Respect hits theaters on Friday, August 13th, and anticipation for the large-scale biopic, of Aretha Franklin’s life, is high. From the fabulous furs Aretha was known to wear, to the songs that shifted the culture, and the talented ensemble cast – we have high hopes for the musical drama.
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The cast of Respect consists of extraordinary actors and actresses. Academy Award-winner singer-turned-actress Jennifer Hudson plays Aretha Franklin herself. If you’ve followed Jennifer’s career, you would know that it stands on the foundation of Aretha’s work. Jennifer has expressed many times how obsessed she is with Aretha Franklin and to play the Queen of Soul in a movie will probably be one of the highlights of her career. Also starring in Respect is Academy Award-winner Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, Audra McDonald, and Mary J. Blige to name a few. I got the exciting chance to chat with Marlon Wayans on his crucial role as Aretha’s first husband and manager, Ted White. As portrayed in the film, Ted White was an abusive and controlling man who wanted to dictate Aretha’s career – and this is a far cry from the comedic roles Marlon is known for playing.
Marlon began his acting career as a pedestrian in I’m Gonna Git You Sucka. From then, he worked alongside his brother Shawn Wayans on the popular 90’s sitcom, The Wayans Bros. After that, he went on to act in notable flicks such as White Chicks, Scary Movie, Scary Movie 2, and Little Man.
I don’t know Marlon Wayans personally but judging from his long-standing career and seemingly jovial personality, abusive and controlling are not two adjectives I would use to describe him. Therefore, I had to know what type of work he put in to prepare for a role that required him to exist in unfamiliar territory. “It was a lot of soul searching because we are so different,” said Marlon. “I’m not an abusive man. I’m not a jealous man. I’ve been loved by my parents, my brothers, and my sisters. I really don’t come from that world. So I had to create and imagine, and really understand why someone would hit a woman they love. And that’s because damage people damage people. He was insecure, and he was trying to be the man again. You can also see that he [Ted White] loved her, and his intention was to love her and see her be her greatest.”
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The conversation about Ted White’s character pushed us further into a discussion regarding his love for Black women. Marlon attributes his affinity and respect for sisters to the influence his mother had on him. “I have always been a respectful and protective man when it comes to my sisters, even my real sisters. I took care of my momma until her last breath. Any woman that has seen me with my momma said, ‘I need to be with him.’ I pick up my momma up, I grab her by the hand, put her in the car, get her out the car, take her to eat, read the menu for her because she couldn’t see good, order her food, wipe her mouth when we were done, pay the check, walk her to the house, grab her mail, kiss her forehead, and wait for her to go on her balcony and wave at me before I pulled off. So you’re talking about a person that has nothing but love and it always starts with your momma, your first love.”
With a lump in my throat attributed to Marlon’s vivid description of his love for his mother, I attempted to end the interview. But in true acting fashion, Marlon quickly transitioned from his heart-wrenching “momma’s boy” dialogue to a determined businessman and caught me just before I hit the leave button on our zoom call. “I got one more thing to say! I have a special coming out on HBO Max on August 19th called You Know What It Is. So go to the theaters on August 13th and see me in Respect. Then stay your behind home on August 19th and watch HBO Max You Know What It Is.”
Aretha was more than just an entertainer – she was an icon. Adept at her talents, she put many spirits at ease with the sound of her voice and the notes she struck on the piano. She carried our culture through the difficult times of the Civil Rights Movement with her relevant tunes. Her songs boosted women’s confidence while encouraging them to fully embrace their femininity. If “do you” was a person it would closely resemble Aretha. The Queen of Soul did things her way and lived life on her terms. She demanded respect, and respect is what she was handed.
Catch Respect in theaters on Friday, August 13.