Day and Daniels open up to Smith about the importance of Holiday’s role in the civil rights movement, making the film and more. The film focuses on the government’s efforts to get Holiday to stop singing “Strange Fruit,” a protest song against the lynching of Black Americans in the south. “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” launching Feb. 26 on Hulu, looks at how Holiday risked her career and freedom.
“I think she began the Civil Rights Movement as we know it to be,” Daniels tells Smith. “And I don’t think she got credit for it.”
For Day, playing the legendary singer marked her first acting role – ever. She says that before filming she studied everything she could about Holiday.
“It’s life-changing,” Day says, choking up. “Completely life-changing. And I get emotional thinking and talking about it, because I’m very, very grateful to everybody on the set.”
Day admits it has been hard letting Holiday go, too.
“What do you think it is? Why do you think you’re not ready to let that go? To let her go?” Smith asks.
“I don’t know,” Day says. “There were just places of freedom that I feel like I was able to go to as her that I was never comfortable going in my own personal life, so, and I know who I am. I don’t know. Now, I don’t – it’s been a long time. I don’t know who I am outside of her, so.”
Interestingly, it was a role Day says now she was afraid of taking.
“You know,” Day says, “I don’t – there’s probably no better way to say this; I didn’t want to suck, you know what I mean?”
Day adds, “I was certain I was going to be terrible.”
Now, many are predicting that she’ll be among the nominees for an Oscar.
“She trusted me,” Lee Daniels says of Day. “And I trusted her. And she was willing to jump off the ledge with me. That’s rare. When you can find an actor to jump off the ledge with you, you’ll end up with Billie Holiday.”
CBS SUNDAY MORNING is broadcast Sundays (9:00-10:30 AM, ET) on the CBS Television Network. Rand Morrison is the executive producer.