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Posted: 10:54 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013

Interview: Jennifer Hudson discusses title role in "Winnie Mandela" 

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Jennifer Hudson in "Winnie Mandela" photo
Image/RLJ Entertainment
Jennifer Hudson in "Winnie Mandela"
Jennifer Hudson in "Winnie Mandela" photo
Image/RLJ Entertainment
Jennifer Hudson in "Winnie Mandela"
Jennifer Hudson in "Winnie Mandela" photo
Image/RLJ Entertainment
Jennifer Hudson in "Winnie Mandela"
Jennifer Hudson in "Winnie Mandela" photo
Image/RLJ Entertainment
Jennifer Hudson in "Winnie Mandela"
Jennifer Hudson in "Winnie Mandela" photo
Image/RLJ Entertainment
Jennifer Hudson in "Winnie Mandela"
Jennifer Hudson in "Winnie Mandela" photo
Image/RLJ Entertainment
Jennifer Hudson in "Winnie Mandela"

By Jennifer Brett

Fans grew to love Jennifer Hudson as a stylish vocal powerhouse on the third season of “American Idol.” She was showered with accolades following her role in “Dreamgirls,” collecting Oscar and Golden Globe trophies among other awards. Her role as Carrie’s miracle-working assistant in the first “Sex and the City” movie made every 30-something woman covet her as a best friend.

Her title role in the movie “Winnie Mandela,” coming out in limited release Friday, will show the talented Hudson in a brand-new light.

“I feel like I understand her,” Hudson said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I thought, they’ve got the right person to play this role.”

Directed by Darrell J. Roodt and written by Roodt and Andre Pieterse, the movie takes a comprehensive look at the sometimes controversial life of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

Terrence Howard, who played roles in “Prisoners” and “Sabotage,” both shot in Atlanta, and appears now in “The Butler,” plays Nelson Mandela. But the movie, adapted from Anne Marie du Preez Bezrob’s biography, “Winnie Mandela: A Life,” is Winnie’s story.

“It was not easy,” Hudson said. “I was like, wow. This is intimidating. It’s a huge chunk of history that a lot of us don’t know about.”

Although Winnie Mandela became the face of South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle during the nearly three decades that Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, their 38-year marriage fell apart not long after he was released. Her image as a brave freedom fighter suffered from her alliance with the Mandela United Football Club, her private security force. A scene in the movie shows Nelson Mandela chastising her for being associated with “thugs.”

“It is with a feeling of terrible sadness that we consider to express our reservations about Winnie Mandela’s judgement in relation to the Mandela football Club,” begins a section of Volume 2 of the 1998 report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa. “What is tragic is that so heroic a figure as Ms. Madikizela-Mandela, with her own rich history of contribution to the struggle, became embroiled in a controversy that caused immeasurable damage to her reputation.”

The 710-page document (available online at www.justice.gov.za) spells out allegations of violence attributed to the Mandela United Football Club and concludes, “The Commission finds Ms. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela politically and morally accountable for the gross violations of human rights committed by the MUFC.”

Today, Madikizela-Mandela, 76, serves on the National Executive Committee of the African National Congress. She has been critical of the movie about her, saying she was not consulted. In 2011 she told CNN, “I have absolutely nothing against Jennifer, but I have everything against the movie itself.”

Hudson said she has not been in touch with anyone from the Mandela family and relied on footage and speeches to prepare for the role.

“I think she’s a hero,” Hudson said. “She was one of the strongest forces we’ve ever had. I take my hat off to her. I don’t have a conclusion about the things she dealt with.”

About Jennifer Brett

Jennifer Brett writes The Buzz blog for accessAtlanta.com

Connect with Jennifer Brett on:TwitterFacebook

Send Jennifer Brett an email.

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