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The nominees panel – Deadline

It goes without saying that when the performer lands the role of a cultural icon, there is a certain pressure. For Oscar-nominated actress Andra Day, she immediately felt it when she found out she was going to play the legendary Billie Holiday in Lee Daniels’ The United States vs. Billie Holiday. “It was fear, of course,” Day said with a laugh.

During the Contenders movie of Deadline: The Nominees, the virtual awards season panel for the Hulu movie, Day explained how she turned down the role because she had never performed before. However, when she met Daniels, who she said was also skeptical, it was “love at first sight”.

Holiday is well known for her music, but it was “Strange Fruit”, her lynching protest song, that made her an icon of activism. In United States vs. Billie Holiday, Daniels highlights the often untold story of how the US government tormented Holiday for performing a song that amplified the senseless murder of blacks. Given the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others, the story is sadly relevant at this point in history.

Film Contenders: The Nominees – Watch the livestream

Fortunately, getting into Lady Day’s shoes worked; Day was critically acclaimed for the performance and, of course, an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. It also helped Day strengthen his platform as an artist for the greater good.

“She definitely made me braver,” said Day, who added that Holiday was just trying to live her life freely as a queer black woman, but the government didn’t have it.

“It just reminds me that we have to speak the truth – not just the Billie Holiday truth,” Day said. “It’s a story of tons of stories whose narrative has been changed, deleted and altered.”

She continued, “You are not supposed to know the depth of the struggles, contributions and triumphs of marginalized people… because it unites us. Ultimately, that’s not the goal of white supremacy. What I learned from that was to do what she did: give voice – even if it is to your detriment – to people whose voices are suppressed.

Check back later for the panel video.

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