Jennifer Hudson made her breakthrough in music four years ago as a contestant on “American Idol,” then went on to become known for her film roles, especially her Oscar-winning turn as Effie in the musical “Dreamgirls.”
On her self-titled album, which was released Sept. 30, she jumps from gospel to romantic R&B to hip-hop.
And in the film “The Secret Life of Bees,” set in 1960s South Carolina, Hudson plays Rosaleen, a fugitive who finds welcome on a honey farm. The film opens in Charlotte Friday.
Q. Whether it's covering familiar songs on “American Idol” or performing as characters in films, you've spent a lot of time channeling other people. Did that make it hard to define yourself on the album?
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I have a great sense of who I am and I've never been one to duplicate or imitate. … (But) it's been challenging to be me and be current, while still connecting to everything I've portrayed so far. It would make me nervous when I'd walk the streets. It's all different kinds of people approaching me, and I'd think, “What am I offering all of them?”
Q. There's a scene in “The Secret Life of Bees” where you're singing “Break-A-Way,” by Irma Thomas, in the kitchen. Was that in the script?
Sometimes I wasn't even sure. We sang lots of songs on the set. I said, “If you have me singing another time, you're going to have me in a musical.” It was Rosaleen singing; it wasn't Jennifer's voice.
Q. Your song from “Dreamgirls,” “And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going,” is included on your album. What's the hardest part about singing that song?
There's a lot of what I call dirty tones – rough, edgy notes. It calls for the right execution to get it across. There's many ways you could approach the song, but it has to be portrayed that way. It's not just a song, it's Effie's story. There's a more correct way that I'd prefer to sing it. But you can't cuss someone out without the conviction behind it.
Q. Will that be the signature song you'll be singing forever?
It looks like that will be the case whether I want to or not. I'm glad I have a song like that. And I hope to have more.