Jennifer Hudson shares struggle of portraying Winnie Mandela in new film

SHARE Jennifer Hudson shares struggle of portraying Winnie Mandela in new film

Jennifer Hudson in the title role of “Winnie Mandela,” opening Friday.

Chicago native Jennifer Hudson has one heck of a busy fall. The Grammy and Oscar winner  will soon release a new album and has three new films coming out  —  “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete,” “Black Nativity,” and “Winnie Mandela, opening Friday.

In a recent chat about tackling the role of iconic ex-South African president Nelson Mandela’s controversial former wife, Hudson talked about the enormous challenges that faced her in making that film.

Q: I’m sure there were many challenges to playing Winnie Mandela, but what was the toughest ones for you?

A: If anything, the thing that I was most intimidated by was the accent. When I was first considering the role, others were concerned about the physical demands of the role, and I was like, ‘I’m not concerned with the physical issues. I’m concerned about the accent!’

Also, taking on such a huge personality — someone who is still alive — someone like Winnie Mandela — that was just incredibly overwhelming. Especially, after I got to Africa and met people who made me realize just how influential she was. She was like a treasure to so many.

Q: Have you had the opportunity to meet her?

A: No. I have not had a chance to meet her — yet.

Q: If you could — or when you do — what would you like to ask her about her life?

A: I would just love to be in her presence and then hear her tell her story. I’d like that more than anything. I can’t think of one particular question, because she’s a true, true fighter. People like that — you just want to get inside their head, and just listen to what they say.

Q: What about meeting President Mandela?

A: Oh, my God! I probably wouldn’t be able to get anything out of my mouth! I’d be so overwhelmed.

Q: What did you learn about Africa while you were filming “Winnie Mandela”?

A: To know this is the motherland — this is Africa. To learn the culture was amazing. To perfect my accent [as Winnie Mandela] I had dialect coaches and one of the girls that I worked with made a big impression on me. She was fun to travel with. She was younger than me, but she seemed so much wiser and mature. To grow up there — compared to where I grew up on the South Side of Chicago — you realize they just mature faster than we do, because they have to overcome so much.

Q: Terrence Howard plays Nelson Mandela. What’s your favorite memory of working with him?

A: Terrence, first of all, is an amazing actor. The one thing I’ll never forget is him always talking to me in that South African accent — in his ‘Mandela voice.’ He would come to my trailer, playing his guitar and singing songs — but always and only in his Mandela accent!

Q: In the film, you portray Winnie Mandela as she went through many months of solitary confinement in prison. That must have been tough physically.

A: It was definitely very, very, very draining a lot of time. When we were doing it, I said, ‘Wow! I’m telling this amazing story — their story -— and they survived it.’ I wanted to get across what they went through. When I did those solitary confinement scenes, I asked that we do them all back-to-back-to-back — because I wanted to feel as overwhelmed as possible.

In those four days I was drained and overwhelmed, but it helped build the character — to give me just a small peek at what she went through. That was four days — she was confined for so much longer. Imagine the strength it took to survive that.

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