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Whitney Houston actress Naomi Ackie speaks out on fewer film roles for black women

Whitney Houston actress Naomi Ackie speaks out on fewer film roles for black women

Actress Naomi Ackie has spoken out about the lack of parts “for black people and people of colour in general”, as she has discussed her career in the film and TV industry.

The 31-year-old currently stars as Whitney Houston in the biopic I Wanna Dance with Somebody.

As a British-born black actress, Ackie has addressed the potential backlash she faces for portraying the late African-American singer as she has directed this issue towards the bigger problem of fewer opportunities given to black actresses.

Ackie said in a recent interview that there are “not enough parts for black people and people of colour in general”, leading to frustration over roles received.

Naomi Ackie has said that black actresses continue to be offered less parts in film and TV (Dave Benett)
Naomi Ackie has said that black actresses continue to be offered less parts in film and TV (Dave Benett)

“So really, the problem isn’t with me playing Whitney, the problem is with the higher-ups not investing in the right places,” Ackie told OK magazine.

“Obviously, that is a really big thing. But what I also understand is me, as a black woman being in this industry, I am going to p*** off some people.”

The actress continued: “Am I worried? Yeah, but I’m trying to do this thing where I don’t worry about what people think about me any more. Because what am I going to do? I’ll deal with it when it comes.”

Ackie portrays the late Whitney Houston in the biopic I Wanna Dance with Somebody (SONY PICTURES)
Ackie portrays the late Whitney Houston in the biopic I Wanna Dance with Somebody (SONY PICTURES)

Prior to securing the role of Houston, Walthamstow-bred Ackie had established a successful acting career working on such globally popular projects as the Star Wars franchise, Doctor Who and Netflix’s The End of the F***ing World.

The actress admitted she “overdid it when it came to research” after learning she would be playing Houston in the biopic, released 10 years after her death in 2012.

Whitney Houston - In pictures

Whitney Houston is seen performing on stage during the 2004 World Music Awards (Getty Images)
Whitney Houston is seen performing on stage during the 2004 World Music Awards (Getty Images)
Whitney Houston with her husband Bobby Brown during their 1992 wedding (AP)
Whitney Houston with her husband Bobby Brown during their 1992 wedding (AP)
Whitney Houston sings the National Anthem before a game with the New York Giants taking on the Buffalo Bills prior to Super Bowl XXV in 1991 (Getty Images)
Whitney Houston sings the National Anthem before a game with the New York Giants taking on the Buffalo Bills prior to Super Bowl XXV in 1991 (Getty Images)
Whitney Houston receives from her mother the World Best-Selling Pop Artist of the year award during the 6th World Music Award ceremony in 1994 (Getty Images)
Whitney Houston receives from her mother the World Best-Selling Pop Artist of the year award during the 6th World Music Award ceremony in 1994 (Getty Images)
Whitney Houston poses with her Grammy after she was named Best Pop Vocal Performer in 1988 (Reuters)
Whitney Houston poses with her Grammy after she was named Best Pop Vocal Performer in 1988 (Reuters)
Whitney Houston with her husband Bobby Brown during their 1992 wedding (AP)
Whitney Houston with her husband Bobby Brown during their 1992 wedding (AP)
Whitney Houston, Bobby Brown and Robyn Crawford IN 1994 (Rex Features)
Whitney Houston, Bobby Brown and Robyn Crawford IN 1994 (Rex Features)
Whitney Houston and her husband Bobby Brown pose for photographers as they arrive for the East coast premiere of
Whitney Houston and her husband Bobby Brown pose for photographers as they arrive for the East coast premiere of
Whitney Houston and Jermaine Jackson in 1984 (AP)
Whitney Houston and Jermaine Jackson in 1984 (AP)

Ackie shared that preparing for the part “took a toll on my mental health”, as she was determined to be as honest as she could be in her portrayal of the singer.

“I knew [the script] off by heart and it was becoming something that I was scared to look at,” she said.

“The research and looking at Whitney’s videos – I think I’ve seen every single one on YouTube countless times – became like a prison.

“It took a toll on my mental health.”

In doing the role, Ackie realised that “perfectionism is a dangerous thing”, that performers continue to “struggle” with.

She added: “The biggest thing for me was going, ‘OK, once you’re 70 per cent there with the accent and once you’re 70 per cent there with the body and 70 per cent there with the character work, the rest of it can’t be perfect. It shouldn’t be perfect.’”