The Cast of "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" Next to Their Real-Life Counterparts
The extraordinary life and legacy of legendary singer Whitney Houston is hitting the big screen in the upcoming biopic "I Wanna Dance With Somebody." Brought to life by writer Anthony McCarten, known for his work on "Bohemian Rhapsody," the film highlights the highs and lows of Houston's life, from her early beginnings as a choir vocalist in Newark, NJ, to her rise as one of the most adored and celebrated music artists of all time.
"I Wanna Dance With Somebody" also portrays the many meaningful people Houston had in her life throughout her career, including her parents, husband, record producer, and best friend. Ahead of the film hitting theaters on Dec. 23, take a look at the actors alongside the real people they're portraying in "I Wanna Dance With Somebody."
Naomi Ackie as Whitney Houston in "I Wanna Dance With Somebody"
Whitney Houston in Real Life
Born in 1963, Whitney Houston started singing at a young age in her local church choir, and would later provide backup vocals to music giants like Chaka Khan in the 1970s and early 1980s, according to The New York Times. In 1983, record producer Clive Davis signed Houston to his label after hearing her perform in a nightclub and helped her release her debut album, "Whitney Houston," in 1985.
From then on, Houston became a pop superstar. Throughout her career, she became one the bestselling artists of all time and won multiple awards and accolades, including six Grammy Awards and 16 Billboard Music Awards. Outside of her work in music, she was also recognized for acting, and has film credits in acclaimed films such as "The Bodyguard" and "The Preacher's Wife."
In 2012, Houston tragically died at the age of 48 from the heart condition atherosclerosis and cocaine use, per The LA Times.
Stanley Tucci as Clive Davis in "I Wanna Dance With Somebody"
Clive Davis in Real Life
Clive Davis met Houston at a New York City nightclub in the early 1980s, and he signed her shortly after hearing her perform. Prior to his work with Houston, Davis was the president of Columbia Records from 1967 to 1973, and the president of Arista Records from 1974 to 2000. Davis is known for working with several legendary musicians and groups, including Janice Joplin, Bruce Springsteen, Sly and The Family Stone, and Billy Joel, according to his official website.
Tamara Tunie as Cissy Houston in "I Wanna Dance With Somebody"
Cissy Houston in Real Life
Other than being the mother of one of the most popular music singers of all time, Cissy Houston is recognized as a prominent soul and gospel singer in the 1960s and 1970s. She famously sang back up vocals for musical acts like Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley, and Roy Hamilton. In the 1990s, Houston earned two Grammys, one in 1996 and another in 1998, for her solo gospel albums, "Face to Face" and "He Leadeth Me."
Ashton Sanders as Bobby Brown in "I Wanna Dance With Somebody"
Bobby Brown in Real Life
Bobby Brown met Houston in 1989 at the Soul Train Music Awards, according to The New York Post. The two started out as friends but soon fell in love with each other, and Brown proposed in 1991. In 1992, the two married and had their daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, one year later in 1993. What started off as a blissful relationship soon turned sour, and the couple's marriage was fraught with reports of substance use, infidelity, and even domestic violence. They divorced in 2007.
Outside of his relationship with Houston, Brown is known for his music career in the group "New Edition" and his solo work, which includes popular songs like "My Prerogative" and "Every Little Step."
Nafessa Williams as Robyn Crawford in "I Wanna Dance With Somebody"
Robyn Crawford in Real Life
Robyn Crawford met Houston while working as a camp counselor in New Jersey in 1980, as reported by The Washington Post. They soon developed a close bond, one that Crawford later confirmed was intimate. "We were friends. We were lovers. We were everything to each other. We weren't falling in love. We just were. We had each other. We were one: That's how it felt," she wrote in her 2019 book, "A Song for You: My Life with Whitney Houston."
Crawford wrote that she and Houston ended their sexual relationship as she started gaining traction as a superstar, but their friendship lasted far beyond that. For the next 20+ years, Crawford would work closely with Houston as her assistant and creative director before quitting her team in 2000, per The BBC.
Following Houston's death in 2012, Crawford gave away some of the mementos she collected from her years with Houston to the Whitney Houston Academy of Performing Arts, including some of her gold and platinum discs.
Clarke Peters as John Houston in "I Wanna Dance With Somebody"
John Houston in Real Life
John Houston was a theatrical manager and the father of Whitney. Before her stardom, Houston helped manage Cissy's career and eventually had a hand in Whitney's career. Their relationship was rocky at points and hit a rough patch when his company sued Whitney in 2002 for $100 million for "helping to get a marijuana charge against her dismissed and for getting her a new record contract," according to The LA Times. Whitney later revealed in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that she forgave her father and that she loved him until his death in 2003.