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HBO Film 'BESSIE' Starring Queen Latifah To Debut May 16 [See Photos Of Cast]

by Caitlin Carter   Feb 25, 2015 11:49 AM EST

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As previously reported, Queen Latifah will star in HBO's upcoming new film BESSIE, which is now officially set to debut Saturday, May 16 at 8 p.m. EST on HBO, according to a press release.

The film follows legendary blues singer Bessie Smith as she transforms from a struggling singer to "The Empress of the Blues," one of the most successful recording artists of the 1920s, who remains an icon to this day. Smith died at age 43 after suffering injuries from a car accident.

The film also stars Michael Kenneth Williams as Bessie's husband, Jack GeeKhandi Alexander as Bessie's older sister, ViolaTory Kittles as Bessie's older brother, ClarenceMike 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 VechtenBryan Greenberg as renowned record producer and music critic John Hammond; with Charles S. Dutton as Ma Rainey's husband, William "Pa" Rainey; and Mo'Nique as blues legend Ma Rainey. See photos of the cast in the slideshow above.

BESSIE is directed by Dee Rees 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 produces.

Latifah previously said in a press conference that she was introduced to the project 22 years ago but didn't believe she was ready for the role.

"If anything I came to have a little more story," Latifah, 44, said. "When the project came my way, I don't think I had the life journey that went along with it. I got to live more of the blues."

Latifah also admitted that she didn't know who Smith was at first and had to become familiar with her character.

"I had no idea who Bessie Smith was, to be honest with you," Queen Latifah admitted. "I had to become familiar with who she was in particular. I've gained such a great amount of respect for the blues. The blues are just as stunning to me now as when this first came to me. If anything, I feel like I have a little more of the story of what Bessie had to say."

Are you excited to see the film? Sound off in the comments section below!

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