Six years after “Moonlight” put him on the Hollywood map, Ashton Sanders faces the daunting task of portraying a real-life R&B icon and one-half of a legendary music power couple.
The actor returns to the big screen this month in “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” the hotly anticipated biopic of Whitney Houston. Naturally, much of the early buzz on the film has emphasized actor Naomi Ackie’s performance as Houston, who died in 2012.
Sanders co-stars as fellow musician Bobby Brown, who was married to Houston from 1992 to 2007. Appearing on “The Jennifer Hudson Show” Thursday, the actor said he auditioned for his role at director Kasi Lemons’ request but was nonetheless initially hesitant to sign on.
“I was pretty nervous to take on the part given, you know, everything it was going to be,” Sanders explained. He added that such fears were assuaged, thanks to the film’s creative team: “I think we really created something beautiful that will be nostalgic, well-respected and euphoric. It’s a beautiful film.”
Watch Sanders on “The Jennifer Hudson Show” below.
For most of their relationship, Brown and Houston faced intense scrutiny from the media, while both of their careers were marred by drug and alcohol abuse. According to Brown and numerous other sources, his former wife was also bisexual.
The trailer for “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” faithfully recreates some of Houston’s most memorable career triumphs, including her 1991 Super Bowl performance. However, whether the movie will shed insight into her private life remains to be seen.
Speaking to TMZ this week, Brown said the film’s screenwriter Anthony McCarten didn’t consult him and, therefore, can’t speak for Sanders’ performance. Sanders, however, is hopeful viewers will come away from the film with a “nuanced” view of Houston in terms of her marriage to Brown and beyond.
“[It was] really special to be working with Naomi Ackie, who absolutely kills it as Whitney Houston,” he said. “I was just there in support of her. A lot of people think of Bobby Brown when they think of Whitney Houston, as they do, but this is her actual life story. We wanted to show the real moments in her life.”