Billie Vacation sang “All of Me” — and it took all of Andra Day to play the legendary jazz chanteuse.
From her Girl Day-inspired stage title to her jazzy supply and retro type, Day has spent years paying homage to Vacation. Now, the “Rise Up” singer is carrying her idol’s torch differently, portraying her within the new movie “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” premiering Feb. 26 on Hulu.
Nonetheless, she was “terrified” making her performing debut as the girl who sang the blues.
“Once I launched into it, I used to be like, ‘That is such a foul concept! I’m not an actress.’ And I didn’t wanna spoil Billie’s legacy,” Day, born Cassandra Batie, instructed The Publish. “However now I can look again and say, ‘You already know what? Possibly this was purported to be.’ ”
Certainly, Day, 36, has already gained important popularity of her efficiency within the upcoming Lee Daniels-directed drama. She’s up for finest actress within the dramatic movie class on the Golden Globes on Feb. 28 and can also be producing Oscar buzz.
However remodeling herself into the “Strange Fruit” songstress was no vacation for Day.
“There’s nonetheless loads that I’m figuring out in me from taking part in Billie,” stated Day, who can also be nominated for finest unique track on the Globes for her soundtrack tune “Tigress & Tweed.” “She will get in, you understand what I imply? She will get ahold.”
Whether or not it was battling a heroin habit or being focused by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Vacation’s life was a wrestle that required Day to go to some darkish and troublesome locations. “It was a dedication,” she stated. “I believe it’s one I’m recovering from nonetheless.”
Such was Day’s dedication that she took up smoking to play her cigarette-puffing character. “I’d by no means smoked cigarettes earlier than,” she stated. “Simply beginning out smoking, I used to be practising with my performing coach … I used to be like, ‘I would like a few of your American Spirits. That first day I used to be consuming vodka and smoking cigarettes, and I went house and threw up, like, 5 instances!”
Day was capable of kick the behavior — ultimately. “I used to be capable of give up in the end as soon as we completed the final pickup pictures final yr,” she stated. “However what I anticipated to be a four-, five- or six-month behavior ended up turning into a couple of yr and a half.”
She additionally poured down the booze to play Vacation, who died at 44 in 1959 of problems from cirrhosis attributable to alcohol abuse. “I drank lots of gin, I drank bourbon,” stated Day. “I hadn’t drank in so lengthy, and it was by no means actually an enormous a part of my life, even after I did after I was youthful.”
Whereas upping her alcohol and nicotine consumption, Day also lost 39 pounds to arrange for the function from the time she landed the half in early 2018 till capturing started in fall 2019. “I used to be dropping it healthily all through that [period], after which as soon as it bought nearer to capturing, that’s after I let everybody know, ‘OK, I’m gonna simply kinda starve myself at this level!’ ” she stated.
After that pound purge, Day stated, “I’ve truly only in the near past began to achieve again a little bit little bit of weight. I’m as much as, like, 140, which is sweet, ’trigger I used to be 124 on set.”
Different facets of her Billie-inspired makeover got here extra naturally to Day.
When she launched her Grammy-nominated debut album, “Cheers to the Fall,” in 2015, you could possibly hear echoes of Vacation in her sound and see them in her type — full with flowers in her hair as a nod to the jazzwoman’s signature gardenia.
“She was actually modern fashionwise. And it was part of her activism,” stated Day. “She simply was like, ‘Why can’t I put on fur coats or diamond earrings or fancy footwear like a white Hollywood starlet does?’ That was very a lot part of her dwelling her life as a free, liberated black queer lady.”
The film alludes to a romance between Vacation and actress Tallulah Bankhead (Natasha Lyonne). “I believe her and Tallulah actually cherished one another,” stated Day. “I do suppose that Billie was capable of be herself and extra weak with girls in a approach that she wasn’t actually capable of do with males. And I’m so glad they put that in there … We’re usually writing queer tales, trans tales, out of our historical past, and we are able to’t do this.”
Certainly, Vacation’s bisexuality was not explored in any respect within the 1972 biopic “Girl Sings the Blues.” As for any comparability to the star of that basic — Diana Ross, who earned a Finest Actress Oscar nomination — Day positively isn’t attempting to compete with the Motown diva.
“You would possibly see feedback that nobody can prime Diana and all these issues,” she stated, “and in my thoughts, I’m gonna agree! After all I can’t.”