Jennifer Hudson has won more accolades and prizes on this season's Hollywood award-show circuit than anyone else for her role in Dreamgirls as the doomed Effie White. The character is based on Florence Ballard, a member of the Sixties Motown girl group The Supremes alongside Diana Ross and Mary Wilson. As Ross's star rose, Ballard battled drugs and alcohol, leaving The Supremes in 1967, and died of coronary thrombosis aged 32.
"Florence's story was actually good news for me because it made me angry," says Hudson. "That helped me feed into Effie even more. I really felt like Effie was Florence's voice and this was her fans' way of getting her justice, or having it end the way they would have liked to see it end. So any time I would come to a scene, I was thinking, 'This is what Florence should have done' or, 'Maybe she would have reacted like this'.
"That's what 'And I Am Telling You' is all about. To me, that's not a song, that's Effie's story. It needed to be lead by emotion and to be real." The song - that Dreamgirls' director Bill Condon calls the film's 'Mount Everest' - was the last scene to be shot for the film. "I had to really know Effie before I could even go into something like that," she says.
After auditioning, Hudson waited six months to hear if she had got the part, being told at one point that she was out of contention because "they'd decided to make Effie skinny". Otherwise, she seems to have been a front-runner from the start. "At the first audition, they told me that my dress was 'so Effie' and told me to wear it back to the second audition. They said, 'Don't change a thing' and I was like, 'Alright. But this is just my funeral dress that I happened to put on'.
"I come from a singing background. I have a whole host of singing relatives and they say that I got my voice from my late grandmother. I can't do anything without music. I can't even get ready without that song, whatever song fits my mood that particular morning or whatever the Lord lays on my heart."
Dreamgirls is released on FridayReuse content