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Marisa Abela On How Scrutiny Impacted Her Portrayal of Amy Winehouse

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Marisa Abela says she felt the eyes of the public on her as she transformed into Amy Winehouse for Sam Taylor-Johnson‘s new film, Back to Black

The 27-year-old English actress spoke with ET’s Rachel Smith at the New York City premiere of the biopic and explained how Winehouse’s fans — herself included — informed her approach to playing the British-born singer-songwriter. 

“It’s a big deal,” she said of taking on the role of the “icon” and “Rehab” singer and facing criticism from fans in the process. “She really means so much to so many people and she’s so — she’s such an important artist so I get it, I completely respect it.”

Abela adds, “I feel exactly the same way but I just sort of, for me, that’s just about throwing myself into the work harder and faster and more intensely and, you know, there was — there just needed to be no stone unturned when it came to like my preparation.”

Marisa Abela at a ‘Back to Black’ premiereGetty Images

And face criticism, she has. After a clip was released earlier this year in which the Industry star can be heard lending her own voice to sing “Stronger Than Me,” many social media users questioned the decision to not use the Winehouse’s vocals. It broke from tradition for biopics focused on famous singers including Bohemian Rhapsody starring Rami Malek and Austin Butler‘s Elvis. 

A recently released trailer, however, saw the tide turn on the choice by Taylor-Johnson, 57, to have the actress provide her own vocals for the movie. Abela told ET on Tuesday that she is just glad to see the hard work she put in resonating with fans.

“I work from a place of, you know, intentionality and human perspective and it just meant immersing myself in that place,” she said of getting into character to play the six-time Grammy Award winner. 

Marisa Abela as Amy Winehouse in ‘Back to Black’Focus Features

For Abela, immersing herself also meant losing weight in order to play the troubled “Valerie” singer, who struggled with an eating disorder. She recently spoke with ET’s Nischelle Turner in London and opened up about taking on that challenge to turn into Winehouse. 

“I mean, like any of the other transformations, like the physical or the vocal,” she said. “It was necessary. I think for me, it was a part of her life, this addiction and her struggles and an eating disorder. Which are very real for a lot of people.” 

Winehouse died in July 2011 at the age of 27 and her cause of death was ruled to be alcohol poisoning. The singer’s brother, Alex, has claimed in the past that he believes her struggles with bulimia also contributed to her death. 

Amy Winehouse at Glastonbury in 2008Getty Images

As she celebrates the wrap of the press tour for the film, the actress offered up a piece of advice to any actor or singer who may be preparing to take on the role of a music icon or otherwise.

The words of wisdom could go directly to Timothée Chalamet who is currently filming a movie about Bob Dylan, Selena Gomez who will play “Long Long Time” singer Linda Ronstadt or Jeremy Allen White who is set to portray Bruce Springsteen in Deliver Me From Nowhere

“Lean into the thing that it was that made you fall in love with that person in the first place,” Abela said of what she would tell her biopic successors as they set out on the transformation journeys. 

For her own part, she said, “For me, it was like — there’s a power about Amy, like just when you look into her eyes, there’s an intensity that it is like unparalleled and I fell in love with that feeling from the second I started, you know, watching footage and preparing for the role.”

Watch the trailer for Back to Black in the player below:

Back to Black hits theaters on May 17. 

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