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Janelle Monae: 'Pharrell convinced me I could act'

Singer Janelle Monae credits Pharrell Williams with giving her the confidence to be a movie star.

In the past 18 months the Tightrope singer, 31, filmed her first live-action movie roles starring in Moonlight and Hidden Figures.


Despite both films garnering huge praise from critics (16) when filming the latter movie, Janelle relied on Pharrell, who helped produce Hidden Figures and co-wrote the score, for reassurance she could cut it as an actress.


"He (Pharrell) pulled me to the side and he said, 'Listen, I just want you to know that I believe in you as an actor, I believe in your ability to do movies. You must continue to pursue this,'" she recalled to the New York Times. "I said, 'O.K., Pharrell. All right. If you say so.'"


Hidden Figures follows three female African-American mathematicians whose work for National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) helped John Glenn successfully become the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the Earth in 1962.


Pharrell told the newspaper he was drawn to help make the movie, based on a book by Margot Lee Shetterly, as, "There needs to be a narrative that is shared by both men and women. The female contribution can be hid no more."


Such was his intensity in ensuring Hidden Figures was a success he even watched raw footage of Janelle's performances every day, a habit she said made her "freak out" before getting reassurance he loved her portrayal of NASA engineer Mary Jackson.


Despite being a relative novice in Hollywood terms, having only executive-produced one movie, 2015's Dope, Pharrell said he had a hands on role in advising the Hidden Figures cast and crew.


"Oftentimes I would have an opinion about things, beyond just the music - they would listen," he added. "I'm appreciative for that wiggle room and to be part of the conversation."


Hidden Figures had a limited opening on Christmas Day (25Dec16), before hitting more cinemas from Friday (06Jan16).