Nafessa Williams Talks I Wanna Dance With Somebody & Whitney Houston
Dec 25, 2022
Sony’s biopic, I Wanna Dance With Somebody, stars Naomi Ackie (Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker) as the multi-Grammy Award-winning powerhouse, Whitney Houston. The film will chronicle Houston’s emotional launch to fame and depict all the decades of her record-breaking career, including her chart-topping hits and devastating hardships. Directed by Kasi Lemmons with the grace of Houston’s estate, and working alongside the star’s sister-in-law and film producer, Patricia Houston, the movie will present audiences with an intimate and respectful look at Whitney Houston’s life and legacy.
I Wanna Dance With Somebody features many of the people Houston surrounded herself with in life, including her long-time collaborator and manager, Clive Davis (portrayed by Stanley Tucci), who also serves as a producer for the feature, and her assistant and creative director, Robyn Crawford. Actress Nafessa Williams (Black Lightning) portrays Crawford in the movie, someone who was by Houston’s side from a young age, but was forced aside by the industry at a time when their relationship could have been damaging to Houston’s image.
COLLIDER VIDEO OF THE DAY
Before I Wanna Dance With Somebody hits theaters, Collider’s Steve Weintraub sat with Williams to talk about her experience on the film. During their interview, Williams shares what she learned about Whitney Houston from filming, and how the singer stayed authentic throughout her career. She also discusses how she relates to Robyn Crawford and the most difficult scenes for her to film. You can watch the interview in the video above, or read the full transcript below.
COLLIDER: So I learned a lot about Whitney that I didn’t know while watching the movie. When you were prepping for the role, what were some of the things that actually surprised you, that perhaps you didn’t know?
NAFESSA WILLIAMS: I can’t say it totally surprised me, but just seeing the weight, I was able to relate, but obviously not on a scale that she has experienced. I was able to pay attention to the weight that she carried and the responsibility that she had to just about everybody around her. She was the captain, she was the leader, and that took a toll, I feel, on her. And it was a lot of weight to carry, but I think she did it as gracefully as possible. So that was pretty cool to see.
Also, I think I learned, too, Whitney was always going to do things her way. And I think that there’s something about that autonomy that I felt like she had where it was… Although they had ideas for her career, she, I feel, stayed true and authentic to who she was. She stayed true and authentic to who she wanted to marry. And she did things on her own terms.
Image via Sony Pictures
For me, when I was watching, obviously it’s heartbreaking with everything that happened, but I also wonder, if she had been born a little closer to today, if her self-destructive behavior and drug use was hiding who she was.
WILLIAMS: I like to focus on the celebration of what she was able to accomplish, and focus on putting my all into the film, which I’m really excited for y’all to see me play and portray one of the closest people ever to her who is Robyn [Crawford]. And we all know how the story ends. And I don’t like to really do the should-have, could-have, would-have’s because everything happens when it’s supposed to and how, I believe. So I try not to focus on that too much and just focus on the idea of how much everybody is going to love this film.
Yes, we tell the truth, but it’s also just a beautiful celebration of her life and her legacy. Obviously, I’m aware that we live in a different time, where you weren’t able to fully be who you were, especially in the industry, as we are today. So I do wish things were a bit more acceptable. Yeah, those are my feelings towards that.
Image via Sony Pictures
When you were looking at the shooting schedule, I’m sure there was a day or two on the shoot that you’re either super nervous to do, or super excited. What was that on the shooting schedule?
WILLIAMS: The challenging scenes for me to film were the breakup scenes with her and Robyn. And my heart broke for Robyn because I know the depth of love that she had for her. Robyn and I are both Sagittariuses. I’m not sure if you’re into zodiacs or not, but we love really, really deeply, and [are] loyal to a fault. And it crushed me to film those scenes because they start on such a high with this love, and it’s a rejection, and it’s a disappointment in there. And that was really tough. My heart was breaking actually having to film that. So that was a challenging moment.
I Wanna Dance With Somebody is now in theaters. For more from the movie, check out Collider’s interview with Naomi Ackie below:
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