HBO’s Bessie Smith Film featuring Queen Latifah to Premiere May 16

Latifah stars in Bessie as the Empress of the Blues, one of the most successful recording artists of the 1920s.

Directed by Dee Rees, the film focuses on Smith escaping her turbulent personal life to become one of the first major blues stars. She died after a car accident in 1937 at the age of 43.

Mo’Nique stars as blues legend Ma Rainey and Bryan Greenberg portrays John Hammond, the Columbia Records executive who signed Smith. The film also stars Michael Kenneth Williams, Khandi Alexander, Tory Kittles, Mike Epps, Oliver Platt and Charles S. Dutton. Evyen Klean is the music supervisor.