EXCLUSIVE: Lee Daniels has recruited Evan Ross, who recurred on his recently canceled Fox series Star, as well as Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight actress Dana Gourrier and Luke Cage‘s Erik Laray Harvey for his The United States vs. Billie Holiday feature.
Singer/songwriter Andra Day is taking on the role of the iconic jazz crooner known for classics like “Strange Fruit,” “I’ll Be Seeing You,” and “God Bless the Child.” Trevante Rhodes, Garrett Hedlund, Natasha Lyonne, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph will co-star.
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks penned the screenplay, which is inspired by the 2015 New York Time’s bestseller Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs by Johann Hari.
The film, which hails from New Slate Ventures, Lee Daniels Entertainment, and Roth Kirschenbaum Films, will chronicle Holiday’s career as she was targeted by the Federal Department of Narcotics with an undercover sting operation led by black Federal Agent Jimmy Fletcher, with whom she had a tumultuous affair. It will explore Holiday’s struggles with addiction, fame and heartbreaking love.
Jordan Fudge, Daniels, Pamela Oas Williams, and Tucker Tooley will produce the project with executive producers Hilary Shor, George Parra, Mark Bomback, and Dennis Stratton.
Ross, who will play Agent Sam Williams, one of the African American agents hired by Harry Anslinger (Hedlund) to take down Holiday, is repped by CAA and LINK Entertainment. (Ross’ mother Diana Ross portrayed Billie Holiday in the 1972 film Lady Sings the Blues, which earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role.)
Gourrier, repped by Abrams Artists Agency and Mills Kaplan Entertainment, will play Sadie, while Harvey, also repped by Abrams as well as Luber Roklin and HCKR Agency, will portray Monroe.
Filming is slated to commence next month in Montreal.