HBO’s Bessie, Starring Queen Latifah, to Air May 16

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Queen Latifah Bessie

HBO has confirmed that their original film Bessie, starring Academy Award nominee Queen Latifah, will premiere Saturday, May 16 at 8:00 p.m. (ET/PT) on HBO. The film offers a biopic of legendary blues singer Bessie Smith, charting her transformation from a struggling young singer into “The Empress of the Blues,” one of the most successful recording artists of the 1920s and an enduring icon today.

Directed by Dee Rees, “Bessie” arrives from a screenplay by Rees and Christopher Cleveland & Bettina Gilois with a story by Rees and Horton Foote. The film is executive produced by Richard D. Zanuck, Lili Fini Zanuck, Queen Latifah, Shakim Compere, Shelby Stone and Randi Michel. Ron Schmidt serves as producer.

“Bessie” also stars Michael Kenneth Williams as Bessie’s husband, Jack Gee; Khandi Alexander as Bessie’s older sister, Viola; Tory Kittles as Bessie’s older brother, Clarence; Mike Epps as Richard, a bootlegger and romantic interest; Tika Sumpter as Lucille, a performer and romantic interest; Oliver Platt as famed photographer and writer Carl Van Vechten; Bryan Greenberg as renowned record producer and music critic John Hammond; with Charles S. Dutton as Ma Rainey’s husband, William “Pa” Rainey; and Oscar winner Mo’Nique as blues legend Ma Rainey.

HBO has also released a series of stills that show off the film’s ensemble cast. Check them all out in the gallery viewer below!


(Photo Credit: Frank Masi / HBO)