Filmmaker Lee Daniels had to talk Andra Day into playing jazz and blues legend Billie Holiday in his new biopic, even though he didn't think she was right for the role.

The Empire creator and director admitted he didn't think the singer would have the acting chops to portray Billie in The U.S. vs. Billie Holiday, but there was something he saw in her when they met to discuss the film that made him realise she could do it, then he had to convince Andra to sign up.

Lee told Good Morning America: "I didn't think she was right for the role until I met her. She didn't think she was right for the role. She was like, 'Are you sure I can play Billie Holiday?'"

He went on: "I found myself at the end of the meeting talking an actor, who I didn't want for the role, into playing the role."

Explaining: "I could tells that she cared for Billie's legacy so much and wanted to tell it right and do it right and there was no way I could deny her the opportunity to audition, and when she auditioned it was over with," the director added: "It was a slam dunk. l have never worked with anyone like this before in my career."