With (well deserved) nominations in all the major Emmy categories, ‘Bessie’ tells the story of one of the early pioneers of black entertainment in America.  When you look at her whole career, it’s hard to describe Queen Latifah as ‘underrated’, but this project was a nice reminder of how talented she is.  Taking on the role of the title character, we watch her arc go from shy but talented performer, to a force of nature who bucks (and eventually reconciles with) her mentor Ma Rainey (played here by Mo’Nique).

The supporting cast here: Michael Kenneth Williams, Khandi Alexander, Charles S. Dutton, Tika Sumpter, Mike Epps.  All have or will be leading their own projects; when you can pull off that much talent in one roof, you realize (almost subconsciously) there aren’t any ‘dead’ scenes here.  Props to Dee Rees for pulling off the rare ‘black period piece.’

Now available on HBO Now.