Black Nativity, the highly anticipated movie musical inspired by Harlem Renaissance author Langston Hughes’ original stage musical of the same name, opens in theaters on Thanksgiving Day. The musical, which debuted off-Broadway in 1961 with an all-black cast, retells the traditional story of the Nativity. This year’s release is a modern twist on an iconic classic.
The film tells the story of Langston, portrayed by actor and R&B artist Jacob Latimore, a frustrated teen who travels from Baltimore to New York City to spend Christmas with his estranged grandparents, the Rev. Cornell and Aretha Cobbs, played by Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett respectively. His single-parent mother, Naima, played by Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, stays back home in Baltimore because of financial hardships. Unwilling to conform to his grandparents’ rules, Langston rebels. While trying to get back home, he finds himself on the path to discovering the true meaning of faith and forgiveness.
Directed and written by Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou), this uplifting holiday musical has no shortage of surprising, heartwarming musical performances from the film’s star-studded cast, which also includes Tyrese Gibson, Mary J. Blige and Nasir “Nas” Jones.
This is Hudson’s first musical movie since her 2006 Oscar-winning performance in Dreamgirls. The Root sat down with the multitalented Hudson, who recently received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Hudson talked about her love for acting, music and family and why she said yes when asked to join the cast of Black Nativity.
The Root: How was it working on a musical Christmas movie that has such a gospel influence, and how did you prepare?
Jennifer Hudson: I grew up singing in church and being in the choir. Back then they used to make me stand in the corner and just sing like you had done something wrong. I come from a singing background. Working on this film made me say, “Wow, I don’t think I ever seen anything like this before.”
The way we shot the film, I’m still trying to figure out how they put the musical aspect into just the script. It is like the songs were woven into the script. We literally went from lines to singing, but it still felt as though we were making a movie somehow. At times I would forget that it was a musical, but then it would be my turn to sing. It was so interesting.
TR: You have such a busy schedule with your music and film career. How do you balance motherhood?
JH: When I am working I try to have my son, wherever I am. I had to tell you about my baby’s debut. You may have seen his little hair in the bus scene; he’s actually sitting on someone’s lap. He is 4 years old, but it’s still a bit of a process with him when someone else is playing my son. He will say, “Mommy, that is not your son. I’m your son.”