It’s not always easy for a recording artist to transition to awards recognition for acting, but it happened in recent years for Oscar nominees Mary J. Blige (“Mudbound”) and Lady Gaga (“A Star is Born”). Now it could happen for R&B singer Andra Day, who has steadily been rising in our Best Actress odds for her title role in “The United States vs. Billie Holiday.” Do you agree with our current odds that she’ll make the cut?
Day is best known as the Grammy-nominated singer of “Rise Up,” and she also sang the Oscar-nominated song “Stand Up for Something” from the 2017 film “Marshall.” In this film she plays legendary musician Billie Holiday at a time when she was the target of an undercover sting operation by federal narcotics agents. As of this writing we rank her fourth in the Best Actress Oscar race with 11/1 odds based on the combined predictions of thousands of Gold Derby users. Though perhaps surprisingly, so far only two of the Expert journalists we’ve surveyed rank her among their top five: Shawn Edwards (WDAF-TV Fox) and Joyce Eng (Gold Derby).
Nevertheless, she has steadily been on the rise in our overall forecasts. As of December 1, she was fourth with 11/1 odds, but one month earlier on November 1 we ranked her seventh with 22/1 odds. And a month before that on October 1 she was eighth with 30/1 odds. There’s good reason to believe she’s a strong contender. The motion picture academy loves actors playing biographical roles; Renee Zellweger just won Best Actress as another legendary entertainer, Judy Garland, in “Judy.” And “United States” director Lee Daniels previously guided Mo’Nique to a Best Supporting Actress Oscar win for his 2009 film “Precious,” for which Gabourey Sidibe was also nominated for Best Actress.
That said, Daniels has also had a couple of near-misses at the Oscars. Nicole Kidman received widespread awards attention for his film “The Paperboy” (2012) but was left out by the academy. Ditto Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey in “The Butler” (2013). But actors playing Holiday already have a strong awards track record. Another singer-turned-actress, Diana Ross, earned a Best Actress Oscar nomination for portraying her in “Lady Sings the Blues” (1972). And Audra McDonald won a Tony (2014) and earned an Emmy nomination (2016) for the role in “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill.” So Day would be continuing in an award-winning tradition, not just for singer-actors in general but for Holiday as a character in particular.
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