Jennifer Hudson Says She Hopes to Make Aretha Franklin 'Proud' in Playing Her Idol in 'Respect'

"I just hope I make her proud [and] do her justice," Jennifer Hudson said about playing Aretha Franklin in the upcoming story of the late legend's life

Jennifer Hudson has more than enough respect for her idol Aretha Franklin.

The Cats star, 38, is currently working on the 2020 biopic Respect, for which she takes on the lead role as the late Queen of Soul. Opening up to Willie Geist of Sunday Today, Hudson says she’s very much aware of the significance of the story, which she intends to handle with reverence.

“Those are huge shoes to fill,” she said in the interview clip, exclusive to PEOPLE.

She continued: “I am just taking it one step at a time, one day at a time. All I want to do is pay tribute to her and meet her requests, you know? Like, ‘Aretha said do this?’ — ‘Yes, ma’am.'”

After years of development to bring the project together, Hudson said she simply wants to get it right and honor Franklin, who died in August 2018 at age 76 due to pancreatic cancer.

“We were in talks a long time about me playing her,” she added, “so I just hope I make her proud [and] do her justice.”

Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin and Marlon Wayans are seen filming Aretha Franklin Biopic on November 05, 2019 in New York City
Jennifer Hudson.

While Hudson’s role as Franklin was announced last year, in 2016, Franklin told PEOPLE that she had already approved of who was going to portray her on-screen.

“I’ve talked to the person that is going to play me,” she said. “I’m not going to say who I chose, but I’ve talked to her and she’s ready and I’m happy with her.”

In a separate project, Golden Globe nominee Cynthia Erivo will play Franklin for a season of National Geographic’s Genius anthology series.

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Aretha Franklin at the apollo
Aretha Franklin. Mychal Watts/WireImage

Last month, Hudson was spotted filming the movie in New York City. In the set photos, the Dreamgirls actress got into character wearing a retro-style bun paired with an over-sized tweed coat and elaborate earrings, as she walked the streets beside costar Marlon Wayans, who plays Franklin’s first husband, Ted White.

Wayans, 47, looked the part dressed in a plaid coat, gray suit and a classic feathered-fedora hat. One of the on-set photos captured the pair taking a break from their walk to lock lips for a romantic scene.

Theater director Liesl Tommy will direct the upcoming film, which also stars Forest Whitaker, Audra McDonald, Mary J. Blige and Tituss Burgess.

Respect is slated for a theatrical release on Oct. 9, 2020.

Hudson’s full interview on Sunday TODAY with Willie Geist airs Sunday at 8 a.m. ET on NBC.

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