Andra Day discusses Billie Holiday's legacy and performs 'Tigress & Tweed'

The singer, songwriter and actress talks about transforming herself into an American legend for the movie "The United States Vs. Billie Holiday" and performs her Golden Globe-nominated song.
10:28 | 02/23/21

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Transcript for Andra Day discusses Billie Holiday's legacy and performs 'Tigress & Tweed'
thousand times again for you The fabulous Andra day is following up that emmy-nominated performance of "Rise up" on "The view" with a golden globe-nominated performance in the new film "The United States vs. Billie holiday." She stars as the legendary singer and civil rights activist who had a talent for enraging the powers-that-be. Take a look. What is the government's problem with Billie holiday? Why is the government always after you? My song, strange fruit. It reminds them that they're killing us. Reminds them. It reminds you, too, Reginald. Please welcome back Andra day. Sunny, this is you. Andra, as whoopi said to you during the break it was delicious watching you. And I can't believe this is your first-ever starring role in a film and you're just fantastic, you're getting rave reviews, awards buzz and as of today you're on the cover of "W" magazine's best performances issue. Incredible. I heard you didn't want to take the role at first, why is that? No, I didn't want to take the role. I tried to get out of it as many times as I could. But I think primarily, before this role I was not an actor, you know, and that sat in my mind, I cared about the craft, I respect the craft of act and fi filmmaking and I hadn't done this before, and that terrified me. I'm a big Billie holiday fan. I didn't want to be a stain on her legacy. I love, you know, Diana Ross's performance in ladies sing the blues. I didn't want to remake that as a fan of Billie's I know that's not exactly the full picture of the government going after her and so, you know, it was so many reasons, I think feelings of inadequacies, I'm not good enough, afraid to take this risk. Very obvious reasons that I felt unprepared, you know. Well, Andra, you have been a fan of Billie holiday's since you were a young girl. Influenced you as an artist. How far did you go to prepare for the role? Yeah, so I've been a fan since I was 11 years old, I was introduced to her by two songs by my musical theater instructor at a perming arts school, in middle school, and I heard strange fruit and I heard sugar, those are my first introductions to her, and really that -- hearing "Sugar" for the first time confused me. I when I first heard it this is nothing like, you know, Whitney or Aretha or Etta, and I heard "Strange fruit." I just knew in that moment whatever it was she was singing about she sacrificed more and I knew it directly impacted me and those that I love. You know in preparing for her, it was a lot of research which I've done since I was young, of course reading every book, looking at every documentary, every piece of audio and interviews and rehearsals when she's making what she called sides back then, records, also daily conversations about who he wanted Billie to be, he introduced me to my acting coach and my dialect coach, and how to train my vocal chords to stay in that place and the physical transformation, I lost almost 40 pounds. I don't smoke or drink or have sex or really cuss honestly, commitments I made to myself years ago but I did start smoking cigarettes and drinking too much gin and just, you know, changing my behaviors, you know, to cutting off all my hair, and so, you know, it was a very specific vision for Billie and I loved it because it was authentic and that's what mattered the most to me as a fan of hers. Well, the thing that I don't think people realize is that she's been called the god mother of the civil rights movement and because she -- that song "Strange fruit" is one of the reasons, it's song about the horrors of lynching. Were you surprised that the FBI was as relentless going after her, trying to keep her from performing it, from integrating her audiences, just doing all kind of stuff, lot of people are not aware of this side of her legacy, were you surprised by I was not. I knew the government went after her for singing "Strange fruit." The obsession started early. I didn't know about the Jimmy Fletcher piece, the first black FBI agent, one of the first, that was hired to infiltrate her and take her down, really, so played beautifully by -- so I didn't know that he was a part of her life, I didn't know the story, I hated that I didn't know that. I'm a huge fan of hers. I'm pretty acknowledgeable when it comes to Billie and just her, different goings on. Lee and I both felt the same way. He didn't know about that. I didn't know about Jimmy Fletcher. It was rev la toir. It's not a surprise. We're with aware of Edgar Hoover. A practice they've engaged in for years, right, to dismantle black influence and leadership. I think we're going to find out in many years to come that J. Edgar Hoover was a black man and he was trying to tear down his own people. But, you wrote a new film, a new song for the film and we can't wait to hear it. So, let's get to it. The United States vs.billie holiday premiers Friday on hulu. Performing her golden globe-nominated song "Tigress and tweed" from the film, here is Andra day. say, say, say MM, say, say, say, say a prayer for me strange fruit come down off the tree cut it down under your feet juicy fruit, so bittersweet fruit stand tall, these roots go deep strange fruit Bustin' on these leaves, ancestors don't take defeat left the scent of victory in the air, tigress and tweed oh, you carry it I'm tired, grin, bear it true of these you carry, future, you and your chariot say a prayer for me 'cause I don't get no sleep say a prayer for me MM, say, say, say but I been rallyin' the troops chariots aflame in line behind my Masi' coupe damu at these roots it's thick, too, made big fruit, big vines always pressin' that line so full of love and light, the truth is black and white say a prayer for me 'cause I don't get no sleep say a prayer for me say, say, say say a prayer for me say a prayer say a prayer for me Thank you, peace and blessings.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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