Queen Latifah has signed up to play blues songstress Bessie Smith in an upcoming biopic.
The singer, actress, and talk-show host will star in the film, which will chronicle how “Bessie Smith overcame her tempestuous personal life to become one of the most acclaimed performing and recording artists of the 1920’s-30’s.”
The wild years of her meteoric rise from impoverished busker to the highest paid black entertainer of the 1920’s is truly a story for the ages, and it will be incredible to see it translated for the screen. Decades before the Spice Girls were talking about Girl Power, Bessie Smith was the living embodiment of it; standing as a symbol of feminist ideals and progressive gender roles that have only come to pass in the current century. Let’s not forget, this is a woman that confronted the KKK for threatening to disrupt one of her shows. If that’s not girl power, I don’t know what is.
The film, titled ‘Bessie,’ will be written and directed by Dee Rees (“Pariah”) and based on Chris Albertson’s biography of the same name. HBO Films is producing the flick, with support from Latifah’s own production company Flavor Unit.
Latifah will star alongside academy award-winner Mo’Nique, who will play Ma Rainey, and critically acclaimed actor Michael K. Williams. Best known for his work as everyone’s favorite hitman Omar in HBO crime drama ‘The Wire,’ Williams will play Smith’s first husband Jack Gee.
It is widely believed that Latifah has wanted to portray Smith on-screen for more than a decade now, and this role serves as a great way to stretch her acting chops as she continues to seek out more challenging endeavors on smaller screens, such as her role in an all-black cast remake of Steel Magnolias in 2012.
Filming is set to begin in Atlanta, GA next month, and HBO are currently looking for people to stand as extras in the film. If you’re interested, head over to: http://www.backstage.com/casting/bessie-36018/.
Listen to Bessie Smith perform “I Need A Little Sugar In My Bowl” below:
Also listen to Queen Latifah singing the same song below: