The tumultuous story of the life of legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday has only ever been attempted to be told once before, in 1972’s Lady Sings the Blues, which starred singer Diana Ross as ‘Lady Day,’ in a performance that earned her an Oscar nomination as Best Actress for her feature film debut. In 2021, Hulu and Academy Award nominee Lee Daniels (Precious) bring us Andra Day (also in her debut feature film performance) in The United States vs Billie Holiday, which spans the nearly 25 years of her career, including her arrests for publicly performing the anti-lynching song “Strange Fruit,” her devastating heroin addiction and her relationship with Black federal agent Jimmy Fletcher (Trevante Rhodes), who was tasked in bringing her down as a part of an undercover sting operation by the Federal Department of Narcotics.
Daniels goes to great lengths to expose the demons Holiday faced both internally and externally and Andra Day delivers a dynamite performance that has been the talk of award season that could lead to an Oscar nomination next month.
We were lucky enough to sit down with director Lee Daniels and stars Andra Day, Trevante Rhodes, Garrett Hedlund, Tyler James Williams, Evan Ross (Diana’s son), Da’Vine Joy Randolph and Miss Lawrence to discuss their preparation for the film, the importance of getting it just right, why Day was the perfect choice to play Billie, and how Day herself mourned the end of this project.
The United States vs Billie Holiday premieres exclusively on Hulu February 26.