While the HBO biopic still doesn’t have a release date, the network has let loose the first pictures of Queen Latifah as iconic Blues singer Bessie Smith in a small-screen film slated for next year. The first peek at Latifah in Bessie comes less than a month after an official announcement that her short-lived daytime talk show the Queen Latifah Show would not be renewed for a third season.

Latifah, originally a rapper of Flavor Unit fame alongside 45 King and Lakim Shabazz, is one of the executive producers for Bessie as well as its leading actor. The cast for the premium channel’s latest full-length film also includes Michael Kenneth Williams, Mike Epps, Tika Sumpter, Khandi Alexander, Mo’Nique, and Charles S. Dutton. The movie, which is based on Smith’s life story and leans on details from Chris Albertson’s biography of the singer, is being directed by Dee Rees who wrote and directed the award-winning 2011 film Pariah.

As Essence pointed out in a recent story, Queen Latifah won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made For Television for her part in Life Support, an HBO movie in which she played the part of a mother struggling with a crack addition.




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