Meet the Rising Star Tapped to Play Whitney Houston in Her Official Biopic

Producers Clive Davis and Pat Houston, who is Whitney Houston's sister-in-law, have found the "powerful" actress to play Whitney in the 2022 film about her life, I Wanna Dance With Somebody.

By Lindsay Weinberg Dec 15, 2020 11:21 PMTags
Watch: Remembering Whitney Houston 9 Years Later: E! News Rewind

Naomi Ackie must've found a "Higher Love," because she's just been chosen to play Whitney Houston in the late singer's official biopic. 

Sony Pictures confirms to E! News that Naomi is in negotiations to star in its musical movie of Whitney's life, titled I Wanna Dance With Somebody.

The 28-year-old actress already has some big credits under her belt. Naomi appeared in the 2019 film Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker as Jannah and was originally cast in the Game of Thrones prequel alongside Naomi Watts before it was scrapped.

This year, she won a BAFTA Award for portraying Bonnie in Netflix's show The End Of The F***Ing World.

Director Stella Meghie said the creative team spent most of the past year in "an exhaustive search" for an actress that could best embody Whitney Houston. The Photograph helmer said, "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." 

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Whitney Houston's Highs & Lows

Whitney's manager and sister-in-law, Pat Houston, gave the casting her greenlight, too. "All Whitney fans have an appetite for perfection when it comes to Whitney and her Legacy," the film's producer said in a statement. "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." 

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I Wanna Dance With Somebody is additionally produced by musical legend Clive Davis, who sang Naomi's praises. The 88-year-old said, "Naomi Ackie's screen test was so powerful, it sent shivers up my spine."

Clive explained that Whitney's "incomparable vocals" are used for all the songs, but it's Naomi's "extraordinary acting range" that "enables her to masterfully capture Whitney's unique charm, star power and, of course, her personal struggles." He added, "Naomi is the real deal and I can't imagine a better choice for this iconic role."

Kevin Mazur/AMA2009/WireImage

The film is written by Bohemian Rhapsody's Anthony McCarten and will be released for Thanksgiving in 2022.

Whitney died in 2012 at age 48, following a record-breaking career in music. She was pronounced dead at the Beverly Hilton hotel the day before the Grammys, and her death was later attributed to accidental drowning combined with cocaine use.

The R&B master was nominated for 25 Grammys and won six of them, including for her songs "I Will Always Love You," "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" and "It's Not Right But It's Okay."

Her only daughter, Bobbi Kristina Browndied in 2015 at age 22. She was in a coma for nearly seven months after she was discovered unconscious in her home bathtub. 

Read more about Whitney's life and legacy here.

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