Jennifer Hudson Says Aretha Franklin Is 'Still with' Her 'Almost Every Day' After 'Respect' Role

"Sometimes, while taking pictures with someone, I'm like, 'Oh wow, I'm smiling like Aretha,'" Jennifer Hudson tells Variety of one thing that has stayed with her from the late soul legend

jennifer hudson, aretha franklin
Jennifer Hudson (L); Aretha Franklin. Photo: Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic; Michael Stewart/WireImage

Jennifer Hudson may be finished portraying Aretha Franklin for her biopic Respect, but the Queen of Soul is never far from her mind.

In a new cover story for Variety, the 39-year-old Grammy and Academy Award winner says Franklin is "still with me, almost every day in some way."

"Sometimes, while taking pictures with someone, I'm like, 'Oh wow, I'm smiling like Aretha,' " Hudson said about her experiences. "Or, 'That response was more Aretha-like.'"

"You identify little things like that in yourself that are still there," she continued.

According to the star, Franklin's influence has even bled into her fashion sense — and enhanced her musical ability!

Jennifer Hudson Variety cover
Jennifer Hudson (L) and Carole King for Variety. Matt Sayles for Variety (Jennifer Hudson); Kirsten Shultz for Variety (Carole King)

"A lot of my own personal wardrobe now is things that resemble things that she would wear — a lot of fluffy, furry little jackets with leopard prints and things like that that helped me embody her character at times," Hudson said.

"And I still do the piano [after learning it for the film]. I'm still trying to master it. Guess what? The song I can play the best, so far, is 'Natural Woman.' I'm going to do it for you one day," she added.

Hudson went on to reveal that while filming Respect, "what was most important" to her "was holding onto [Franklin's] faith" and "her gospel roots, which are mine also."

She explained, "We needed to open up the doors of the church, as we say. Even as you listen to the different songs in the film, yes, other genres were a part of her background, but the base was always the gospel. And so I just wanted to tie up the bookends."

RELATED VIDEO: Jennifer Hudson Talks Playing Aretha Franklin as Trailer for Respect Drops: "A Dream Come True"

Hudson previously opened up to InStyle for the magazine's August cover story, in which she reflected on how relating to Franklin's life story — specifically, "as a person who has suffered a lot of loss" — helped her portray the late soul legend. (Franklin died in 2018 of pancreatic cancer at age 76.)

While the star didn't touch on specifics, there are scenes in Respect that deal heavily with grief and pain, including the death of Franklin's mother Barbara (Audra McDonald) and the singer's abusive relationship with her first husband, Ted White (Marlon Wayans).

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For Hudson, personal losses have included that of her mother Darnell Donerson and brother Jason, who were found fatally shot in 2008, inside the house she grew up in on Chicago's South Side.

"In that moment, it clicked with me like, 'Is this what she saw in me?'" the American Idol alum said of her musings about why Franklin wanted her on board. "Because we parallel in so many ways through our life stories and the things we've been through and experienced."

Respect premieres in theaters Aug. 13, with the soundtrack being released on the same day.

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