What do you think of when you think about Billie Holiday? Her songs, maybe, if you’ve ever made time to check them out. Maybe the pictures of her with big flowers pinned in her hair, looking transcendent? Her unfortunate drug arrests? What about civil rights, and her incredible, soul-crushing song “Strange Fruit”?
That’s what The United States Vs. Billie Holiday hopes you’ll think about going forward, as it seeks to shine a light on Holiday’s struggles with both government persecution and her own inner demons. In a star-making turn, Andra Day portrays Holiday as equal parts broken and unbreakable, making for a compelling portrait of the musical legend as one of the godmothers of the civil rights movement.
The A.V. Club sat down with Day and director Lee Daniels to talk about what the pair hope audiences take from this intimate look at Holiday, as well as how the two found much to love in some of her most down-home tracks.
The United States Vs. Billie Holiday premieres Friday, February 26 on Hulu.