Queen Latifah’s daytime talk show might be gone for good, but Ms. Owens is making a fitting return to the screen as the star of HBO’s new biopic Bessie. The new movie chronicles the life and career of legendary Blues singer Bessie Smith and features Latifah’s own singing throughout film and on the soundtrack.
The movie is a pretty easy sell, but here are five reasons you definitely should tune in tomorrow night.
1. Queen Latifah Is Perfect For The Role
Queen Latifah was apparently approached about playing the part of Bessie Smith 22 years ago! The project has changed forms over the years but we’re glad it’s finally here and Latifah is still the woman for the job.
Queen Latifah put her pipes on display in a series of non-hip-hop records through the 2000s—do the kids know she used to rap?—and is perhaps most famous as an actress for another musical role more than a decade ago in the 2002 hit musical film Chicago. As for whether or not she can mimic the iconic voice of Bessie Smith, here’s what the Queen had to say about the task in a recent interview with The New York Daily News. “Not everyone can sing her music,” Latifah said. “She could switch among several different styles in the same song. She had a gospel sound, then she could move into a 1-2-2 and then something else.” Here’s to hoping she did Bessie justice.
2. It’s A Musical History Lesson
These days celebrity musicians have it all. Back in the ’20s and ’30s though, Black singers like Bessie Smith had to claw their way into show business. HBO’s new flick shows not only the rise of Bessie Smith but also the prejudice and racism she faced as a Black artist in the States, her competition with Ma Rainey, and her free-flowing sexuality.
3. The Supporting Cast Includes Mo’Nique, Mike Epps And Michael K. Williams
Obviously Queen Latifah is rightfully garnering much of the attention for the film, but she’s got some great co-stars in Mo’Nique, who plays the part of Bessie’s fellow Blues singer Ma Rainey, Mike Epps, and Michael K. Williams (who played Omar in The Wire).
Mo’Nique also unabashedly announced that HBO offered her the biggest paycheck of her career for Bessie. With that in mind, keep your eye on Rainey…
4. HBO Usually Gets It Right
Honestly, HBO is probably one of the most trustworthy channels on TV these days and they’ve had a long-running head-start in high-quality (and explicit) programming. The network’s biggest successes have come with scripted fiction like The Wire and The Sopranos and Game of Thrones more recently, but it’s no stranger to producing great biopics and documentaries, like the Al Pacino-starring Phil Spector film from a few years back and a new Scientology documentary a couple months ago. Needless to say, they’ve had some practice.
5. Director Dee Rees Is On A Roll
You might not have heard of Dee Rees yet but the young screenwriter/director is very quickly getting her props. Rees made waves with her 2011 feature film Pariah and Bessie is her first big project since that milestone. It’s a big moment for Queen Latifah as she takes her acting chops to the next level, but all eyes should also be on Dee Rees as this biopic will likely tell us plenty about her bourgeoning career.
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