Jennifer Hudson: Feels Truly Free After Shooting “Winnie Mandela”

Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson plays the iconic South African politician Winnie Mandela in the bio-film by the same name.

The film “Winnie Mandela” depicts the life of the ex-wife of civil rights activist Nelson Mandela, who is played by Terrence Howard. spoke to the Chicago-bred actress about her work on the film while she was in Dallas for the film’s executive producer Bishop T.D. Jakes’ MegaFest conference to promote the movie.

The 32-year-old entertainer said “almost all of” her scenes in the movie gave her great insight into the struggle with apartheid.

Did you have a perspective on Winnie Mandela before signing on to do this part?

You know what, I didn’t have one. I just knew of her name. Once I read the script, then that’s when I realized that, wow, I guess I didn’t know her at all. I was very surprised that I didn’t know anything about her. Again, we’ve heard of her name that she was Nelson Mandela’s wife, but that was it. That’s what drew me to the role and like, this is a story that’s worth being told and why am I just learning this at 30.

Jennifer Hudson & Terrence Howard in “Winnie Mandela”

Now that the film has opened in the U.S. and other countries, have you met her?

I have not had the opportunity to meet her but I hope this opens for me to be able to meet her. That would be an honor.

What was it like working opposite Oscar nominee Terrence Howard, who plays Nelson Mandela in this film?

He is so amazing. Terrence is the type of actor that raises the bar constantly. Every day he would come in, in character and he would speak the language. He would push you, so that’s a good partner to have.

Were there resources to help you prepare for this part and learn more about Winnie?

Jennifer Hudson in “Winnie Mandela”

I didn’t have a lot of material to pull from, but whatever I had I used it as best as I could. I had a few clips, whatever photos–a lot of photos. I was there in Africa for four months. So I wanted to become a part of the environment and sit with the people and learn as much as I could about the culture. Where Winnie came from, where Nelson came from.

Did shooting over there give you a greater insight into Africa?

I think the thing I walked away from the most is being with this little girl who was one of my dialect coaches, she was about 25-years-old. To see the maturity and wisdom she had to be so young was like seeing the difference between her and myself. It was like, wow, you’re so far more advance it seems. She grew up completely different. Hearing her talk about Winnie, hearing her talking about her upbringing and just learning from her perspective.

How did you feel when Bishop Jakes signed on to be an executive producer for this movie?

I always said it was great project and it needed to be in the right hands, so its a great honor to have him working him working on this project.

Coming from “American Idol,” do you still have moments where you are surprised you are working with and/or friends with folks like Bishop Jakes, Oprah Winfrey and so many others?

It’s a blessing to be under these people’s wings and learn from them. I don’t take anything likely! I’m always trying to learn from them. I’m still like Oprah, “Momma Oprah,” I’m listening.

What about working on this film changed your or your perspective towards life?

I definitely feel like I’ve been changed, that’s for sure. It was almost three years ago when we shot so its hard to remember, but I know one thing for sure, it made me appreciate freedom so much more! Like it had a new meaning once I came back home. I don’t feel like I was free before or knew what it meant. So after experiencing that for four months, it changed me in that way to appreciate freedom so much more.

“Winnie Mandela” is in theaters now nationwide.

Terrence Howard & Jennifer Hudson in “Winnie Mandela”

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