See How Naomi Ackie Mastered Whitney Houston's Voice and Movements for 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody'

Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody is on digital now and on Blu-ray and DVD Feb. 28

Naomi Ackie is giving an inside look into how she became Whitney Houston.

In a new behind-the-scenes featurette shared exclusively with PEOPLE, Ackie sheds light on the painstaking ways she mastered the movements and mannerisms of the late singer, as well as her voice, for the film Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody.

"There was many different elements: How do I prepare myself vocally, singing-wise? The accent work took about six months to get really comfortable with it," the British actress, 31, explains. "And how do I prepare myself physically? In terms of movement, I worked with my amazing friend and my movement coach, Polly Bennett, and we kind of split it all up."

Bennett also served as a movement coach on the recent Elvis film with Oscar nominee Austin Butler and 2018's Bohemian Rhapsody, which saw star Rami Malek win an Oscar for playing Queen singer Freddie Mercury.

"Everyone has certain cadences. Everyone has a sort of inner rhythm. And if you study it and practice it enough," Ackie explains, "the hope is that it comes out really naturally."

Naomi Ackie in Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody. Emily Aragones

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free weekly newsletter to get the biggest news of the week delivered to your inbox every Friday.

Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody is directed by Kasi Lemmons and features Houston's songs and vocals. Ackie recently told PEOPLE she hopes Houston would be a fan of the film — and that she'd, of course, be open to any notes from the icon.

"I would hope she would be like, 'Okay, Nai, you did a thing!' " said Ackie with a laugh. "Also, she might have loads of notes and I'd just be like, 'Great — let's do another one. Direct me and we can do it again.' "

The actress, known for roles in 2019's Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and Netflix's The End of the F***ing World, said her priority with the project was to portray Houston as a human being and capture her struggles with fame and addiction in a respectful way. (Houston died in 2012 of a drug-related accidental drowning when she was 48.)

Naomi Ackie attends Sony Pictures UK Gala Screening of WHITNEY HOUSTON: I WANNA DANCE WITH SOMEBODY at Ham Yard Hotel London on December 19, 2022 in London, England. In Cinemas From Boxing Day.
Dave J Hogan/Getty

"The thing about Whitney and people who are suffering from addiction is it's a reminder that it's an illness, that the person who is going through this is the victim of it," said Ackie. "Her life was extraordinary, but the things she was going through were things we all go through."

"Bringing her into a very human space and treating Whitney with the same compassion we would treat anyone else is really important," she continued, "because I think when it comes to the idea of celebrities and icons, sometimes we can be more unkind because our expectations of them are so high."

Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody is on digital now and on Blu-ray and DVD Feb. 28.

Related Articles