OWN will premiere its first anthology series with Ava DuVernay’s Cherish the Day starring Xosha Roquemore (The Mindy Project), Alano Miller (Underground) and the legendary Cicely Tyson. It will debut on February 11 at 10 PM, followed by a second night on February 12 at 8 PM. DuVernay, Roquemore, Miller and Tyson took the TCA dais on Thursday to talk about the new series. More specifically, DuVernay talked about why she created the series.
“I just needed a break from history,” said DuVernay, who is known for helming historically significant and heavy projects such as the Emmy-winning When They See Us and the feature Selma. “I wanted to do something lovely and light about love and how it affects us all. I’m a sucker for love stories.”
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DuVernay said she was craving a black romantic endeavor — and Cherish the Day is that. The eight-episode straight-to-series dramatic anthology chronicles the relationship of Gently James (Roquemore) and Evan Fisher (Miller), with each episode spanning a single day. Throughout the eight episodes, the Los Angeles-set narrative unfolds to reveal significant moments in a relationship, from the extraordinary to the everyday.
Citing ’90s films such as Love and Basketball and Love Jones, DuVernay said she longed to see that kind of black love story on television. “[Cherish the Day] breaks that open and puts it in an anthology form,” she said. “It explores black love — which we don’t see enough.”
The series is non-linear as it hops around the timeline of Gently and Evan’s relationship. Each episode encompasses one day of their five-year relationship. DuVernay said there is no B-story in the series — it’s all Gently and Evan.
Roquemore said that because it focuses on the couple, viewers can really get into the details and small moments of the love story. Miller adds that he and Roquemore created a backstory of the moments that fill in the gaps of what isn’t seen in the series. “Even though you don’t see it, it influences growth.”
DuVernay points out that Cherish the Day, which achieved full gender parity with a production crew, is less about shattering tropes that affected black narratives of the past and celebrating visions of love, giving marginalized communities a chance to see inclusive love stories seldom seen in the past. She references Tyson’s classic feature Sounder as one of the greatest moments of black love in film. There is a moving seen where Tyson’s character and Paul Winfield’s character embrace and there is a “beautiful avalanche of love and beauty in the face of chaos and prejudice.” Cherish the Day takes out these challenging parts of black narratives and focuses on the love.
Tyson said she recalls an interview with the Los Angeles Times where the reporter suggested she couldn’t identify with two black people falling in love. Tyson told the reporter, “Do you realize you are saying we are not human beings?”
DuVernay responded, “That’s why these images are important.”
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