year until she graduated.