“It definitely wasn’t easy,” admits Jennifer Hudson as we chat via webcam (watch the exclusive video above) about her role in “Hairspray Live!” Based on the Tony Award-winning musical (itself adapted from the 1988 John Waters cult classic), this NBC production centers on Tracy Turnblad (Maddie Baillio), an overweight teen living in 1960s Baltimore who dreams of starring on a hit TV dance show. Hudson plays Motormouth Maybelle, a record store owner who hopes to integrate the all-white cast. “Hairspray” is the latest Broadway show to be given a live television event, and the ensemble cast included Harvey Fierstein, Martin Short, Kristen Chenoweth, Andrea Martin, and Sean Hayes.
While it was intimidating enough trying filling the shoes of “all of those great actresses that portrayed the role” — including Mary Bond David, Queen Latifah, Darlene Love, and Jenifer Lewis — Hudson was also nervous because of, “the weight that Motormouth carries. She carries the message in the story, but in such a short width of time.” It was important to her, therefore, to figure out, “how do we capture this, and deliver the message, in such a brief second?” Her big production number was the emotional tune “I Know Where I’ve Been.”
Hudson won the Oscar, Golden Globe, SAG, and BAFTA for her debut film “Dreamgirls” (2006). On the music side, she took home Grammys for Best R&B album for “Jennifer Hudson” (2009) and Best Musical Theater Album for “The Color Purple” (2017). Recently it was announced that Hudson will become a judge on the reality competition series “The Voice” next season.
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