Mary J. Blige knows she doesn't look much like Nina Simone, but she's planning to make people forget that when she portrays the legendary singer in an upcoming biopic — much like the way another legendary singer was channelled for a recent biopic.
"I'm going to really grind and try and figure out how to bring Nina back to life, like Jamie Foxx did with 'Ray,' " Blige said. "I'm going to take it seriously — I'm not just going to take advantage of being the artist they picked."
Interestingly, Blige didn't go looking for this part — quite the opposite (see "Mary J. Blige To Portray Legendary Singer Nina Simone In Film"). The filmmakers sought her out, and after a bit of resistance, Blige agreed to meet with the representatives from Paramount Pictures and screenwriter Cynthia Mort to discuss the details at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where she learned the part actually had been written with her in mind.
"[Mort] is a big Mary fan, and I'm like, 'Why do you have me in mind for this?' " Blige recalled. "She said, 'Well, you don't look like Nina, but your spirit is the same.' And I said, 'Like what?' She was like, 'Read the book.'"
So Blige did her research, read the late Simone's autobiography "I Put a Spell on You," and learned about her relationships with lovers and managers, including Andy Stroud, who served as both until they divorced in 1970. The more Mary (who is managed by her husband, Kendu Isaacs) read, the more she found in common with Simone.
"Our fans love us real hard," Blige said. "Her fans wanted to hear whatever they wanted to hear from Nina — the same kind of thing with men, bad men, you know. Then she finally ends up with the good one, and then she dies."
That bolstered Blige's interest in the project, but then there was the hurdle of taking on such a big role, when she's never carried a film before. While says she feels ready now, she takes comfort that the film currently has no slated start date, and she's going to do as much as she can to prepare.
"I've got to get acting coaches," Blige said. "It takes a lot of confidence to get you to this point, and I'm on my way to my confidence not being cocky or arrogant, but just very confident and sure. But I know I really got to nail this part, let you know I'm serious about it."
In the meantime, Blige's seventh studio full-length, The Breakthrough, is set to hit stores on December 20 (see "Mary J. Blige's Breakthrough Is Coming Out This Year After All") and is currently featured on "The Leak" on MTV.com.
For a feature where Mary J. Blige takes an intimate look at her career, see "Throwback With Mary J. Blige."
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