Liesl Tommy, Director of “Respect”

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Manage episode 299851441 series 94072
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Aretha Franklin was the Queen of Soul, the greatest voice of her generation, an eighteen-time Grammy Award winner whose career spanned five decades. She was also a famously private person, which makes the project of directing a film about her life challenging. The job of telling Aretha’s story went to a South African-born director named Liesl Tommy, known for her work in theatre and nominated for a Tony, in 2016. Tommy had also directed episodes of TV shows like “The Walking Dead” and “Jessica Jones,” but the movie about Franklin—called, almost inevitably, “Respect”—is her first feature film. Tommy’s long-standing passion for the singer, she says, made the job relatively easy, even though she first fell in love with Franklin’s voice as a child living on a different continent. “I don’t think I ever thought of her as American,” she told Vinson Cunningham. “I thought of her as a woman that I wanted to grow up to be.” As a small child, she recalls, “Even if I don’t understand the feelings specifically, I understand how the way she sang them made me feel. And that was, excited to be alive.”

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