Andra Day put her body through the ringer to get in the mindset of Billie Holiday for Hulu’s The United States vs. Billie Holiday.
Variety wrote that in its “Actors on Actors” interview with Leslie Odom Jr., Day admitted that she hurt her health by preparing for the role. Some of her tactics including taking up smoking, drinking, and losing nearly 40 pounds.
“I basically abused my body for a long time. I’m joking and not really joking,” she said. “…I put my family through it; I put myself through it. I went from 163 pounds to 124 pounds. I would talk like her and I don’t drink or smoke, but I started smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol. Not that I recommend people do this; I just was desperate because this is my first role. I just asked God to give me all of the pain and trauma. I asked him to give me her pain and give me her trauma.”
She revealed that she also did exhaustive research on Holiday, to the point of reaching “the end” of the internet’s collection of pictures of Holiday.
“I got the role at the very top of 2018. Reading everything I could get my hands on. Listening to every interview. Apparently, I exhausted the internet of Billie Holiday photos. Apparently, the internet will tell you that you’ve reached the end.”
She also said how she was afraid of director Lee Daniels being dissatisfied with her job singing as Holiday. To sound like Holiday, she changed her voice to replicate the singer’s vocal stylings, as well as the “victory” and “pain” in Holiday’s voice.
“Every time I would sing a song I’d go, OK, Lee’s going to hear this and he’s going to fire me,” she said. “But I wouldn’t have done it if they’d been, ‘Do it in your voice.’ That for me would have probably been a no.”
The United States vs. Billie Holiday debuts on Hulu Feb. 26.