Andra Day Shines in The Official Trailer for “The United States vs. Billie Holiday”
We’ve been excited about The United States vs. Billie Holiday since we first heard about Lee Daniels’ new movie. Now, with the film officially landing at Hulu and a brand new trailer to parse, we’ve got a much better look at what Daniels and his star, Grammy-nominated singer Andra Day, have in store for us. Day takes on the role of the legendary Billie Holiday, of course, and from what we’ve seen thus far her transformation is astonishing.
The new trailer teases the film’s concentration on following Lady Day (as she was affectionately known) in the early days of her career, focusing on the Federal Department of Narcotics obsession with her. The Department, led by Harry Anslinger (Garrett Hedlund), menaced Holiday for years. Anslinger hired Jimmy Fletcher (played by Moonlight‘s Trevante Rhodes) to set Holiday up in a sting operation after she was admitted to a hospital for heart and liver trouble, problems that would ultimately lead to her death. Fletcher’s alliances, however, became wobbly in the presence of the magnetic Holiday. One of the reasons the Federal Department of Narcotics was on such a mission to imprison Holiday was payback—Holiday’s political songs like “Strange Fruit,” which boldly centered lynchings of Black people by whites in the south, and her dedication to the Civil Rights movement, made her the department’s enemy.
The script comes from Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, screenwriter, and novelist Suzan-Lori Parks, and is based on the book “Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs” by Johann Hari.
“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,” Daniels said in a statement. “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.”
Check out the trailer here. The United States vs. Billie Holiday premieres on Hulu on February 26.
Here’s the official synopsis from Hulu:
The legendary Billie Holiday, one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time, 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.” Led by Oscar-nominated director Lee Daniels and introducing Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Andra Day, ‘The United States vs. Billie Holiday’ unapologetically presents the icon’s complicated, irrepressible life. Screenplay writer Suzan-Lori Parks, the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, pens this intimate tale of a fierce trailblazer whose defiance through music helped usher in the civil rights movement. NAACP Image Award nominee Trevante Rhodes and Emmy nominee Natasha Lyonne co-star along with Garrett Hedlund, Miss Lawrence, Rob Morgan, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Evan Ross, Tyler James Williams, Tone Bell, and Erik LaRay Harvey.
Featured image: Andra Day stars in THE UNITED STATES VS. BILLIE HOLIDAY from Paramount Pictures. Photo Credit: Takashi Seida.