They had me at the title of the show. Ava DuVernay’s latest foray into television is the romantic drama, anthology series "Cherish The Day." Named after Sade’s classic song, the show chronicles the relationship of one couple, with each episode spanning a single day.
Xosha Roquemore (“The Mindy Project”) stars as Gently James, a free spirit who’s a caretaker for former Golden Age actress Miss Luma Lee (Cicely Tyson) and Alano Miller (“Underground”) stars as Evan Fisher, a successful tech engineer and aspiring entrepreneur. Despite coming from vastly different worlds, the couple meet and fall in love in Los Angeles. All eight chapters cover the couple’s ups and downs over a five-year journey.
DuVernay, who is the executive producer, noted that she was inspired to make this series by her parents, “who were a demonstration of two people with completely different backgrounds and personalities that were able to come together and have a successful, loving marriage.”
Episodes are directed by filmmakers Tanya Hamilton ("Night Catches Us"), Blitz Bazawule ("The Burial of Kojo"), Aurora Guerrero ("Mosquita Y Mari") and Deborah Kampmeier ("Split, Hounddog").
Rounding out the stellar cast is Michael Beach, Anne-Marie Johnson, Kellee Stewart, Larry Bates, Loren Lott, and Dorien Wilson.
BET.com spoke with Roquemore and Miller about working with DuVernay, the need for more Black love stories on T.V., and of course, some of their favorite Sade songs.
BET: How did you two come into contact with Ava about being a part of the series?
Alano Miller: Ava wanted me to come in and do a chemistry read. Actually, I wasn't going to do it because I was dealing with a death in my family and I just wasn't open at that point. I talked to my wife [actress DeWanda Wise] who thought that I would be good for it and she said I should just stay open.
When I read the script, I immediately fell in love with the concept as well as the script. It was new and it felt nostalgic at the same time. It had a fresh vibe to it and I hadn't seen anything like that on TV. Having Ava’s eye on it definitely drew me in because I thought it was an important journey. Also, I've always wanted to be a leading man. I grew up as a romantic listening to Boyz II Men, Shai, and Jagged Edge. I really wanted to tell a story like this.
Xosha Roquemore: I got an email that wanted me to come and do a chemistry read. I didn't get a script, just a little bit of a description about it being an anthology series about love, and the character description. From the moment I read it, I loved it. I had the slides which you know, are the scenes that I was going to be reading, and I loved those. I had a short time to prepare and I got the call like maybe a day later.
I was in the waiting room and Ava walked through to come into the audition room and she was so sweet. I had met her before socially but it was just so great to meet her again in this audition situation. She gave me a big ole hug, and said, “I love you for this. Just consider it. It’s not about are you going to get the job. Just do your thing, have a great time, and don't worry about that.” She totally made me feel relaxed and comfortable.
When I went in and read, I felt like I killed it. When I improvised she liked it and gave me great notes. So that was a really dope day that I store in the canon of my brain like, just getting to have the opportunity to crush it and do some great work in front of Ava made me really excited. It was really cool.
BET: Your character, Gently, presents a multi-faceted Black woman that we usually don’t see on the small screen. She’s a global citizen. How did the character speak to you?
Xosha Roquemore: Right! After my audition, Ava texted me and said what she enjoyed most was how good I was at code-switching. Which is actually what you just said is a form of code-switching. But I feel like a lot of people will assume that if somebody is Black and from somewhere like Compton or from the Crenshaw area, that's all they know. But as a native Angeleno from the Compton and Crenshaw area, there's so much abundance in all of us. You can be from the hood but have traveled the world and maybe you didn't go to college or you did go to Harvard. We’re not a monolith. There's no one way to be from a specific area and that's something that really attracted me to the Gently character. She was like Jay-Z, comfortable anywhere from Brooklyn to Rome.
BET: Tell us why you believe that it’s important for you to tell stories about Black love?
Alano Miller: At the end of the day, we just don't have enough of them, especially in a TV format. We need to be reminded about how beautiful love is, and we need to be reminded about how beautiful Black love is, not be afraid of it, and that is possible.
I have a lot of friends who are always talking about how hard it is to meet someone and how hard it is to love, and it’s different now because of social media. We try to turn it on its head and, you know, this couple meets in a library randomly, you know, and then the DM happened. It was a reminder like “Hey, open your eyes, you know, stay open to what's in front of you because you never know the love in your life could be right there.”
Look, love comes in all different ways. But I think you know, right time, right place, all the stars have to align, all those things are very possible on this one day. Remember, love doesn't have to just be romantic, even if it's just a friendship or, all the things all the types of bonds that are there, it still is the same notion and that’s the whole point of this show, which is about moments. It's about having moments and not taking any of this for granted. I think the passing of Kobe [Bryant] and the others, you know, is just a great reminder about just how fragile our lives are.
BET: Although Gently and Evan come from two entirely different worlds, they both have struggles within their families. What do you think about how the show portrays different ways of being a Black family?
Xosha Roquemore: Right right. Evans is struggling to be seen for who he is and the big picture choices he wants to make. Gently is struggling to maintain a relationship with her mother that wasn't really ever there. But I think it kind of shows that we all have our own struggles. If you're somebody like Evan, who seems like he’s from the perfect background and nothing could be wrong in his life, he still has his own inner turmoil and things that his family has to accept about him. It goes to show that you can’t judge a book by its cover.
Alano Miller: I think for Evan, it's less about just money, education or anything like that, but I think he’s also lacking community. He has his mom and dad as a structure there. What I think is attracting him to Gently is that she has a life that is bigger, broader, and it is filled with so much. It feels more tactile, you know. It has a culture to it. He’s been missing that because he’s been on the outside the entire time. With Blackness, there are so many variations. But at the same time, there's something about being part of a tribe that is in our DNA and I think that he wants that desperately.
BET: Here’s the last question and I’m purposely putting both of you on the spot. Given that the show is named after Sade’s classic “Cherish the Day,” give me your Top 5 Sade songs.
Xosha Roquemore: Oooooh. Besides “Cherish the Day,” one of my favorites is “Your Love Is King!” I love that one! “Is It a Crime?,” “Lover’s Rock,” “Sweetest Taboo,” “Kiss of Life,” she has so many classics.
Alano Miller: Wow……… that’s tough. I can’t give you that. LOL! That’s too many songs. I’m having a brain freeze. Let me think. My favorite is “No Ordinary Love,” God that’s a good song. Of course “Cherish The Day,” “Paradise,” and “Smooth Operator.” There’s so many!
Cherish The Day premiers on OWN February 11th. Check your local listings for times.
Photo Credit: OWN