Andra Day Seamlessly Transforms Into Billie Holiday in Lee Daniels Directed Biopic

by Jamila Lizet White

January 12, 2021

MARK RALSTON/Bill Spilka/Getty Images

Andra Day is Billie Holiday in the Lee Daniels directed biopic, The United States vs. Billie Holiday.

Photo by David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

The Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter portrays the life and struggles of the jazz legend who outraged the U.S. government with Strange Fruit, the first Civil Rights Movement protest song.

The trailer takes viewers through the late Holiday’s success as she sang to integrated audiences during the Jim Crow era. As a result of the song’s growing popularity and her drug and alcohol abuse, she becomes a target for the Federal Department of Narcotics led by Jimmy Fletcher — a Black Federal Agent who engages in a heated love affair over the years until her passing in 1959.

“When you think of Billie Holiday, you think of this brilliant tortured jazz singer that happened to have been a drug addict,” said the NAACP Image award-winning director to The Hollywood Reporter. “I didn’t know that she kicked off the Civil Rights movement. Before there was a Civil Rights movement, there was Billie Holiday and ‘Strange Fruit.’ The government saw that song as a threat and she was a target. That’s history and they keep it from us.”

In an interview with V Magazine, Day spoke on her feature debut and the impact she’s hoping the movie will have.

“You have to understand how much of our history has been wiped off the map because that was their goal,” the 36-year-old shared. “With Billie, the narrative basically eradicated her, or tried to, but they couldn’t because she was too famous. So they told the story but they spun it in a different way. I want this to tell the truth of our narrative. I want it to be a revelation like, ‘Okay, apparently I’ve been lied to about a lot of these stories.’”

The film also features Tyler James Williams (Everybody Hates Chris) as her saxophonist Lester ‘Perez’ YoungTrevante Rhodes (Moonlight) as Fletcher, and Evan Ross (ATL) as Agent Sam Williams.

The United States vs. Billie Holiday will be released Feb. 26 on Hulu. Watch the trailer below:

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