Suzzanne Douglas — who portrays Whitney Houston’s mother in an upcoming Lifetime biopic — found herself face-to-face with the real Cissy Houston at Duke’s Southern Table in Newark, New Jersey last month.
But she chose not to reveal her true identity to the beloved gospel singer.
“It was just too awkward,” Douglas says. “And I thought it may have been a little insensitive as well.”
“There has been a great deal of controversy surrounding the film coming from the family. So as I went to introduce myself, I just stopped at ‘Hi, my name is Suzzanne.’”
Cissy, 82, has been vocally opposed to the made-for-TV movie WHITNEY, which stars AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MODEL finalist Yaya DaCosta, Arlen Escarpeta (as Bobby Brown) and is directed by Oscar nominee Angela Bassett.
In July, she begged producers and fans to “please let [Whitney] rest.”
Douglas — best known as matriarch Jerri Peterson on the 1990s sitcom THE PARENT ‘HOOD — says she understands Cissy’s objections, but stands by the film, which premieres later this month.
“While I understand Cissy’s desire as a mother to have her daughter’s story told in a certain way, I also understand this whole situation from the viewpoint of an artist, as an actor,” she tells me.
“We are not telling her whole story. Whitney’s life, while short, was immense. We are telling a segment of her life story. We are talking about, specifically, her relationship with Bobby and the family dynamic.”
“I know that Cissy felt that people who were close to Whitney should have been involved in the story and perhaps that is a story that she will tell. And she also felt that it should have been a feature film. And perhaps that is the story she will tell. And I look forward to her telling that story.”
In the meantime, Douglas hopes the Houston family will tune in to see the film — but insists she is not worried about what Cissy will think of her performance.
“I can’t be concerned about what she thinks about my portrayal of her because I am not trying to be her,” she says.
“There will only be one Cissy Houston. Before there was a Whitney, there was a Cissy Houston. An iconic diva. No one wants to try and replicate that.
“I am not trying to do a caricature of her or an impersonation of her. I am trying to communicate aspects of her emotional and psychological journey.”
“If she sees it, I hope she sees a mother who is caring and loving and tortured and hurt and confused and all of the things that mothers go through in the raising of their child. My child is a gifted child as well. Any time you have a child that you see a special unique talent, you become very, very protective. So I hope she sees that. I hope she sees a mother. I hope she sees herself in me.”
WHITNEY premieres January 17 at 8:00 PM ET/PT on Lifetime.
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