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BILL VAUGHAN’S TASTY CLIPS: Deidrie Henry does Billie Holiday right in ‘Lady Day’

Portraying legendary vocalist Billie Holiday on stage fits like a glove for veteran actress Deidrie Henry

After acclaimed engagements in Portland and Louisville starring in the Tony Award-winning Broadway play “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” by Lanie Robertson, Los Angeles audiences are finding themselves enthralled with the new production at the Garry Marshall Theatre — now extended through June 9.

Though comfortable with singing more than a dozen iconic songs including “What a Moonlight Can Do,” “Strange Fruit,” and “God Bless the Child,” Henry, who has won Best Actress awards from the NAACP and Los Angeles Drama Critic Circle, admitted that the role can take a toll on her body.

“This play happens in the four months before she dies of cirrhosis of the liver,” Henry explained to Tasty Clips.  “You can see in some of the last photographs of her that she looks like she’s 80. And she was only 44. She’s very beaten. Beaten down. And so, that’s where the toll is. My body just aches from being in her body — from her taking over.”

“I’m not an impersonator and I don’t do imitations,” continued the former series regular on NBC’s “Game of Silence” and FX’s “The Riches, who has guested on “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Glee,” and “CSI.” “I listen to her music and try to take that in, but what was really important for me was to figure out where was she was emotionally and physically. What was happening with her spirit, her soul, her mind. 

“She was severely addicted and so how did that play a part in where she was. That’s where I went with it. It’s still her singing, but I wanted to focus on the truth of where she was at the time.”

One role that Henry is very proud of and grateful for is that of Annie, the down-to-earth Popeye’s Chicken spokesperson you’ve grown to love over the years.  

She laughed when asked if people stop her on the street often.

“Nope,” she said. “Never.  If they see me, they feel like I could be an aunt or cousin. They’re very comfortable with me because I appear all the time in their living rooms. I get ‘You look like somebody I know’ a lot … but I could walk in a Popeye’s right now and they wouldn’t know that it’s me.” 

For tickets for the run (including limited on-stage VIP seating and a special May 31 live post-show conversation about music, entertainment, addiction, and recovery with Academy and Grammy Award-winner Paul Williams), visit www.garrymarshalltheatre.org or call (818) 955-8101. 

CAUSE WORTHY: La La Anthony, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Solange Knowles, Bianca Lawson, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams serve as honorary chairpersons for the WACO Theater’s third annual Wearable Art Gala June 1. Co-Artistic Directors Tina Knowles Lawson and Richard Lawson founded the event, which is presented by SheaMoisture, to celebrate art and raise funds for the nonprofit gallery and performance complex.

Also that evening, Don Cheadle, Mark Hamill, Lou Diamond Phillips, Alex Trebek, Laura Dern and Ron Perlman, are among the many celebs anteing up for the seventh annual Ed Asner & Friends Poker Tournament Celebrity Night at CBS Radford Studios (formerly MTM) Stage 11 in Studio City. The evening, where more than 400 guests are expected, benefits Asner’s new Family Center, dedicated to helping differently “abled” individuals with special needs.

CLIPPETTES: The month of May ends with jazz group Snarky Puppy at the Orpheum Theatre; hip-hop veterans DJ Quik & Too $hort at The Novo; and rap sensation Young M.A at the El Rey Theatre …

Director F. Gary Gray received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame May 28. Grossing more at the box office than any other African-American filmmaker, his movies include “Friday,” “Set It Off,” “Fast 8” and the upcoming “Men In Black: International” which opens in theaters June 14 …

George Benson (who has a new album “Walking To New Orleans: Remembering Chuck Berry and Fats Domino”) headlines the Newport Beach Jazz Fest at the Hyatt Regency (May 31 to June 2) along with Jeffrey Osborne, Morris Day & The Time, Najee, Nick Colionne, Poncho Sanchez and more …

“Be Inspired: The Life of Heavy D” is now available for viewing via Amazon Prime. The documentary highlights the profound legacy of hip hop pioneer widely known as “The Overweight Lover.” Stories from notables such as Will Smith, Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Mary J Blige, Chuck D, Kim Fields and Doug E Fresh paint a picture of how important and influential he was to the music industry.

TC ON TV: May 31 – “When They See Us” (Netflix): Ava DuVernay chronicles the notorious case of the teenagers labeled the Central Park Five, who were convicted of a rape they did not commit. The four-part limited series will focus on the youths beginning in the spring of 1989, when they were first questioned about the incident, spanning 25 years, highlighting their exoneration in 2002 and the settlement reached with the city of New York in 2014. The all-star cast features Michael K. Williams, Vera Farmiga, John Leguizamo, Niecy Nash, Blair Underwood, Omar J. Dorsey, Felicity Huffman, Jharrel Jerome, Aunjanue Ellis and Kylie Bunbury, to name a few. “Deadwood: The Movie” (HBO): Fifteen years later, HBO is presenting viewers of David Milch‘s Emmy-winning series a new movie to wrap up the western’s storyline with original cast members Ian McShane, Timothy Olyphant, Kim Dickens, Gerald McRaney and Franklyn Ajaye, among others. “Quiet Storm: The Ron Artest Story” (Showtime): The world of the controversial man now known as Metta World Peace is examined through his on and off the basketball court activities through intimate interviews with his former teammates, rivals, loved ones and family.

June 1 – “Pride & Prejudice: Atlanta” (Lifetime): Rhonda Baraka directs this modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel led by Reginald VelJohnson (“Family Matters”) and Jackée Harry (“Sister Sister”).

June 2 – “Luther” (BBCA): Idris Elba is back as DCI John Luther trying to solve a new spate of nightmarish murders in London. “Downton Abbey Returns!” (PBS): This two-hour special will present a sneak peek at the new feature film opening Sept. 20.  “Fear The Walking Dead” (AMC): Season five promises a lot of soul searching as the group follows the benevolent philosophy of Morgan (Lennie James).  The trailers are also teasing the return of Rubén Blades’ Daniel Salazar.

June 4 – “Queen Sugar: Season 4: All Access” (OWN): The saga of the Bordelons is covered in advance of next week’s premiere.

June 5 – “Black Mirror” (Netflix): The techie anthology series is back for a three-episode fifth season including “Striking Vipers” starring Anthony Mackie (“Avengers: Endgame”), Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (“Aquaman”) and Nicole Beharie (“Sleepy Hollow”). “The Handmaid’s Tale” (HULU): “Blessed be the fight” for season three!  “grown-ish” (Freeform): The Yara Shahidi led “black-ish” spin-off is back for its summer premiere. Co-star Trevor Jackson is celebrating by bringing his RD2 Tour to The Mint the following evening.

June 6 – “Ellen” (Syn): Mavis Staples, Sheryl Crow and Bonnie Raitt. “Queen of the South” (USA): Alice Braga returns for a fourth season as Teresa Mendoza, the former refugee now cocaine cartel leader who eyes expanding her empire to the Big Easy — New Orleans, Louisiana.

TASTY QUIP: “”I think that it’s so interesting that body positivity is now this buzzing term. There’s no term for body negativity because it’s the norm we expect.” – Recording artist LIZZO on “The Daily Show.”

As featured in the Los Angeles Wave and Independent, Tasty Clips is one of the leading entertainment columns in the nation, serving nearly one million weekly readers. To reach Bill Vaughan, send email to tastyclips@yahoo.com or via Twitter @tastyclips.