Honoree reveals what drew her to ‘Black Nativity’
By her own admission, Jennifer Hudson is having a “fantastic and surreal year.” The Oscar and Grammy winner, who will receive a star Wednesday, Nov. 13, on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her music work, kicked off 2013 with a trifecta of high-profile performances: the presidential inauguration, the Super Bowl and the Academy Awards.
And as the year winds to a close, she shows no signs of slowing down, conquering all aspects of media. Television? She dropped in on NBC’s “Smash” for a multi-episode arc. Music? She just released her new single “I Can’t Describe” from her upcoming third studio album. And movies? Hudson has no fewer than three this year, with her long-gestating Winnie Mandela biopic “Winnie” released in September, followed by “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete,” and the upcoming “Black Nativity.”
It’s the latter film that marks Hudson’s first movie musical since her 2006 film debut in “Dreamgirls,” which went on to win Hudson an Academy Award for supporting actress. She admits that after the success of that film, many movie musicals came courting. “But I was always ‘No, no, not now,’” she says. “And I don’t want to be typecast, because this industry is quick to box you in and say, ‘OK, everything you do should be a musical.’ So I’m very selective.”
But there was something about the message of holidays and family in “Black Nativity” that persuaded Hudson. A modern retelling of the Nativity story with an all-black cast, “Black Nativity” is based on Langston Hughes’ acclaimed play, which made its Broadway debut in 1961. Hudson plays the single mother of a troubled teen (Jacob Latimore) who is sent to spend the holidays with his grandparents, played by Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett.
“What made me want to do ‘Black Nativity’ was the fact I felt it had something that is missing in a lot of films today,” Hudson continues. “It’s a family-oriented film and it’s based around the holidays. These are two things that I love.”
Of course, not every movie musical hits — for every “Dreamgirls,” there’s a “Nine.” Hudson credits it all to timing. “I don’t know if there’s a certain formula or what,” she muses. “Everything has a season and a time. ‘Dreamgirls’ had a certain kind of magic about it. Though I had no idea what was being created at the time and what I was a part of. Now I look back and can’t get over I had this amazing moment in time. I can only hope ‘Black Nativity’ has the same kind of effect on people.”
Though Hudson is closely associated with filmed musicals, she admits, “To be honest, I am not the biggest musical movie fan. I don’t know how I ended up in the world of it.”
Asked to name her favorite movie musicals, and she veers away from Broadway adaptations. “I like movies like ‘Selena’ and I love ‘Sister Act,’ and obviously, ‘The Bodyguard.’ But I don’t even know if those are considered musicals, they’re more films with an element of music in them.”
With a stage version of “The Bodyguard” playing in London’s West End with an eye on Broadway, it seems like this might be the perfect opportunity for Hudson to make her debut on the Great White Way. Has anyone approached her about taking on the role made famous by Whitney Houston? “Wow, no. Not yet,” she says. “But theater is a whole other beast. That’s a huge commitment, being in the theater world, so give me a little more time for that. Just a little more.”
But Hudson says Broadway is “definitely” in her future. “I absolutely want to do that. But again, it’s all about timing. Theater is very stationary and I’m used to being able to travel around. So I’m not ready yet, but I’m gearing up for it. It’s coming.”
In the meantime, Hudson clearly has a packed schedule. “I’m in the season of music right now. I’m currently working on my album; it’s a more upbeat and groovy kind of album, I would say,” she notes of the still-untitled album that features collaborations with Pharrell, Timbaland, and Diane Warren. “I feel like I’m getting to explore and experiment as a musician and I want to Jennifer-ize everybody.”
She will step out of the recording booth long enough to attend the Walk of Fame ceremony. And she’s still recovering from the news that she’s being honored. “I was so surprised — I still am, actually,” she says with a laugh. “Like, ‘Is this really happening?’ This is for legends. It’s something you hear about and you dream about and now it’s happening to me.”
What: Jennifer Hudson receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
When: 11:30 a.m.
Where: 6262 Hollywood Blvd.