Whitney Houston, one of the most iconic and successful musical artists of all time, passed away at the age of 48 in February 2012, leaving behind a music, film, and TV legacy like none other. Ten years after her tragic death, the late singer is getting the biographical drama treatment with Kasi Lemmon’s star-studded I Wanna Dance with Somebody, which charts Houston’s life and career, as well as the highest of highs and lowest of lows in a film that is receiving a mixed response from critics.
If you have watched the latest Hollywood biopic, or are planning to do so over the holidays, you will probably want to know who is appearing in the I Wanna Dance with Somebody cast and why the actors, specifically Naomi Ackie, look so familiar. Well, you’ve come to the right place, because we’re about to break down the 2022 movie’s cast right now.
Naomi Ackie (Whitney Houston)
The Whitney Houston biopic continues a long line of high-profile roles portrayed by Ackie, who has popped up in massive blockbusters like Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and TV shows like The End of the F***ing World and Steve McQueen’s Amazon anthology series Small Axe. Ackie landed one of her biggest roles yet in the third season of Aziz Ansari’s Netflix dramedy series Master of None, which carried the subtitle Moments in Love in 2021. And just like every other British actor and actress who later came to prominence, Ackie also appeared on Doctor Who at one point very early in her career, taking on the role of Jen in a 2015 episode titled “Face the Raven.”
Stanley Tucci (Clive Davis)
Stanley Tucci takes on the role of record producer Clive Davis in I Wanna Dance with Somebody, a performance the actor told Entertainment Tonight was made little easier thanks to input from the man who discovered Whitney Houston.
Tucci, who has more amazing movie performances than just about anyone, has done a little bit of everything over the years. From playing a dimwitted henchman in Beethoven to lovable side characters next to Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada and Julia & Julia, it’s hard to avoid the two-time Golden Globe winner (Winchell and Conspiracy). Tucci, who is also something of a chef himself, has also had memorable roles in films like Big Night, Lucky Number Slevin, and Spotlight, as well as massive blockbusters like Captain America: The First Avenger, The Hunger Games franchise, and various Transformers movies.
Ashton Sanders (Bobby Brown)
It would be impossible to tell the Whitney Houston story without including her former husband and one of the pioneers of new jack swing, Bobby Brown, but luckily we don’t have to worry about that because Ashton Sanders portrays the New Edition founder in the I Wanna Dance with Somebody cast.
Although not his first role, Sanders rose to prominence in 2016 with his portrayal of the teenage version of Chiron in Barry Jenkins’ Academy Award-winning coming-of-age drama Moonlight. In the years since then, Sanders has appeared in movies like Native Son, Captive State, and Judas and the Black Messiah. And Bobby Brown isn’t the first legendary music figure Sanders has portrayed, as he plays RZA on the Hulu original series Wu-Tang: An American Saga.
Tamara Tunie (Cissy Houston)
The I Wanna Dance with Somebody cast also includes Tamara Tunie, who takes on the role of Whitney Houston’s mother, Cissy Houston, a notable and extremely talented singer who performed with the likes of Aretha Franklin and Elvis Presley throughout her career.
Fans of crime procedurals like Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and NYPD Blue, will recognize Tunie from roles like Dr. Melinda Warner and Lillian Fancy, respectively. Over the years, Tunie has also appeared on episodes of Chicago Fire, Blue Bloods, Better Call Saul, See, and the long-running soap opera, As the World Turns, on which she portrayed Jessica Griffin for more than 20 years.
Prior to appearing in I Wanna Dance with Somebody, Tunie’s film credits included movies like Wall Street, The Peacemaker, Snake Eyes, and the 2012 Denzel Washington drama Flight, to name only a few.
Nafessa Williams (Robyn Crawford)
Appearing in I Wanna Dance with Somebody as Whitney Houston’s longtime best friend Robyn Crawford is Nafessa Williams, who recently touched upon the careful way she depicted Crawford and her intimate relationship with Houston in an interview with CinemaBlend.
Interestingly enough, this isn’t the first time Williams has appeared in a Whitney Houston biopic, as she portrayed a different character in the Angela Bassett-directed Whitney, which premiered on Lifetime in January 2015. Williams has previously appeared on shows like Black Lightning, Code Black, The Bold and the Beautiful, and the 2017 Twin Peaks revival on the small screen. Her film appearances include True to the Game, Brotherly Love, Black and Blue, and The Man in 3B.
Clarke Peters (John Houston)
Last, but certainly not least for the I Wanna Dance with Somebody cast is Clarke Peters, who takes on the role of Whitney Houston’s father, John Houston.
To some, Peters is best known for his time on The Wire, on which he portrayed Lester Freamon, aka one of the best characters on David Simon’s sprawling Baltimore-based crime saga. Peters would also work with Simon again on Treme a couple of years after The Wire came to an end. Since then, Peters has appeared in movies like Da 5 Bloods, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, as well as shows like His Dark Materials, Love Is, Foundation, and the 2022 small-screen adaptation of The Man Who Fell to Earth.
Hopefully, this helps you make sense of the I Wanna Dance with Somebody cast and figure out why the actors look so familiar in the latest music-based biographical drama.
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Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop barking at the mailman, or chatting about professional wrestling to his wife. Writing gigs with school newspapers, multiple daily newspapers, and other varied job experiences led him to this point where he actually gets to write about movies, shows, wrestling, and documentaries (which is a huge win in his eyes). If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.