Andra Day is up for two Golden Globe awards Sunday night, both for her work on The United States vs. Billie Holiday, the new drama directed by Lee Daniels. Last week, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon shared the video of Day performing Billie Holiday's legendary song "Strange Fruit," as well as the new song "Tigress and Tweet." Day, 36, was nominated for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama and Best Original Song for co-writing "Tigress and Tweed" with Raphael Saadiq. The United States vs. Billie Holiday is now available to stream on Hulu.
The United States vs. Billie Holiday is set in the 1940s when the government was tracking Holiday during the war on drugs and tried to get her to stop performing "Strange Fruit." The song, written by Abel Meeropol, remains an important milestone in the early days of the civil rights movement. It was released in 1939 and protests the lynching of Black Americans. After Holiday recorded it, the song became a standard and has been recorded dozens of times. Diana Ross also sang it in Lady Sings the Blues, in which she played Holiday as well. It is included in the National Recording Registry.
As for the new movie, it is based on Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, Johann Hari's book on the impact of the war on drugs. The script was written by Suzan-Lori Parks. Natasha Lyonne co-stars as actress Tallulah Bankhead, while Garrett Hedlund plays Harry J. Anslinger, the first commissioner of the now-defunct Federal Bureau of Narcotics. The cast also features Trevante Rhodes, Rob Morgan, Da'Vine Joe Randolph, Evan Ross, Tyler James Williams, and Tone Bell.
Day made her film debut as Holiday, just as Ross had done in 1972. Day is best known for her single "Rise Up," featured on her album Cheers to the Fall. in a recent interview with the New York Post, Day said she was "terrified" to make Holiday her first acting role. "When I embarked on it, I was like, ‘This is such a bad idea! I’m not an actress.’ And I didn’t wanna ruin Billie’s legacy," she said. "But now I can look back and say, ‘You know what? Maybe this was supposed to be."
Although the movie was filmed awhile ago, Day said she is still "recovering" from playing Holiday. “There’s still a lot that I am working out in me from playing Billie,” Holiday said. "She gets in, you know what I mean? She gets ahold." Day later added, "It was a commitment... I think it’s one I’m recovering from still.”