Entertainment

Is Naomi Ackie Singing in I Wanna Dance With Somebody ? Here’s What to Know

whitney houston, naomi ackie

whitney houston, naomi ackie

CTMG/Emily Aragones

Naomi Ackie is taking on the role of a lifetime as she plays Whitney Houston in Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody.

From director Kasi Lemmons, the biographical musical film follows the life and career of the late Houston, who died at age 48 in February 2012 and is largely regarded as one of the greatest singers of all time.

As shown in the trailer, the film documents pivotal moments in Houston’s life, including her relationship with Bobby Brown (Ashton Sanders) and signing a record deal with Clive Davis (Stanley Tucci), who also serves as one of the film’s producers alongside Houston’s manager and sister-in-law, Pat Houston.

The film also recreates some of Houston’s most iconic musical moments, from her music videos to live performances.

As Houston was nicknamed “The Voice” during her career, Ackie certainly had big shoes to fill as she stepped into the role of the late singer. While Ackie told PEOPLE she did “a lot of rehearsal” for the big musical numbers, ultimately, most of the singing you hear in the film is Houston herself.

RELATED: See Naomi Ackie Become Whitney Houston in ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody’ Trailer, First Photos

“My singing voice was only for moments that needed to be filled, like an emotional beat,” she explained to PEOPLE. “So that’s why the beginning singing in the gospel choirs was me and then you hear this change so that we know it’s Whitney. Because we don’t have Whitney with us, there is a kind of request from the audience to suspend their disbelief for the duration of the film.”

Naomi Ackie in TRISTAR pictures I WANNA DANCE WITH SOMEBODY; Mandatory Credit: Photo by Mark J Terrill/AP/Shutterstock (10953013a) Whitney Houston performs during the 21st American Music Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on . Houston, who died in 2012, is nominated for a 2020 Billboard Music Award for top dance/electronic song for "Higher Love," her platinum collaboration with Norwegian DJ-producer Kygo. She originally released a cover of Steve Winwood's "Higher Love" as a Japan-only bonus track on her 1990 album "I'm Your Baby Tonight," but Kygo's dance remix of the song became an international hit after it was released last year Music-Billboard Awards, Los Angeles, United States - 07 Feb 1994

Naomi Ackie in TRISTAR pictures I WANNA DANCE WITH SOMEBODY; Mandatory Credit: Photo by Mark J Terrill/AP/Shutterstock (10953013a) Whitney Houston performs during the 21st American Music Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on . Houston, who died in 2012, is nominated for a 2020 Billboard Music Award for top dance/electronic song for “Higher Love,” her platinum collaboration with Norwegian DJ-producer Kygo. She originally released a cover of Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love” as a Japan-only bonus track on her 1990 album “I’m Your Baby Tonight,” but Kygo’s dance remix of the song became an international hit after it was released last year Music-Billboard Awards, Los Angeles, United States – 07 Feb 1994

Emily Aragones/TRISTAR; Mark J Terrill/AP/Shutterstock

Despite not actually singing most of the film’s musical numbers, director Lemmons told PEOPLE she was blown away by Ackie’s voice during her audition.

“I was compelled by the idea of doing the movie because I had known [Houston] and because of how I felt about her, but Naomi made it an easy ‘Yes,’ because her screen test was brilliant,” she said.

“She was just so good,” she continued. “She sang in the screen test and she sang the same range as Whitney, and I thought, ‘Oh, this allows for some interesting film possibilities.’ “

Davis echoed those same sentiments while discussing the film with USA Today. “We were very impressed that Whitney’s persona was being captured,” he said of Ackie’s audition, adding, “the [singing] voice, of course, will be Whitney’s. When it came to Whitney, we just didn’t think anyone could capture her vocal genius, so it will be the Whitney voice in the film.”

PEOPLE’s special edition all about the life an unrivaled career of Whitney Houston is available now.

Whitney Houston special cover

Whitney Houston special cover


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