Nearly three years after Whitney Houston’s shocking death at age 48, the first film to attempt to depict her talent, troubles and tragedy will air on Lifetime on Jan. 17 at 8 p.m. ET.
In "Whitney," Houston, one of the most successful female recording artists of all time, is played by Yaya DaCosta, previously seen in Lee Daniels’ “The Butler,” “All My Children,” and cycle 3 of “America’s Next Top Model."
“It definitely was a daunting task,” DaCosta, 32, told ABC News’ Nick Watt.
The film is the directorial debut of Angela Bassett, who knew Houston and starred with her in “Waiting to Exhale” in 1994.
“I was excited about it, having worked with Whitney before and, you know, loving her as I do, as I did,” Bassett told Watt.
Bassett and DaCosta shared with “Nightline” what viewers can expect from the Lifetime biopic, “Whitney.”
|1. The film doesn’t mention Whitney Houston’s death.|
Houston died in 2012 after drowning in a bathtub with drugs in her system, but it is not mentioned in the movie or even in a postscript.
“A full, rich, complicated life: there’s no way to do that in a television movie,” Bassett said. “If that’s a story someone else wants to tell, then perhaps we’re a trailer to that movie. That’s not a story I was interested in telling.”
|2. Viewers might be startled by Bobby Brown’s portrayal.|
Houston was 26 when she first met Bobby Brown, then 19. Later, their relationship disintegrated into a public mess of domestic violence and addiction.
“Not everyone is all bad, and no one is perfect,” Bassett said. “You have girls screaming and clawing for you at 13, and you see how you mature. As director, as actor, we began to think of those things, and we looked at it through those prisms.”
Bassett met Brown in 1994, while working with Houston on “Waiting to Exhale.”
“He wasn’t bad at all. He was charming. He was bright. He was respectful. He was warm. He was nurturing. He was in love with his woman,” Bassett recalled.
|3. Deborah Cox, not Yaya DaCosta, sings Whitney Houston’s songs.|
For the film, Cox, one of Houston’s old label mates, recorded Houston’s songs. Then DaCosta took them on stage.
“I actually asked for it to be played out loud so even the audience we had, all the extras we had, could hear Deborah Cox singing Whitney songs and me singing at the same time,” said DaCosta.
|4. Despite the criticism, Bassett believes the film is honest.|
Houston’s mother Cissy Houston has been vocal about her and her family’s objections to the biopic.
“The family and the Estate are very disappointed that Angela Bassett never personally reached out to an immediate family member about this project … Since no one from immediate family was contacted, nor have seen the film, we cannot help but question the veracity of a story about Whitney and Bobby's personal relationship,” Pat Houston, president of The Whitney Houston Estate, said in a statement to “Nightline.” “Her life story - even a portion - should be dominated by people who value the merit of her life, not by a group that chose to present the weakest cycle of her life. Unfortunately, there's nothing inspiring, liberating or uplifting about this project.”
But Bassett said that “it is an honest portrayal.”
“It may not be truthful, because who can know each and every truth in every situation,” said Bassett.
|5. The film is missing something, according to Bassett.|
While she did like the movie’s script, Bassett said it does neglect to include one important thing.
“Something that I thought was omitted was her spirituality, which was a key component of who she was,” said Bassett.