In director George Tillman, Jr.’s latest film “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Peter” out tomorrow (October 11), Jennifer Hudson plays a drug addict Gloria who is apprehended by the police, leaving her son Mister (Brooks) and nine-year-old Pete (Dizon) alone to forage for food while dodging child protective services and the destructive scenarios of the Brooklyn projects. The Source Magazine sat down with Hudson to discuss her role and she also gave us some scoop about her upcoming album!
Q: How did you first get involved with the project?
Hudson: I sat and met with George Tillman in Los Angeles and we had a meeting and he presented the role to me and offered me the role of Gloria. And that’s when it all started right there.
Q: What did you love about the script?
Hudson: What I loved about it is how real the story was and how true it is to reality. I was like, “Wow.” And Gloria, she’s just such a interesting character that you hear about every day or you may have passed in the street, but you’ve never seen on-screen.
Q: Can you speak about collaborating with Lisa for the role?
Hudson: Well, during the process of building the character of Gloria, I had to sit in rehabilitation centers and meet with different ex-addicts, and they would tell their stories. And because I’ve never had a drink or alcohol, liquor, anything in my life, I was like, “God, how am I going to be able to portray this role?” And sitting, listening to their stories, they would be describing, their highs or just their placement and being a addict, and they would be like, “Well, you know what it’s like when you’re high or when you’re in withdrawal?” So, I was like, “How am I going to be able to portray this role if I can’t relate to the that whole process, that phase of being high, the withdrawals of the hangovers, all of those things?” So, I was like, “OK, well, I have to find someone that I can draw from,” and the one I ended up connecting most to was Lisa, and she was a recovering addict. And so, she shadowed me on set every day and she sat with me and she just walked through the whole process with me and she told me her story and I pretty much portray her and tell her story.
Q: Can you tell me about your physical transformation?
Hudson: Yes. That part was kind of fun, actually. Well, all of that came from…reading the script. I was envisioning my Gloria, what I thought she looked like, who she was. And once I talked to the director, we had the same vision. And I was like, “Oh, my God, I see her the same way.” He’s like, “I see her with tattoos…How is Jennifer going to feel about this?” And I’m like, “That’s exactly who she is. That’s how I see her.” And I didn’t want to cheat it in any way; I wanted her to be as real as possible and everything that we envisioned her to be. And so, the tattoos—it took days to put the tattoos on. And I put them on, I was in them maybe a week or a few days before filming and they didn’t want me to be seen in that way. So, anywhere I went I had to be dressed from head to toe so no one would see, like, “What is Jennifer Hudson doing with all these tattoos?” because that’s part of Gloria and the wow factor of her is to see her.
Q: And can you tell me about these two young actors, Mister and Pete, how incredible they were and just bonding with them?
Hudson: Yes, they are so incredible. Like, just the focus. For them to be so young and they had so much weight on their shoulders. And I’m like, “Jeez, are you guys all right?” And they’re ready to go. They were always ready to go and working heavy hours. And for kids, it’s more difficult because they have school in the middle of filming, and they’re filming eight hours a day and then at the same time, you got to be on top of your game because they only have this window and after that the children are going away.
Q: Can you speak about being in the projects working in a real environment.
Hudson: You know what? I love that, ’cause I feel like the environment and the locations were a character in the film because it set up the tone. You almost didn’t need to give that much more because the element you were put in just puts you in that space and that place. And it made it that much more real and that much more easier to become Gloria, to be in that environment, to live her reality, all of that, because of the surroundings.
Q: Can you tell me about what you admire about Mr. Tillman as a filmmaker?
Hudson: Oh, my God, I am such a fan of him as a filmmaker. First, I thought he was a little crazy. Like, God, he is really involved. But then once I stepped on the set and worked with him—no one’s ever gonna take my Bill Condon’s place, but he’s up there with Bill Condon—no two directors are the same, I must say, and I love, love, love his approach. Like, he’s definitely an actor’s director. He gets it: he gives the space when it’s time for space, he turns that camera around when he need to to catch whatever shot. I love how he keeps the cameras going where, “OK, you lose the moment, get back in it,” and it’s no pressure, ’cause you should never overwhelm your actor, and he does not do that. You know, it’s at your disclosure, it’s at your pace, and he lets you know that. And all along while you’re filming, he’s there coaching you, like “OK, do it again,” “All right, all right, get into it,” and he’s just as into it as you are and that’s brilliant to me.
Q: Was there a scene that was challenging?
Hudson: Wow. I feel like for the most part all of it was. I think for me the hardest one was I want to say in between when Mister tells his mom, “I hate you. I wish you would die,” or “I would be better off without you,” something like that he said. Or next, where she has to smack him in the restaurant. Like for me, it was very tough to do as a mom. It’s like this is still a kid, and there’s certain things Gloria will have to say or even the high of a heroin addict, the way George would explain this like it’s like a orgasm and it’s like “Ooh, OK. I ain’t trying to get sexual.” You know, but all of that, it caused for a huge stretch coming from me, took me far out of my comfort zone, which was a challenge, but I was in the right hands, I think, to be able to do it.
Q: And you have so many great films out this fall, how do you choose your roles?
Hudson: It’s what drives me and what I’m passionate about, that’s what I go for…What are you inspired by? What do you feel is worth being told? What are you passionate about? And that’s what I go by.
Q: And also you have another musician on set, Alicia Keys as executive producer. Can you tell me about collaborating with her?
Hudson: I love working with Alicia. She’s amazing and her energy is amazing. And we’ve worked together in the film as actresses in Secret Life of the Bees and then she worked with me on my sophomore album, which was as a producer. So, I worked with her as an actress, a producer, and now a producer in film, which is amazing because her energy is always awesome and it’s always an honor just to be teamed up with her, just in her presence.
Q: Why should people go check out Mister and Pete?
Hudson: It’s just a epic story, I would say. It’s an honest story and it’s so real. And I feel one of the things I think is great about the film, it brings to the forefront a lot of struggles that may have gotten lost. And people don’t realize there’s kids out there struggling that needsguidance, that are out there on their own. You know what I mean? And then also another thing is we all need someone. Gloria got lost in the fact that she thought, “Oh, you know, no one’s ever going to help us and we’re all alone,” and she lost herself in that. And it’s like no, we all need someone.
Q: You are also working on your new album. You just released ‘I Can’t Describe (The Way I Feel)’ Feat. T.I., which was produced by Pharrell.
Hudson: I’m working on my whole entire album as we speak and Pharrell and Timbaland are a huge part of this process. And Pharrell is leading the first single. And it’s more about just feeling good and I want people to get a sense of and feel my energy as a person through my music. And on this project, I said I don’t want to work with anyone who has not sat down with me and has gotten to know me. I don’t want you writing for who you think Jennifer is or the public persona of because that’s not who I am. It’s my shell, it’s the brand, it’s the celebrity, but it’s not the person. And so, that’s what I want my music to reflect and I call it Jennifer-izing. So, this music is more geared around, centered around who I am and my personality.
Q: And can you tell me about collaborating with T.I. on the lead single?
Hudson: Oh, I’m a fan of T.I. and I’ve always been a fan of T.I. and I just thought he would be perfect and since Pharrell produced the single and the song. And it has the same energy as a “Blurred Lines.” I’m not saying it’s “Blurred Lines.” And I thought it would be amazing to keep that same formula, you know, same producer, keep T.I. on there, you know, ’cause he gets that groove and he fit like a glove.
Q: And thus far what has it been like collaborating with Timbaland?
Hudson: I love him. One of my last sessions with Timbaland was the first session. I didn’t want to leave. I literally stayed in the studio till 6:00 in the morning working with Timbaland. Again, every session with this album process has been like a party, every session, from working with Pharrell to Timbaland to Jerry Wonder, R. Kelly has it has a certain kind of energy to it. I love it.
Q: What can fans expect?
Hudson: To be Jennifer-ized!