*Wanting to capture the pure essence of the late great Billie Holiday, singer/actress Andra Day went to extreme measures. She revealed that she lost almost 40 pounds and started drinking and smoking to portray Billie Holiday in the biopic, “The United States Vs. Billie Holiday,” directed by Lee Daniels.
“I put my family through it and I put myself through it,” Day said in an interview with Variety. “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 also experienced a degree of pain and trauma, which allowed her to feel the complex life of Holiday, who was a victim of rape, domestic abuse, and struggled with alcohol and drug addiction.
Day said that she got the role in early 2018 and immediately began researching Holiday’s personal and professional lives.
“I read everything I could get my hands on. Listened to every interview,” Day revealed. “I exhausted the internet of Billie Holiday photos.”
And, yes, Day sings in the movie, but says she changed her voice to better vocally express the pain that Holiday lived.
“That was an early decision that we made right away to do the singing,” Day said. “Every time I would sing a song I’d go, ‘OK, Lee’s going to hear this and he’s going to fire me.’ But I wouldn’t have done it if they’d been, ‘Do it in your voice.’ That for me would have probably been a no. There’s victory and there is pain in her voice. So to me it was just like we’ve got to get it, you know what I mean? It will have to be my interpretation of it, but it has to be there.”
The United States Vs. Billie Holiday will be released by Hulu in February of this year.