Andra Day began drinking, smoking, lost 40 pounds for Billie Holiday role

    'I basically abused my body for a long time.'

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    “Rise Up” singer Andra Day admits she “abused” her body to get into the headspace of late singer Billie Holiday for her role in Hulu’s upcoming film, The United States v. Billie Holiday.

    Day, 36, dished about her preparation for her feature film debut performance in a new interview with actor Leslie Odom, Jr. on Variety’s Actors on Actors feature. 

    “I basically abused my body for a long time. I’m joking and not really joking,” Day said.

    Read More: Lee Daniels unveils ‘The United States vs. Billie Holiday’ trailer

    “I put my family through it; I put myself through it. I went from 163 pounds to 124 pounds. I would talk like her and I don’t drink or smoke, but I started smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol. Not that I recommend people do this; I just was desperate because this is my first role,” she added.

    theGRIO previously reported, screenplay writer Suzan-Lori Parks, the first African American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, penned this intimate tale of a fierce trailblazer whose defiance through music helped usher in the civil rights movement. Natasha Lyonne co-stars along with Garrett Hedlund, Miss Lawrence, Rob Morgan, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Evan Ross, Tyler James Williams, Tone Bell, and Erik LaRay Harvey.

    Here’s a synopsis:

    Known as one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time, Billie Holiday spent much of her career being adored by fans across the globe. Beginning in the 1940’s in New York City, the federal government targeted Holiday in a growing effort to escalate and racialize the war on drugs, ultimately aiming to stop her from singing her controversial and heart-wrenching ballad, “Strange Fruit.”

    Read More: Hulu buys Lee Daniels’ ‘The United States vs. Billie Holiday’

    “I just asked God to give me all of the pain and trauma. I asked him to give me her pain and give me her trauma,” Day said of portraying Holiday.

    “Whether you are new to the story and legacy of Billie Holiday or know every note she ever sang, I do hope our celebration of this complex woman does justice to a great musical legend and civil rights activist whose artistry resonates as well today, as it did 80 years ago. Hulu releasing this film and giving it a platform to be seen nationwide is a blessing, because as recent events reveal, our country has much work to do in fulfilling its promise of a more perfect union,” Daniels previously said in a statement.

    The United States vs. Billie Holiday debuts on Hulu on Feb. 25.

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