Andra Day on the role she was born to play in 'The United States vs. Billie Holiday'

ByHosea Sanders and Marsha Jordan OTRC logo
Monday, April 19, 2021
Andra Day on her role in 'The United States vs. Billie Holiday'
ABC7's Hosea Sanders talked to Andra Day about a role she was destined to play in "The United States versus Billie Holiday."

CHICAGO -- Andra Day is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in "The United States vs. Billie Holiday."

As Billie Holiday, she is mesmerizing, anguished and courageous in "singing" her truth. The movie shows how the feds went after her for an anthem about racial atrocities.

Day has been captivated by Holiday since she was a child. She took her stage name from Billie's title "Lady Day." ABC7's Hosea Sanders talked to her about a role she was destined to play.

SANDERS: It seems like you were born to play this role with your name, and your voice, this was you...

DAY: She really helped me to become the singer, the creative, the entertainer that I am to accept my own voice. I wanted it to be not a copy of Holiday, but an homage that she helped me to become my own woman.

SANDERS: Your rendition of "Strange Fruit," it's almost like she took over you when you're singing the song, how did it feel for you?

DAY: "Strange Fruit" is just haunting. It's not a beautiful song, it's a horrific song because lynching is horrific.

SANDERS: Are you ready for the big event itself, the whole dress process?

DAY: I wanted it to be something that before I played Billie Holiday, I probably wouldn't have worn. I wanted to be inspired by her, I wanted it to be who I am right now.

SANDERS: Is there something that Billie Holiday has taught you in playing this role, are you different?

DAY: She really taught me to be braver, every time she sang "Strange Fruit" she said, "I'm willing to die tonight" because that's likely what would have happened, to show up anyway, don't pray the storm away, don't try to overcome the fear, it'll be there, but just show up anyway, that's how you overcome a demon. You think I'm gonna stop singing that song, your grandkids will be singing 'Strange Fruit'!

Mark your calendars: April 25 is Oscar Sunday. Live coverage begins Sunday morning and continues all day with special "On The Red Carpet" coverage leading up to the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony. After the last award is handed out, stay with "On The Red Carpet" for continuing coverage. Be sure to follow @OnTheRedCarpet on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok for all your Oscar news and information.