Naomi Ackie
PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 02: Naomi Ackie wearing Stella McCartney trench coat, navy shirt green stilettos and baby blue leather bag outside Stella McCartney during Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Fall/Winter 2020/2021 Day Eight on March 02, 2020 in Paris, France. (Photo by Hanna Lassen/Getty Images) Photo by Hanna Lassen/Getty Images


  • Naomi Ackie revealed that most of the singing in the film is Whitney Houston rather than herself
  • The film director said she was impressed by Ackie's singing skills when she auditioned for the role
  • Chadwick Boseman, Andra Day and Austin Butler were among the stars who sang in their biopic projects

Naomi Ackie plays Whitney Houston in the biopic "Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody," but she doesn't actually sing most of the songs featured in the film.

The biographical musical film, which hits the big screen before Christmas Day, will explore the life and career of Houston, who died at age 48 in February 2012, and feature some of her greatest hits.

Ahead of the biopic's release, Ackie opened up to People about playing the late singer.

The "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" star, 30, clarified that while she did "a lot of rehearsal" for the biopic's musical numbers, most of the songs moviegoers will hear in the flick will feature Houston's voice.

"My singing voice was only for moments that needed to be filled, like an emotional beat," Ackie said. "So that's why the beginning singing in the gospel choirs was me and then you hear this change so that we know it's Whitney."

"Because we don't have Whitney with us, there is a kind of request from the audience to suspend their disbelief for the duration of the film," she continued.

Although the actress does not actually sing most of the film's musical numbers, the biopic's director Kasi Lemmons told People that she was blown away upon hearing Ackie sing during her audition.

After seeing Ackie's "brilliant" screen test, the filmmaker immediately realized that having her on board would allow the film to have "possibilities."

"She was just so good," Lemmons said of the actress. "She sang in the screen test and she sang the same range as Whitney, and I thought, 'Oh, this allows for some interesting film possibilities.'"

During an interview with USA Today, Clive Davis, who serves as one of the film's producers alongside Houston's manager and sister-in-law Pat Houston, said he was impressed by how Ackie could perfectly capture the late singer's persona.

Still, they decided to use Houston's voice because they doubted someone could ever capture the late icon's vocal genius.

"Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody" also stars Ashton Sanders as Bobby Brown and Stanley Tucci as Davis.

Ackie is no stranger to musicals as she was part of several stage plays. Before landing Houston's role, she appeared in "Success," "The Day the Waters Came," "The Snow Queen," "Life Mould," "Missing," "Billy the Girl," "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King," "Walking the Tightrope" and "Solace of the Road."

Several musical biopics have allowed their lead stars to sing parts of their characters' songs, including Austin Butler in "Elvis," Joaquin Phoenix in "Walk the Line," Taron Egerton in "Rocketman," Andrew Garfield in "Tick Tick... Boom!" and Diana Ross in "Lady Sings The Blues."

Whitney Houston, seen here in Las Vegas in 2004, is seen as one of the greatest voices of the last 30 years
Whitney Houston, seen here in Las Vegas in 2004, is seen as one of the greatest voices of the last 30 years Getty Images North America / Kevin Winter