Teyana Taylor on Landing Breakout in “A Thousand and One”.
“I treated the loss like it was mine,” the artist told IndieWire. “I said, ‘I definitely think it’s something that’s already written for me.’
Like many music listeners, soulful contemporary R&B ballads with romantic lyrics make Teyana Taylor feel blessed. A soulful singer and songwriter who once choreographed for Beyoncé, Taylor proved a true impresario with her debut performance in AV Rockwell’s Sundance-winning film A Thousand and One.
In the impressive debut film, Taylor plays Inez, a single mother who will stop at nothing to keep her young son. Set in Harlem for 15 years, Taylor displays remarkable range, charisma and poise throughout the film’s sweeping narrative.
Although she has appeared on screen before, it was usually in dance movies like ‘Honey’ or the reality show ‘The Masked Singer’. With her brilliant performance as Inez, Taylor firmly announces herself as a major dramatic acting talent. A crafty entertainer and considerable musical talent, while Taylor has achieved great success as a recording artist, she has always dreamed of acting.
After the spring release of “A Thousand and One,” he’ll next appear in the Kenya Barris-penned “White Men Can’t Jump” and the Jay-Z-produced biblical epic “The Book of Clarence.” which is played by Mária Magdolna.
For Taylor, this means “all (her) prayers are answered.”
The interview below has been edited and condensed for clarity.
IndieWire: You are primarily known as a singer, have you always wanted to act?
Teyana Taylor: I always wanted to be an actor, and music was even more at the forefront. As you can see, I will do my best. So I’m finally in a space where I’m making sure I plug in every outlet, every outlet, that’s my goal.
And this role excites me because I’ve always wanted it. I think a lot of the roles I’ve gotten in the past have been based on me being an artist in a way. “Oh yes, she dances very well, let’s play that role.” Or, “She’s got a hot body, so yeah, let’s let her be the da, da da.” But I’ve always prayed for a role like this that could really show my range and open people’s eyes to what I can really do to really do it.
How was the audition process?
They were looking for different Inez. This was a project very near and dear to (writer/director) AV (Rockwell)’s heart. So it didn’t roll so easily. He didn’t want to pick just anyone. He did long, thorough research after Inez.
I remember it landed on my desk from my agency and it was the audition page, just the synopsis and a little bit about Inez. It wasn’t even the whole script. And I immediately got into it and said, “This is what I want to do.” I told my videographers to set it up. “I’m reading right now.” I literally only read it once and sent it right away because that’s what I was waiting for.
I said, “Wow, I definitely think this is something written for me.” And then I treated the loss like it was mine, not a random audition.
©Focus Features/Courtesy Everett Collection
What was it about the pages and synopses that drew you so instantly to the project?
Just Inez’s story and strength and how she was a survivor. Of course, one of the biggest pluses was that he was from Harlem. I’m a Harlem girl, so that was bullshit. I see many women around me, I see many Inez in them. I even see a lot of Inez in myself, in different ways. So it was definitely something I was ready for.
Specifically, what did you see of yourself in Inez?
His survival skills are simply amazing. I feel like a survivor just navigating this industry and it’s her mission to be such a giver. And his obsession with giving love and just giving her everything. That’s just me, I’m so giving and naturally a helper and I’ve always felt it’s my higher calling to help others. And I think where I saw a lot of myself in Inez is that we’re both trying to figure out, “Okay, when do we have time to give ourselves this type of love?”
Were you familiar with AV Rockwell’s work before this project?
I knew it would be incredible and artistic. I’ve seen some of the things (Rockwell) has done. So even when I heard his name and I heard him insist on it, I thought it was very rude.
I’m also a director, so when I found out that this was his first feature film, I thought it was pretty amazing because I think I can definitely learn from it because I came from the world of video directing, which I just did. videos, but my work has always been narrative in nature. So it was also rough being a student on the set, with an amazing director who was making his first feature film, and it was a hell of a lot to learn and take notes from.
What was one of the biggest challenges in the role?
I think the hardest thing was the change in maturity for Inez. Because we didn’t shoot in order. So one day I have to be 22-year-old Inez, and the next day I have to be 33-year-old Inez. And you have to tap into these different emotions, because if you’ve seen the movie from the beginning, you have a younger inner child who’s kind of free-spirited and loud. Then as you get older, you start to dial it back a little and become a little more stressed.
Then when he loses Lucky, he’s completely screwed. So I think balancing the emotions and where Inez was in her life was the hardest part of going up and down, even with my sons, to deal with the different layers of the Terrys that I had to deal with. with the different triggers, and then there’s young, innocent Terry. There was a lot of balancing.
How did you track his emotional state while shooting off-set?
One thing that me and (Rockwell) did that I feel was really helpful was we created a color palette. So by the time we finished the workshop, my script was like a rainbow script.
For example, Inez’s red color meant she was in an angry space, and maybe green Inez was in a vulnerable space, then pink Inez was in a happy space, and maybe blue was Inez’s inner child. That’s how we created these different layers.
Are you done with the music yet?
I think it’s not as cutting edge now as it used to be. Right now I’m just happy where I am and locked in. And that was one of my main goals to really be able to touch on other things that I really love. And I think we all go through that phase of life where we just want to try new things. Like I said, I don’t keep myself in a box or plugged into an outlet.
At this point I’m like a Glade Plugin. My musical Glade Plugin is still in the room and still smells good. Now I’m working on my acting and directing the Glade Plugin and just working in different rooms and working in different areas.
Focus Features will release “A Thousand and One” in select theaters on Friday, March 31st.
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