Few rise to fame as fast as Jennifer Hudson, who at a speed almost unheard of, flew from an unknown Chicago singer to placing seventh in American Idol to a Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner for Dreamgirls. It was Hudson’s own story as well as her look that drew in Winnie director Darrell Roodt and producer André Pieterse. The South African natives, whose youths were affected profoundly by the Mendelas, were struck with exactly what they needed to bring their vision of Winnie to life. According to Pieterse, there was no one else they would rather see take on the role of Winnie Mandela (now Winnie Madikizela-Mandela) than Hudson.
During an interview with Lorraine Ali of The Daily Beast, Hudson discusses her role in the biopic that follows Winnie Mandela’s life from early teens, her marriage to former South African President Nelson Mandela, her prominent role in the apartheid fight, and onward to the present. As if portraying the living horrors of Nelson Mandela’s ex-wife isn’t challenging enough, Hudson’s job was made more difficult by legal threats from Madikizela-Mandela’s lawyer to stop production of the film. Then, further broadening her challenge, Hudson chose to confine herself to the prison cell set for several days in an attempt to “experience some of the hell that woman went through.”