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Why C.L. Franklin From Respect Looks So Familiar

The trailer for Aretha Franklin biopic "Respect" created a fair amount of online buzz, and by the looks of it, the movie is an absolutely thrilling look at the life of the legendary singer — to the point that some fans are predicting awards season success for the movie. In order to maximize the impact, director Liesl Tommy has an array of excellent actors at her disposal, ranging from Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin and Marlon Wayans as her husband Ted White to Tituss Burgess as gospel singer James Cleveland and Mary J. Blige as singer Dinah Washington.

Astute viewers will also note a familiar, extremely talented face as Franklin's father, legendary recording preacher and civil rights activist C.L. Franklin (via Malaco Records). You might not be able to immediately recall where you've seen the actor before, but rest assured that the man is an absolute titan of his industry, with enough diverse movie credits to cater for fans of virtually any genre. Let's take a closer look at his work. Here's why C.L. Franklin from "Respect" looks so familiar.

Forest Whitaker brought out his terrifying side in The Last King of Scotland

Forest Whitaker may be known for playing characters with quiet, thoughtful gravitas, but when the situation calls for a more volatile character, it's time for other actors to take out their pens and notebooks. In 2006's "The Last King of Scotland," Whitaker played the real-life dictator of Uganda, Idi Amin, opposite James McAvoy in a chilling role that earned Whitaker a Best Actor in a Leading Role Academy Award in 2007. 

In an interview with AALBC, Whitaker described his preparation methods for the role. "Well, I started by studying Kiswahili to learn the dialect," he said. "Then, I studied tapes, documentaries, footage, and audio cassettes of Idi Amin's speeches. And I met with his brothers, his sisters, his ministers, his generals' all kinds of people, in order to try to understand him." 

As you might assume, portraying Amin wasn't easy, to the point that Whitaker said he was essentially "consumed" by the role. As such, the actor was eager to shed the dictator as soon as he'd shot his final scene. "On the very last day of shooting, I remember wanting to get the character out of me right away, as much as I could. You literally take a bath to wash him off you," Whitaker said. However, he'd put so much effort in portraying Amin that some bits and pieces lingered. "But speech patterns, and little sounds, particularly colloquial things, like the way you ask questions or might respond, were sticking with me, probably because I'd worked so hard to make it a part of my everyday way of expressing myself," the actor revealed. "It also took a little longer for me to stop talking about him in the first person." 

Forest Whitaker watches over the White House in The Butler

When a movie features literal dozens of A-list Hollywood stars drifting across the screen in quick succession, and you need to find someone who's able to anchor the whole thing while acting opposite each and every one of them, who on earth do you call? Forest Whitaker, that's who. In his starring role in Lee Daniels' 2013 drama "The Butler," Whitaker plays White House butler Cecil Gaines, who serves under every president from Dwight D. Eisenhower (Robin Williams) to Ronald Reagan (Alan Rickman), while experiencing the historical turmoil over the decades. 

Whitaker's work is stellar as always, even — or perhaps especially — when surrounded by star power ranging from Oprah Winfrey and Mariah Carey to Terrence Howard and Jane Fonda. "The Butler" ends with Gaines on his way to meet President Barack Obama, and as it happens, the real-life Obama found the movie so powerful that it actually made him shed tears (via The Hollywood Reporter). "I teared up thinking about not just the butlers who worked here in the White House, but an entire generation of people who were talented and skilled," the President of the United States said. "But because of Jim Crow and because of discrimination, there was only so far they could go. And yet with dignity and tenacity, they got up and worked every single day and put up with a whole lot of mess because they hoped for something better for their kids."

Obama also had some choice words about the starring couple of Whitaker and Winfrey, who plays Gaines' wife, Gloria. "I thought Forest Whitaker was wonderful," Obama said. "And Oprah, my girl, she can act."   

Forest Whitaker joined the MCU in Black Panther

In many ways, "Black Panther" changed the game for superhero movies. Ryan Coogler's 2018 Marvel Cinematic Universe movie brought in over $1.3 billion box office dollars worldwide, and its social impact was of the sort that saw star Chadwick Boseman feature in the cover of Time, and the outlet published a long article about "Black Panther" and its significance. 

A powerful movie like that needs powerful actors, and indeed, Forest Whitaker is in the mix with an all-star cast that includes names from Michael B. Jordan and Lupita Nyong'o to Sterling K. Brown and Angela Bassett. Whitaker portrays Zuri, an elder statesman and spiritual leader who plays an important part in governing Wakanda, as well as in the lives of T'Challa (Boseman), Killmonger (Jordan), and their families. Director Coogler told Entertainment Weekly that the character is, in effect, the "Black Panther" version of the original "Star Wars" wise man, Obi-Wan Kenobi. "He's somewhat a religious figure or spiritual figure," Coogler described Whitaker's character. "Spirituality is something that exists in Wakanda in the comics, and it's something we wanted to have elements of in the film. Forest's character, more than anything, is a major tie-back to T'Challa's father. Zuri is someone he looks to for guidance."

Forest Whitaker is Saw Gerrera in the Star Wars universe

Speaking of "Star Wars," Forest Whitaker has totally conquered that franchise, too ... and as one of its more interesting characters, to boot. In 2016 — before "Black Panther," in other words — he portrayed an elderly Saw Gerrera in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," the tale of the doomed ragtag unit that was responsible for acquiring the plans of the Empire's Death Star before the events of "Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope." 

Whitaker's live-action Gerrera is a jaded survivor and war veteran who's tired and close to the end of his life, but "Rogue One" is far from the first — or, for that matter, only — time the character appears in the franchise. Gerrera was originally a character in the "Clone Wars" animated series, in which he was voiced by Andrew Kishino. After taking over the role for the big screen, Whitaker also picked up Gerrera's voice acting duty for the "Star Wars Rebels" animation and the video game "Star Wars: Fallen Order." 

As a morally somewhat ambiguous extremist type who doesn't shy away from violence, Gerrera is one of the rare gray-area characters in the "Star Wars" franchise, which Whitaker found very pleasing. "I liked playing that character," he told Entertainment Weekly. "He's amazing because in this movie, the director put more gray into 'Star Wars' stories than normal. He's a character who was fighting against oppression and those dark forces that were trying to harm humanity, but yet decided to take on some of their practices in order to be able to win, because he thought the final result was more important. That's a big question, by any means necessary, that we have to look at and see, what is necessary?"