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Andra Day Almost Retired After Playing ‘Billie Holiday’

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Andra Day has a voice from the Gods, but her acting has catapulted her as one of the favorites to take home some major hardware at this year’s Oscars. Playing jazz icon Billie Holiday in Lee Daniels’ The United States vs. Billie Holiday, Day’s compelling performance garnered her critical acclaim, including winning a Golden Globe for Best Actress. Oddly enough, Day thought that her first acting performance would be her last upon completing the film.

The United States vs. Billie Holiday recounts how  Holiday was a target of the Federal Department of Narcotics’ undercover sting operation, led by a lack Federal Agent named Jimmy Fletcher, with whom she had a tumultuous affair. The attempt was to silence Holiday from singing her controversial song, “Strange Fruit,” which details the lynching of African Americans. The film explores her struggles with addiction, fame, and fighting the power of the U.S.government.

Day gives a riveting portrayal of the highs and lows of Holiday, who was one the greatest and most influential jazz singers of all time. In her first role as lead actress, Day earned her an Academy Award Nomination for Best Actress.

Although Day’s experience in her first role was more than what she bargained for, she would consider jumping back in the game if the right role came to her.

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“The reality is, if I’m agreeing to do roles, it has to grab me, the way Billie grabbed me,” she explained. “And I don’t mean like being intrigued, meaning my spirit has to be sort of be called out to it. Because that’s really what Billie was.”

The United States Vs. Billie Holiday is streaming on Hulu.

The 93rd Academy Awards will air live on Sunday, April 25, starting at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on ABC.

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