Ladies of Bessie Smith Biopic on the Blues Pioneer’s Wild Life

By Qimmah Saafir May 18, 2015

The Bessie Smith biopic “Bessie” premiered on HBO on May 16. The film’s creator and leading ladies — Dee Rees, Queen Latifah and Mo’Nique — spoke to the LA Times about the ins and outs of the project that took 22 years to make from inception to debut.

Queen Latifah discussed what she learned about Bessie Smith along the way.

I found Bessie through the project. I discovered she definitely went there much more than what we were able to do in the movie. If she got high, she got way high; if she got drunk, she got way drunk; she had sex, she had much sex.

Mo’Nique, who depicts Bessie Smith’s mentor Ma Rainey, spoke on her favorite aspect of the Bessie Smith story.

I think what appealed to me mainly was the friendship between [Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith]. It was just this beautiful sisterhood, and it never dissolved.

Dee Rees shared the sources she utilized while researching for the film. 

I was definitely not interested in a white man’s perspective on Bessie. I wanted to hear it from Bessie’s lyrics and Ma’s lyrics who they were. And Angela Davis’ book, ‘Blues Legacies and Black Feminism,’ that was like my bible.

Read the full interview here.