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Queen Latifah to Play Blues Singer Bessie Smith in HBO Film

Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith

Queen Latifah has star quality and a lovely voice to match, so it only makes sense that she portray the legendary blues singer Bessie Smith in a new musical biopic for HBO.

According to, the Flavor Unit leader was actually offered the role over two decades ago when she was 22 years old, but she declined because she didn’t feel like she was old enough or had enough life experience.

“If anything, I came to have a little more story,” she told television critics at the TCA Winter TV Press Tour 2015 in Pasadena, Calif. “When the project came my way, I don’t think I had the life journey that went along with it. I got to live more of the blues.”

The Dee Rees-directed film follows the story of Smith, who became the most popular blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s. In fact, she was given the name The Empress of the Blues due to her overwhelming popularity and success. Tragically, she passed away in 1937 at the young age of 43, after getting into a car crash.

The first time Latifah was offered the role, she didn’t know who the blues legend was. “I had no idea who Bessie Smith was, to be honest with you,” she admitted. “I had to become familiar with who she was in particular.”

The former talk show host also said she’s developed a tremendous amount of love for blues music.

“I’ve gained such a great amount of respect for the blues,” she said. “The blues are just as stunning to me now as when this first came to me. If anything, I feel like I have a little more of the story of what Bessie had to say.”

HBO’s film ‘Bessie,’ which also stars Michael Kenneth Williams, Khandi Alexander, Mike Epps and others, will debut this spring, although a specific air date has not been confirmed.

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