She proved she has the voice of an angel, the moves like Prince and the face of a CoverGirl model, now Janelle Monée is taking her talents to the big screen in her role as Mary Jackson in the upcoming film Hidden Figures, in theaters January 2017.
Speaking to PEOPLE at Essence Fest where the trailer for the film was premiered, Monée dished on her past acting experience and how she prepared for her role.
“I studied acting all throughout high school then I studied it after high school as well. It was just a matter of time and it needed to be the right role and I just felt like this is the right role,” Monée tells PEOPLE. “I instantly connected with her story as a young black woman who wants justice when there is injustice and discrimination.”
Monée, 30, will be joining Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Kevin Costner in telling the story of the three African American female mathematicians who helped NASA win the Space Race and become the first Americans to orbit the earth.
The groundbreaking true story is often left out of history, which is one of the reasons why Monée was drawn to the film.
“This is the time when young girls are finally going to hear about a story that was hidden from them and be really moved and inspired,” Monée says. “Whatever empowering story we haven’t heard in the black community, it’s time to hear it. This is one of them.”
The role of Mary Jackson was not an easy one for the singer’s big screen debut. Monée says she had to study with a mathematician, learn about orbiting and do equations to connect with her character. However, she credits her seasoned cast for helping her master the role.
“Kevin Costner, I learned so much from him just watching him. Everybody I worked with, it just felt like family and it was the right thing to do. It’s supposed to be happening. I’m supposed to be here,” Monée tells PEOPLE.