If things had gone differently, it could have been Good Girls and Parks and Recreation star Retta playing the role of Effie White in the 2006 film adaptation of Dreamgirls instead of Jennifer Hudson. Retta revealed she auditioned for the role in her upcoming memoir So Close to Being the Sh*t, Y’all Don’t Even Know.
Vulture posted an excerpt from the book in which Retta details how she auditioned for the role of Effie and how her nerves got the best of her. Part of the reason why she became so nervous was that it “was an iconic piece of black theater.”
“I felt like I didn’t really fit into the black comedy scene. I told myself I wasn’t urban enough in my act,” she said. “I just wasn’t covering the same subject matter that I saw other black comics doing. I didn’t write about growing up in the projects, smoking weed, or my epic sexcapades–not that I had any. That wasn’t my shit, and as a result, I feared the black audience for a long time.”
“I remember doing a set at the Phat Tuesdays show at The Improv and I was scared to death because I didn’t know if I’d be embraced by a black crowd. I was one of those girls who the black girls in my high school said sounded ‘white,'” she said. “…It took me a long time to learn that as long as you’re yourself that audience will accept you. You transcend it. There are white comics who do black shows and kill. As long as you’re yourself, and you’re funny…you’re good.”
However, at the time of the audition, Retta still had these anxieties about being accepted, as well as other anxieties about having a big opportunity blow up in her face. She recalled another moment when she was promised a role on an HBO TV pilot, a role that was specially made for her. But she lost the role, and the series didn’t get picked up. Because of her fears, she kept avoiding the Effie audition until it went to Jennifer Hudson.
“I never said no; I was way more chickenshit than that,” she wrote. “I just kept avoiding it, putting it off. For about three months I never made myself available, and it got to the point where they had a movie to cast and so they did. They went with the seventh-place finalist of season three of American Idol. They cast Jennifer Hudson. She had no credits. But you know what she did have? The balls to show up to the audition.”
“…For the first time in my life, I understood the phrase ‘the fear of success,'” she wrote. “…To be in those big movies with big stars. That’s why I was here. But I was scared. Scared of things not going perfect. Scared of being perceived as a problem. Scared of sharing the screen with big names. Basically scared of success.”
That experience helped Retta learn the consequences of fearing success, but to also “[F]ight the fear and go do what you gotta do.”
So Close to Being the Sh*t, Y’all Don’t Even Know is set to be released May 29.