PASADENA, Calif., Jan. 9 (UPI) -- Queen Latifah is confirmed to portray legendary blues singer Bessie Smith in new HBO movie Bessie.
The 44-year-old actress discussed the project at the Television Critics Association winter press tour Thursday. Queen Latifah was first approached to star when she was 22 years old, and told reporters she is glad to have lived "more of the blues" before taking on the role.
"I had no idea who Bessie Smith was," she recalled. "I was just blown away. I could hear her voice in so many people who came after her ... If there was a Bessie Smith alive today, she'd blow everyone else out of the water. I could never match her true ability."
Smith was born in Chattanooga, Tenn., in April 1894, and signed to Columbia Records in 1923. Renowned for her powerful vocals, she became one of the most popular blues singers of the 1920s and 1930s before dying of car accident-related injuries in September 1937.
Bessie is directed by Dee Rees (Pariah), and written by Rees, Christopher Cleveland and Bettina Gilois. Michael K. Williams, Oliver Platt and Khandi Alexander also have roles, and the film is scheduled to premiere this spring on HBO.
Queen Latifah released her seventh studio album, Persona, in August 2009, and has appeared in such films as Chicago, Beauty Shop and Hairspray. New episodes of her canceled daytime talk show, The Queen Latifah Show, will air through March.