HBO Canada presents the new HBO film BESSIE, premiering Saturday, May 16 at 8 p.m. ET/MT, day-and-date with HBO in the U.S. Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Dee Rees (Pariah), the feature-length film captures the story of legendary blues singer Bessie Smith (Queen Latifah, Joyful Noise), from her professional highs and personal lows, to her transformation from young struggling singer into “The Empress of Blues,” one of the most successful recording artists of the 1920s and an enduring icon today.
Click HERE for a sneak peek of BESSIE.
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.
The cast 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 (The Hangover) as Richard, a bootlegger and romantic interest; Tory Kittles (HBO’s TRUE DETECTIVE) as Bessie’s older brother, Clarence; Tika Sumpter (Ride Along) as Lucille, a performer and romantic interest; Oliver Platt (X-Men: First Class) 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; Charles S. Dutton (LONGMIRE) as Ma Rainey’s husband, William “Pa” Rainey; and Oscar-winner Mo’Nique (Precious) as blues legend Ma Rainey.
BESSIE is directed by Dee Rees from a screenplay by Dee Rees, Christopher Cleveland, and Bettina Gilois. The film is executive produced by Richard D. Zanuck, Lili Fini Zanuck, Queen Latifah, Shakim Compere, Shelby Stone, and Randi Michel. Ron Schmidt produces. BESSIE is an HBO presentation of A Flavor Unit Entertainment Production and A Zanuck Company Production.
In Eastern Canada, the film will be available on TMN GO and HBO Canada OnDemand. In Western Canada, it will be available on the go with Shaw Go Movie Central app, Bell TV app, Telus Optik on the go, and HBO Canada On Demand.