HBO PREMIERES ITS ANTICIPATED FILM “BESSIE,” STARRING QUEEN LATIFAH AS THE LEGENDARY BLUES SINGER

Oscar® nominee Queen Latifah stars as legendary blues singer Bessie Smith in the HBO Films drama Bessie, directed by acclaimed filmmaker Dee Rees and debuting Saturday, May 16th at 21:00 hrs. AST* in the Caribbean, simultaneously with the United States.

The film focuses on Smith's 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.

The film focuses on Smith’s 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.

Bessie offers an intimate look at the determined woman whose immense talent and love for music took her from anonymity in the rough-and-tumble world of vaudeville to the 1920s blues scene and international fame. Capturing Bessie’s professional highs and personal lows, the film paints a portrait of a tenacious spirit who, despite her own demons, became a celebrated legend.

Throughout the years, Bessie Smith has served as an inspiration for such illustrious singers as Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin and Nina Simone, among others.

Throughout the years, Bessie Smith has served as an inspiration for such illustrious singers as Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin and Nina Simone, among others.

A labor of love for the filmmakers, Bessie has been 22 years in the making. The first draft was written by celebrated playwright Horton Foote. Queen Latifah was approached by producers Richard and Lili Fini Zanuck to take on the role of Bessie when she was just launching her acting career. She eventually came on board as an executive producer, along with producing partner Shakim Compere. Bessie marks a return to HBO for the star, following her Golden Globe- and SAG Award-winning performance in HBO Films’ “Life Support.”

The story of iconic blues songstress Bessie Smith comes to life on Saturday, May 16th in the Caribbean, simultaneously with the United States

The story of iconic blues songstress Bessie Smith comes to life on Saturday, May 16th in the Caribbean, simultaneously with the United States

The talented cast also includes Michael Kenneth Williams (HBO’s Boardwalk Empire) as Bessie’s husband, Jack; Khandi Alexander (HBO’s Treme) as Bessie’s older sister, Viola; Mike Epps as Richard, a bootlegger and romantic interest; Tory Kittles (HBO’s True Detective) as Bessie’s older brother, Clarence; Tika Sumpter as Lucille, a performer and romantic interest; Oliver Platt as famed photographer and writer Carl Van Vechten; Bryan Greenberg (HBO’s How to Make It in America) as renowned record producer and music critic John Hammond; Oscar® winner Mo’Nique as blues legend Ma Rainey; and Charles S. Dutton as Ma Rainey’s husband, William “Pa” Rainey.

Bessie, an HBO presentation of A Flavor Unit Entertainment Production and A Zanuck Company Production, was filmed in Atlanta. Directed by Dee Rees; executive produced by Richard D. Zanuck, Lili Fini Zanuck, Queen Latifah, Shakim Compere, Shelby Stone and Randi Michel; produced by Ron Schmidt; screenplay by Dee Rees, Christopher Cleveland and Bettina Gilois; story by Dee Rees and Horton Foote.

*Atlantic Standard Time. For local transmission times call (246) 620-FLOW/3569 or visit www.hbomax.tv.

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