The London actress Naomi Ackie has been cast in the lead role in the Whitney Houston biopic I Wanna Dance With Somebody after a worldwide search by Sony TriStar Pictures.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, director Stella Meghie said: “We spent the better part of the last year in an exhaustive search for an actress who could embody Whitney Houston. Naomi Ackie impressed us at every stage of the process. I was moved by her ability to capture the stage presence of a global icon while bringing humanity to her interior life.”
Ackie, 28, won the BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress in August for her role in hit Channel 4 and Netflix black comedy drama The End of the F***ing World, while she also starred in Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker and appeared in BBC One’s Small Axe on Sunday.
I Wanna Dance With Somebody has the backing of Whitney Houston’s estate and legendary music producer Clive Davis and it will make use of the singer’s back catalogue, including her vocals.
Davis said: “Naomi Ackie’s screen test was so powerful, it sent shivers up my spine. Although Whitney’s incomparable vocals are used for all the songs, Naomi’s extraordinary acting range enables her to masterfully capture Whitney’s unique charm, star power, and, of course, her personal struggles. Naomi is the real deal and I can’t imagine a better choice for this iconic role.”
Whitney Houston’s former manager and sister-in-law Pat Houston said: “To transform someone into a matchless icon is virtually impossible. But with careful consideration, Naomi Ackie was selected based on her quality performances and her deep commitment to emerging into the woman that we all loved. We look forward to taking this journey with her.”
Whitney Houston is one of the biggest-selling artists of modern times, with more than 200 million records sold, including global hits such as I Will Always Love You, How Will I Know and, or course, I Wanna Dance With Somebody.
She battled drug addiction for years and drowned in a bathtub in 2012 at the age of 48.