Jennifer Hudson has appeared on the big screen and performed live on a Broadway stage and on “American Idol” — but none of that compared to her experience doing NBC’s musical event, “Hairspray Live!”
“With a live production on television, it didn’t dawn on me until I literally was getting ready to step out on stage, and I’m like, ‘Oh, my God, this is the most exciting thing I’ve ever done in my career — and the scariest,'” the Oscar winner for “Dreamgirls” told TheWrap.
Hudson starred as Motormouth Maybelle in the production alongside Kristin Chenoweth, Ariana Grande, Harvey Fierstein, Andrea Martin and Dove Cameron. And although Queen Latifah paved the road for the character of Motormouth in the 2007 film “Hairspray,” Hudson said she didn’t know who her iteration of the character would be until she walked out on stage.
“I didn’t even know exactly what she was going to be or who she was until that cue to walk out into the record shop,” she added. “I found myself backstage like, ‘OK, snap into it. You are no longer Jennifer — you are Motormouth.'”
And Hudson had no idea whether she killed it or not — which, of course, she did (one of her scenes was the most talked-about moment on social media during the event) — until two or three weeks later, when she had the chance to watch the production for the first time.
“I would see little clips of it and I would hear people talk about it, but I don’t know what I did,” she said. “When I got to the very end, I was like, ‘Wait, I made it through it?’ This is almost over? That wasn’t so bad.'”
Without question, the most powerful moment for Hudson was when she performed “I Know Where I’ve Been” during the NBC musical. Hudson herself said the song carried a lot of weight and was very emotional for her.
“When I started working with the directors [Kenny Leon and Alex Rudzinski], I told them, ‘I don’t want this to be just a song,'” she said. “It’s the arc of the story that ties everything together. My fellow cast members were in tears and I remember not being able to look at them dead in the eye because it would’ve had me too emotional. It’s such an important moment that it’s good to have emotions in it but not let it overcome me.”
She added, “Every time throughout rehearsals, the way I performed the song was always different. I told the director, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen in the moment.’ How I’m affected… it surprised me every time.”
Watch the video above.