At the winter Television Critics Association press conferences, Latifah said she was glad the project took 22 years to get made. "When the project came my way, I don't think I had the life journey that went along with it. I got to live more of the blues," she said.
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.