Andra Day makes her acting debut as legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday in Hulu’s upcoming film The United States vs. Billie Holiday, but the singer was initially resistant to taking on the role.
Day sat down with CBS This Morning on Sunday (January 24) and explained why she was hesitant portraying someone larger than life. “[I thought] I definitely have to get out of this somehow. I have to not do this,” said the 36-year-old singer about the role. “There’s probably no better way to say this but I didn’t want to suck.”
She added: “I was certain that I was going to be terrible.”
Speaking with Variety’s Actors on Actors with Leslie Odom Jr., Day says her preparation for the big role caused her to make some major lifestyle changes. “I basically abused my body for a long time,” she said. “I’m joking and not really joking."
When Day landed the role in 2018, she says she immediately got to work researching Holiday’s lifestyle and emulating her actions.
"I put my family through it; I put myself through it,” she shared. “I went from 163 pounds to 124 pounds. I would talk like her and I don’t drink or smoke, but I started smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol. Not that I recommend people do this; I just was desperate because this is my first role."
The United States vs. Billie Holiday follows Holiday as the subject of an undercover sting operation centered around the singer's substance abuse struggles. Day detailed how she wanted to be in the right mindset to play Holiday at such a crucial time in her life.
"I just asked God to give me all of the pain and trauma," she said. "I asked him to give me her pain and give me her trauma.”
The United States vs. Billie Holiday premieres February 25 on Hulu.