Who Is Playing Whitney Houston? - Naomi Ackie

Whitney Houston was an incomparable, chart-topping singer with a powerful voice and a vivacious presence. So finding someone to play the singer/actress required a worldwide search to find the perfect actress to bring her to life in the upcoming biopic I Wanna Dance with Somebody. But rather than finding an unknown star, it’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker co-star Naomi Ackie who has landed the lead role in the Sony/TriStar production coming to theaters in the fall of 2022.

The Hollywood Reporter has news on who is playing Whitney Houston with director Stella Meghie (The Photograph) singing the praises of the actress. The director said:

“We spent the better part of the last year in an exhaustive search for an actress who could embody Whitney Houston. Naomi Ackie impressed us at every stage of the process. I was moved by her ability to capture the stage presence of a global icon while bringing humanity to her interior life.”

Ackie only had a small role in The Rise of Skywalker, but before that she earned a BAFTA for her role in the Netflix series The End of the F***ing World, as well as the British shows Cleaning Up and The Bisexual. You can also see her in the Education installment of the Small Axe series of films on Amazon. She also recently starred in the Game of Thrones prequel pilot that didn’t get picked up by HBO.

The script for the Whitney Houston movie comes from Anthony McCarten, who previously wrote Bohemian Rhapsody. That’s not the only thing I Wanna Dance with Somebody will share with the Queen biopic, because just as Rami Malek didn’t actually sing any of tunes sung by Freddie Mercury, we won’t hear Naomi Ackie singing any of Whitney Houston’s signature songs either. Music producer Clive Davis said:

“Naomi Ackie’s screen test was so powerful, it sent shivers up my spine. Although Whitney’s incomparable vocals are used for all the songs, Naomi’s extraordinary acting range enables her to masterfully capture Whitney’s unique charm, star power, and, of course, her personal struggles. Naomi is the real deal and I can’t imagine a better choice for this iconic role.”

Much like Freddie Mercury from Queen, Whitney Houston had a unique voice that few would be able to imitate on the big screen while also delivering a stellar performance. In order to satisfy Houston’s millions of fans, it’s probably best to use the singer’s voice instead of having any actress try to match her powerful vocals.

Clive Davis will produce the movie through his Muse of Fire Productions along with Larry Mestel for Primary Wave Music, a partner of the Whitney Houston estate, which is also producing by way of Pat Houston, the singer’s long-time manager and sister-in-law. Denis O’Sullivan and Jeff Kalligheri will also produce while Nicole Brown, Shary Shirazi, and Brittany Morrissey will oversee the project for TriStar Pictures.

As of now, I Wanna Dance with Somebody is aiming for a Thanksgiving 2022 release.

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