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Marlon Wayans Reveals He Did ‘A Lot of Soul Searching’ to Play Aretha Franklin’s Abusive Ex-Husband In ‘Respect’ Film

Sometimes playing a character in a film or show takes a lot out of a person.

This Friday, viewers will get to see Marlon Wayans play Aretha Franklin’s first husband, Ted White, and Jennifer Hudson play the Queen of Soul Herself in the star-studded film “Respect.” White was not only Franklin’s husband and manager, but he was also abusive and controlling, which is the complete opposite personality to the characters that Wayans usually plays, which are typically comedic and goofy roles.

Marlon Wayans attends the Los Angeles premiere of MGM’s “Respect” at Regency Village Theatre on August 08, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/FilmMagic)

The “Scary Movie” actor explained to Hello Beautiful how he had to prepare himself to play the coercive character. He said, “It was a lot of soul searching because we are so different. I’m not an abusive man. I’m not a jealous man. I’ve been loved by my parents, my brothers, and my sisters. I really don’t come from that world. So I had to create and imagine, and really understand why someone would hit a woman they love.”

While doing his research on White, he came to understand that White “was insecure, and he was trying to be the man again.” But Wayans didn’t paint White out to be all bad and said that person “can also see that he [Ted White] loved her, and his intention was to love her and see her be her greatest.”

Despite his thoughts about White, Wayans said in another interview with Independent that he actually hopes White, who reportedly would be 90 now, would get a chance to see the movie. He said, “I hope Ted White sees the movie and is pleased by the way we handled his character, because we could have painted him as a monster.”

He even doubled down on his thoughts about White being an insecure man and that being the reason behind his cruelty towards Franklin. “He gets big and his insecurities and his jealousy steps in, the 49-year-old says, “and there goes the little boy attacking his woman because he just can’t handle it. So I think you just give them layers and approach it with a delicate touch.”

Before meeting Franklin, White was known as a “club fixture” and would be described as “smooth” by Franklin’s sister, Erma Franklin in the book “Respect: The Life of Aretha Franklin.” The two got married just six months after they met and remain a union for eight years before separating in 1968 and divorcing in 1969. Together they had a son together, Teddy Franklin.

In a 1968 cover story of Franklin in Time magazine, it’s said that White “roughed [Franklin] up in public at Atlanta’s Regency Hyatt House Hotel. The biography “Honor: The Life of Aretha Franklin” noted that White would often leave the soul singer with a “visible injury.”

After leaving Ted she met Ken Cunningham. By this time she now had three kids, two of which she had before meeting White. She was only 12 when she had her eldest son Clarence, whose father was Edward Jordan Sr. They later welcomed another child named Edward Franklin. Her third child was Teddy, and she had her last child Kecalf Cunningham with her former partner and manager Ken Cunningham.

Other celebrities set to make an appearance in “Respect” are Mary J. Blige, Forrest Whitaker, “In My Mind” singer Heather Headley, and more.

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