‘United States vs. Billie Holiday’ cast talk biopic with Oprah Winfrey

The film follows the singer during her career as she is targeted by the U.S. government

Oprah Winfrey will moderate a conversation with the cast and crew of the upcoming Hulu Original film, The United States vs. Billie Holiday.

Winfrey is set to have a candid discussion about the highly anticipated feature with director Lee Daniels, actress Andra Day, actor Trevante Rhodes, and writer Suzan-Lori Parks, who will unpack Holiday’s journey.

Read More: Raphael Saadiq talks Tony! Toni! Toné! reunion, creating music for ‘United States vs. Billie Holiday’

Screenwriter Suzan-Lori Parks, the first Black 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.

Andra Day stars in THE UNITED STATES VS. BILLIE HOLIDAY from Paramount Pictures. Photo Credit: Takashi Seida.

The film follows Holiday during her career as she is targeted by the Federal Department of Narcotics with an undercover sting operation led by black Federal Agent Jimmy Fletcher, with whom she had a tumultuous affair. 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.”

theGRIO previously reported, Andra Days said she “abused” her body to help get into the headspace of Holiday for her role in the film. 

Day dished about her preparation for her feature film debut performance in an 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,” she said.

“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,” Day added.

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

“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 said in a statement.

Oprah’s special conversation with the cast can be streamed on Hulu starting on February 24.

The United States vs. Billie Holiday premieres on Hulu on Friday, February 26.

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