'Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody' star Bria Danielle Singleton was brought to tears filming biopic
“This film is about Whitney and it's a celebration of Whitney," Bria Danielle Singleton who plays Bobbi Kristina Brown during her late teen years, says
The life of vocal powerhouse, the late Whitney Houston, has come to the big screen with Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody, starring Naomi Ackie.
“This film is about Whitney and it's a celebration of Whitney, and of her life and her music and what [she went] through,” Bria Danielle Singleton, who plays Bobbi Kristina Brown during her late teen years, teased to Yahoo Canada.
Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody, directed by Kasi Lemmons, documents the iconic singer's life from her singing in a New Jersey choir, to becoming one of the most decorated recording artists of all time. It's the music that will also lead you through Houston's life, including her volatile marriage to Bobby Brown, played by Ashton Sanders, and relationship with Clive Davis, played by Stanley Tucci. Davis himself actually serves as a producer on the film.
Stepping into the shoes of Houston's late daughter, Singleton collaborated with Ackie to portray an incredibly important personal relationship for the diva.
“It was such a big moment,” Singleton said, as she recalled the excitement of booking the role. “My agents called and they were just like, ‘oh we have something to tell you,’ and they started playing the song, the chorus of ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody.’”
“It took me a while to process and then they started screaming… It was just an, ‘oh my gosh, I did it’ moment."
The moment that made 'I Wanna Dance with Somebody' star cry
Bria Danielle Singleton is certainly a young star to watch. She's been gracing our screens since she was eight months old and has appeared in ABC’s Fresh Off The Boat, FX's Better Things, and Thunder Force alongside Octavia Spencer and Melissa McCarthy.
Already having worked with some impressive stars, Singleton identified that working with Naomi Ackie was an absolute highlight.
“Naomi is my top favourite person I've ever worked with, honestly,” Singleton said. “From the get go, the moment we met, she was just so supportive.”
“She was already so busy but she made sure to pull me aside and be like, if you need anything, if you want to go get lunch together, if you want to run over lines, just tell me. I was so anxious and that just brought me down… She gave me the push I needed.”
In fact, Singleton revealed she got "chills" watching Ackie perform "I Will Always Love You" while filming the movie.
"Naomi performed it during one of the scenes and I instantly started crying, it was so emotional,” Singleton said. “I didn't expect myself to actually cry and it was almost immediate,...I had to step away.”
“That's one of my favourite memories, just hearing Naomi sing.”
'This is not a character I'm creating, this is a real person'
As you may expect, Bria Danielle Singleton certainly felt the pressure of portraying Bobbi Kristina Brown, particularly when Whitney Houston is such a beloved entity in popular culture.
“This is not a character I'm creating, this is a real person that people knew, people were friends with, people loved her,” Singleton said. “Even some of the crew,...my makeup artist was friends with Bobbi and she had photos of her around her workspace.”
“It was just like, I'm trying to portray your friend, or I'm trying to portray your idol. She was something to someone and it was that pressure [that made me feel like], I’ve got to get this down, I’ve got to get on top of it."
While Singleton is portraying a young teen who was thrust into the spotlight, there's a sort of synergy with the young actor herself becoming a public figure.
“I realized there are people watching me and people recognizing things about me,” Singleton said. “To be honest, it’s kind of scary, but I can't imagine what it was like for Bobbi to go through that…from the start of her life.”
'It's really easy to give up'
With Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody under her belt, Bria Danielle Singleton has her eyes on one of the most popular movie and TV franchises.
“I would love to work on some sort of Marvel project,” Singleton said. “The latest one I watched was Moon Knight and the performance Oscar Isaac did was just so amazing.”
When it comes to role models, Singleton is inspired by Black-ish star Marsai Martin.
“She's a Black woman and she's done so much for her age,” Singleton said. “She's a writer. She's a producer. She's an actress. She is such a role model.”
“To see her achieve so much at such a young age. That's what I want to do."
Singleton has taken breaks from TV and movies in the past, but her passion for acting always brings her back. As she reminds aspiring young actors, and herself, the industry really takes patience and persistence.
“I've stopped for a little bit but I've always remembered why I did it,” Singleton said. “When I would stop I'd be like, ‘this is something I love.’”
“You just have to remind yourself that there's a reason why you want to do it. There's a reason why you've been doing it and there's a goal that you have in your mind. It's just persistence… It's really easy to give up. You can go from audition, to audition, to audition and never get called back, and that can be really draining and can be really disappointing. But you always have to remember there's a reason. Things just don't happen overnight. It's patience and it's hard, but it's got to happen at some point."