The Janis Joplin documentary Janis: Little Girl Blue arrives on PBS May 3rd following its 2015 theatrical run, with the film about the legendary singer presented in an extended American Masters cut for its U.S. broadcast premiere. The PBS version includes additional archival footage and new interviews from Joplin’s siblings as well as the artists – like Melissa Etheridge, Pink and Juliette Lewis – who were inspired by the Pearl legend.
In this exclusive clip to Rolling Stone, Chan “Cat Power” Marshall, who serves as narrator on Little Girl Blue and provides the voice for Joplin-penned letters, discusses how she tapped into Joplin’s mindset for the documentary.
“In high school I had imitated Janis a few times, and when I did the letters, I knew it was going to be difficult because it’s a big responsibility because she’s passed, so it’s not like I could call her and say, ‘Yo, Janis, how were you feeling this day and what did you mean when you said that?'” Marshall says in the clip. “So I was putting a little bit of my own feelings, because of my own situation of writing my own family letters.”
The Amy Berg-directed documentary was made with the cooperation of the Janis Joplin estate, and the filmmaker spent eight years researching and crafting Little Girl Blue before its film-festival debut last year. “She was ahead of her time as a woman in a man’s world,” Berg told Rolling Stone in November. “It’s still a battle to do what you want to do, have a family, make people happy and not be judged. She was constantly worried about messing up. I saw this vulnerable young woman who was just trying to find herself. Women in the entertainment business are taking charge of their lives. But we’re still fighting for a lot of the same things.”
“I was looking at the footage before I did the read and it filled me with feelings, knowing the things that were going on in her life at that point,” Marshall continues. “I remember the last letter, I couldn’t catch my breath because I was crying, because for her to still apologize for who she was and what she couldn’t be for her family was really hard. To realize when she passed, she still didn’t feel like what she accomplished what she wanted.”
The American Masters cut of Janis: Little Girl Blue premieres May 4th at 8 p.m. on PBS affiliates nationwide. Janis: Little Girl Blue (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) – a 17-track career-spanning companion album featuring both studio and live recordings – is out now.