Tamara Tunie interview: ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’

“Music was a part of her life from the time she was a very young child,” says Tamara Tunie while discussing her portrayal of Cissy Houston in the Whitney Houston biopic “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” Cissy is a Grammy-winning gospel music legend, Whitney’s mother and the aunt of Dionne Warwick. “Her family was steeped in music. The family organically learned that this was a very talented group of siblings that then became quite famous gospel singers.”

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Tunie describes Cissy’s relationship with her daughter as “deeply loving.” She adds,”I was able to find some video footage of Cissy and Whitney that was in a hotel room after or before a concert. They were just being themselves. It was footage that Robyn Crawford had shot. What that really showed me, in that particular video, was that Whitney was her baby girl. She wished for a baby girl. Cissy had two sons and then she became pregnant again. She wished for a baby girl and her dream was fulfilled with Whitney. And then for Whitney to be so extraordinarily talented — and Cissy being able to share her knowledge, her talents, her gifts with her daughter. Guide her, mentor her, but also watch, in Whitney, the dream realized, professionally, that Cissy never realized.”

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There were aspects of Cissy’s personality that Tunie was able to harness from her own mother. “It’s Black mama humor!” she exclaims. “It’s Black mama bein’ real. Black mamas don’t play! I’ve had so much response to the film. Friends, family and people on social media responding to my performance and they’re like, ‘Oh my God, some of the looks that you as Cissy give Whitney remind me of my own mama.’ It’s great to bring that level of authenticity that makes people laugh. That’s why it’s funny, because people recognize it.”

Tunie won a Tony Award as a producer for “Spring Awakening” on Broadway in 2007. She is perhaps most famous for appearing in more than 200 episodes of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” as medical examiner Dr. Melinda Warner.

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UPLOADED Jan 9, 2023 10:19 am