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Director Kasi Lemmons says she knew Naomi Ackie would “be incredible” playing Whitney Houston in biopic

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Sony Pictures

Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody is in theaters, taking an honest and intimate look at Houston’s rise to fame and her eventual fall from grace. It’s one of many biopics on the late star, but the only one her estate approved. They selected Naomi Ackie to play the star, and director Kasi Lemmons says she believed Ackie would deliver for the role.

“Well, I saw her screen test. And I knew that she had been chosen by the estate, because they saw something in her after a rigorous search for who was going to play Whitney,” Lemmons tells ABC Audio. “And I knew that not only would she be incredible playing the role, but I would enjoy working with her.” Lemmons says she connected with Ackie, and knew they’d take care of and support each other through the “daunting” process. “You know, it’s daunting to try and kind of recreate something like that with authenticity and artistry and to make it this really powerful tribute.”

Also cast in the film was Nafessa Williams, who portrays Houston’s former assistant Robyn Crawford, who insisted in her book, A Song For You: My Life With Whitney Houston, that she and the singer also had a romantic relationship. Williams says the couple’s bond was based on love.

“That’s all it was, they loved each other, they adored each other, they respected each other, they were very loyal to each other,” Williams says. “And I think Robyn was just a real stand-up person, like, she had pure intentions for Whitney. She liked to have fun, she played her position really, really well and supported Whitney.”

She hopes that Robyn “is pleased with my performance and how I portrayed her” in the film.

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