Tracee Ellis Ross on facing her fears for ‘The High Note’
The former 'Girlfriends' star says she was afraid to showcase her singing abilities for years.
It’s finally time for the world to see Tracee Ellis Ross take on her first leading role in a feature film in The High Note and in the movie, fans will also get to hear her beautiful singing voice.
Set in the dazzling world of the L.A. music scene comes the story of Grace Davis (Tracee Ellis Ross), a superstar whose talent, and ego, have reached unbelievable heights. Maggie (Dakota Johnson) is Grace’s overworked personal assistant who’s stuck running errands but still aspires to her dream of becoming a music producer. Things come to a head when Grace’s long-time manager (Ice Cube) presents the singer with a choice that could alter the course of her career, and Grace must choose between playing it safe or listening to her heart in a decision that could change her life forever.
theGrio caught up with Ross to find out how she conquered her fears to take on the role she was born to play.
“I always wanted to sing as a little girl and… I don’t know where I put that dream aside. I don’t know if it was conscious or unconscious. I understand where that dream turned into something that was scary. My mom is Diana Ross. The idea of stepping into that parent’s shadow and everybody’s possible comparison or criticism got bigger and bigger. And then I also got busy with a career that took off with my acting,” she explains.
“So when this role came along and I was like, ‘Oh my God I can do it. This is what I’ve always wanted.’ And I love this role. And I love this woman and I love the story of this project. And then all of a sudden, I was like, ‘Now I have to sing!’ And it really felt like a giant monster. There were a lot of tears,” she says.
Thankfully, Ross was able to conquer her fears and impress the world with her beautiful singing voice.
“I’m so glad that I made my way through the fear. And I love the message and the sort of idea that it’s never too late to try something new. It’s never too late to let that dream, that fire that’s inside of you come out,” Ross explains. “To go after what you want, even if it’s a change of direction, even if everyone around you is saying ‘Stay in your lane. Why would you do that? Don’t do that.’ I feel like if you hear that from people, that means you should. That means take the risk and lean towards the fear because when you walk through to the other side, it is just beautiful and free over here.”
We also spoke to the film’s director, Nisha Ganatra, who revealed her reasons for casting Tracee Ellis Ross in her first feature film role.
“Tracee Ellis Ross was the only actor I could think of to play the role of Grace Davis because she has great comedy chops. We needed someone who could really move you and one that plays a believable diva, who is also charming and grounded and warm,” Ganatra says.
“Also, someone who really understood first-hand, the life of a music icon and who would that be other than Diana Ross’ daughter? The fact that Tracee has been hiding her voice from the world for so many years; it’s really special to be a part of her vocal debut,” she continues. “To be able to center that and show that and feature that and share her voice with the world is a really big honor. Thankfully, she could really bring Grace Davis to life in every way.”
The other bright spot of the film is that we get to Kelvin Harrison, Jr. like we have never seen him before.
“He is always playing these dark, intense roles and I just knew there was a romantic, leading man in there. He said, ‘You know, I’m afraid of singing but I know I can do it but, I don’t know about this comedy thing.’ He wasn’t convinced he could do comedy but he’s really funny and incredibly charming,” she says.
“You just love watching him make a fool of himself and also get the girl. He has that rare thing, a bit of that sexy, suave thing and also self-deprecation and humor. He’s such a movie star,” Ganatra gushes. “He’s really just a beautiful soul in the world and beautiful soul in the world who couldn’t be a harder worker or a kinder person.”
The High Note is available On Demand now.
Check out our interview with Tracee Ellis Ross, above.