R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to Aretha Franklin in Respect, a biopic based on the life, legacy, and career of the late powerhouse singer. Starring Jennifer Hudson as the Queen of Soul, the first film from Tony-nominated director Liesl Tommy received mixed reviews, but many viewers agree that the Oscar winner gives an outstanding performance as the departed gospel singer. Additionally, critics are quick to praise the rest of this cast, which includes Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, Audra McDonald, Marc Maron, and more. If you're wondering where you've seen (or heard) this famous ensemble before, we're here to help! Here's where you recognize the Respect cast.
Jennifer Hudson (Aretha Franklin)
As Aretha Franklin, one of the most influential female vocalists of the 1960s, Jennifer Hudson plays the Queen of Soul in Respect. Most notably, Hudson is an Oscar-winning actress for her supporting turn in Dreamgirls, her acting debut. Before that, Hudson found her first brushes with fame when she competed in American Idol's third season, where she placed seventh. She would later star in Winnie Mandela, Black Nativity, and The Secret Life of Bees. Furthermore, Hudson can be seen in Sex and the City, Winged Creatures, The Three Stooges, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete, Chi-Raq, Sandy Wexler, Cats, Winged Creatures, and this year's Monster. She can also be heard in Sing.
Additionally, on television, Jennifer Hudson appeared in Smash, Empire, Inside Amy Schumer, NBC's Hairspray Live!, and HBO's Confirmation. She was also a coach on The Voice and The Voice U.K. Moreover, Hudson made her Broadway debut in The Color Purple. As a musician, furthermore, the actress won a Grammy for her self-titled 2008 album and another for The Color Purple. Next, Hudson will star in Tell It Like a Woman.
Forest Whitaker (C.L. Franklin)
In the role of C.L. Franklin, Aretha's father, Forest Whitaker plays the man with "the Million-Dollar Voice" in Liesel Tommy's Respect. Most notably, Whitaker won an Oscar for portraying Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. He's also the star of Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, Lee Daniels' The Butler, Bird, Vantage Point, Black Nativity, and, most recently, last year's Burden, City of Lies, and Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey.
Additionally, Forest Whitaker's other notable film credits include The Crying Game, Arrival, Bloodsport, Good Morning, Vietnam, The Color of Money, Street Kings, Where the Wild Things Are, Taken 3, Southpaw, The Last Stand, Phone Booth, Panic Room, Battlefield Earth, Black Panther, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, The Great Debaters, Platoon, and Out of the Furnace. He also directed First Daughter, Waiting to Exhale, and Hope Floats. Outside of film, Whitaker stars in Epix's Godfather of Harlem. He can also be seen in Empire, The Shield, ER, Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior, and Roots. Next, the award-winning actor will star in A Fall from Grace and Havoc, which is filming now.
Marlon Wayans (Ted White)
Playing the part of Ted White, the manager and first husband of Aretha Franklin, Marlon Wayans is a complicated figure in Respect. Through his time in In Living Color, Wayans continued to elevate his star status through his lead role in The WB's The Wayans Bros. From there, he starred in Senseless, Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, Scary Movie 1 and 2, White Chicks, and Little Man. — most of which he also co-wrote. Later, Wayans would co-write, produce and star in Dance Flick, A Haunted House 1 and 2, Fifty Shades of Black, and Netflix's Naked and Sextuplets.
Additionally, Marlon Wayans' other film credits include Dungeons & Dragons, The 6th Man, Mo' Money, I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, Above the Rim, The Ladykillers, Norbit, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, and The Heat. Also, he was praised for his dramatic turns in Requiem for a Dream and last year's On the Rocks. Additionally, on television, Wayans was also the creator and star of NBC's Marlon. Next, he'll be heard in Back Home Again.
Audra McDonald (Barbara Siggers Franklin)
As Barbara Siggers Franklin, Aretha's mother, Audra McDonald plays a maternal character in Liesel Tommy's Respect. Most notably, McDonald is a six-time Tony-winning actress and the only person to win in all four acting categories. Her award-winning performances were found in acclaimed productions of Carousel, Master Class, Ragtime, A Raisin in the Sun, Porgy and Bess, and Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill.
Additionally, on television, Audra McDonald won an Emmy for her hosting duties on Live from Lincoln Center. She also received Emmy nominations for her work in Wit, A Raisin in the Sun, and Lady Day at Merson's Bar and Grill. Furthermore, McDonald played Dr. Naomi Bennett in Private Practice and Liz Lawrence-Reddick in The Good Fight. Most recently, the award-winning actress starred in Spectrum Originals' The Bite.
Moreover, in film, Audra McDonald appeared in Ricki and the Flash, It Runs in the Family, Cradle Will Rock, The Object of My Affection, Seven Servants, Rampart, Hello Again, The Best Thief in the World, and Beauty and the Beast. Next, she will star in The Gilded Age.
Marc Maron (Jerry Wexler)
In the role of Jerry Wexler, an integral producer in Aretha Franklin's career, Marc Maron is a big-time mover and shaker in Respect. A veteran comedian and radio personality, Maron came into fame with his immensely popular podcast, WTF with Marc Maron, which forged an active acting career. Most notably, he's the creator and star of IFC's Maron and he played Sam Slyvia in Netflix's GLOW. His other TV credits include Easy, Louie, Girls, and Roadies. Additionally, Maron lent his voice to Harvey Beaks, Animals, The Simpsons, Adventure Time, Metalocalypse, The Life and Times of Tim, and Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist. Briefly, he was the host of VH1's Never Mind the Buzzcocks. Moreover, the comic has several specials, including 2020's Marc Maron: End Times Fun.
Additionally, Marc Maron's other film credits include Joker, Almost Famous, Sleepwalk with Me, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, Spenser Confidential, Flock of Dudes, Get a Job, Los Enchiladas!, and Stardust. He also starred in Sword of Trust. Next, Maron will be seen in To Leslie and heard in The Bad Guys.
Mary J. Blige (Dinah Washington)
Playing the part of Dinah Washington, one of the most popular black female recording artists of the 1950s, Mary J. Blige is the Queen of the Blues in Liesl Tommy's Respect. Most notably, Blige was Oscar-nominated for her supporting turn in Netflix's Mudbound. Her other film credits include Black Nativity, Rock of Ages, and Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself. Additionally, Blige starred in last year's Body Cam and The Violet Heart. Moreover, she appeared in MTV's Pink Skies Ahead earlier this year. Furthermore, as a voice actress, Blige was heard in Sherlock Gnomes and 2020's Trolls World Tour.
Additionally, on television, Mary J. Blige has a main role in Starz's Power Book II: Ghost. She also had a recurring role in VH1's Scream: Resurrection. Moreover, Blige can be seen in How to Get Away with Murder, The Umbrella Academy, Empire, 30 Rock, The Jamie Foxx Show, and Entourage. Next, she'll star in Netflix's Lost Ollie. Also, as a musician, Blige is a six-time Grammy winner who has sold over 100 million albums.
Tituss Burgess (James Cleveland)
As James Cleveland, the King of Gospel, Tituss Burgess plays a driving force in the musical genre as it sounds today in Respect. Most notably, Burgess is known for his multi-Emmy-nominated role as Titus Andromedon in Netflix's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. He's also a series regular on Apple TV+'s Central Park, for which he was also Emmy-nominated, and hosts Netflix's Sing On! The actor's other TV credits include Miracle Workers, The Good Fight, Royal Pains, Blue Bloods, 30 Rock, and A Gifted Man.
Away from TV, Tituss Burgess was seen in Dolemite Is My Name, Set It Up, Then Came You, Catfight, and I Hate Kids and heard in The Angry Birds Movie, Smurfs: The Lost Village, and The Addams Family (2019). Furthermore, on the stage, the actor performed in several Broadway productions, including Jersey Boys, Good Vibrations, The Little Mermaid, and Guys and Dolls. His other theater credits include The Wiz, A Wind in the Willows Christmas, and Into the Woods. Burgess was also heard in Grand Theft Auto V.
Skye Dakota Turner (Young Aretha Franklin)
In the role of a younger version of Aretha Franklin, Skye Dakota Turner has made her screen debut as the child lead in Liesel Tommy's Respect. Away from this film, the child actress was seen in The 93rd Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and appeared on Steve, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Tamron Hall, and Good Morning America.
Saycon Sengbloh (Erma Franklin)
Playing the part of Erma Franklin, Aretha's eldest sister, Saycon Sengbloh has a notable supporting role in Respect. On the stage, Sengbloh is a Tony-nominated actress for her performance in Danai Gurira's Eclipsed. Additionally, the actress is soon set to star in ABC's The Wonder Years. Her other television credits include The Night Of, In the Dark, Scandal, Dawson's Creek, Law & Order, The Good Wife, Ten Days in the Valley, The Passage, Songbyrd, and Deliah. Furthermore, Sengbloh's other film credits include Across the Universe, American Gangster, Funny Valentines, Ask for Jane, Double Play, and last year's A Shot Through the Wall. Also, the film and TV actress appeared in a handful of short films, including 1998's Kismet, 2008's 44, and 2012's Love & Squalor.
Hailey Kilgore (Carolyn Franklin)
As Carolyn Franklin, Aretha's younger sibling, Hailey Kilgore plays a sisterly character in Liesel Tommy's Respect. Most notably, the actress received a Tony nomination for her performance in Broadway's Once On This Island. Her other theater credits include Our Town, Ain't Misbehavin', and Into the Woods. Additionally, on television, Kilgore can be seen in episodes of The Village and Amazing Stories. Currently, the award-nominated actress appears in Starz's Power Book III: Raising Kanan. Respect is her first film credit.
Respect is in theaters now. Check out our 2021 movie premiere date schedule.
Will is an entertainment writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. His writing can also be found in The Playlist, Cut Print Film, We Got This Covered, The Young Folks, Slate and other outlets. He also co-hosts the weekly film/TV podcast Cinemaholics with Jon Negroni and he likes to think he's a professional Garfield enthusiast.
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