Queen Latifah on Emmy-Nominated 'Bessie' Role: 'She Challenged Me on Every Level'

Queen Latifah Bessie 2015
Frank Masi/HBO

Queen Latifah in "Bessie."

Queen Latifah is vying to win her first Emmy for her stirring performance in the HBO film Bessie, but her portrayal of blues legend Bessie Smith has already accomplished a very special milestone in her career.

Watch Queen Latifah In the 'Bessie' Trailer

"It was the first time I ever watched a movie with me in it and made myself cry," says Latifah, 45, who is up for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or a Movie at the Sept. 20 awards ceremony. "I was so into it, I wasn't watching myself, I was watching Bessie."

Queen Latifah's Bessie Smith Film to Premiere May 16 on HBO

Latifah says that playing Bessie tested her to the limit. "She challenged me on every level," she says. "There's a lot that I had to do in this film, from singing to three different relationships to a nude scene. I just basically had to let go and take off the seat belt."

It wasn't hard, though, for Latifah to wholeheartedly embrace the character. "I loved her spirit," she says. "She was just powerful and ahead of her time in a lot of ways. She was a fighter. It reminded me of how fearless and courageous I can be."


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