A Sit Down With ‘Miles Ahead’s' Emayatzy Corinealdi on the Film, Working w/ Don Cheadle & Embodying Frances Taylor Davis
In a project that is eight years in the making, Don Cheadle stars in his directorial debut as the legendary musician Miles Davis. “Miles Ahead” is a film that pays reverence not only to the musician, but also to Davis’ first wife, Frances Taylor Davis, the woman who inspired his critically acclaimed seventh album, “One Day My Prince Will Come.” The gracious and stunning Emayatzy Corinealdi stars as Ms. Taylor Davis in “Miles Ahead”. I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with her about the role, working with Don Cheadle and connecting with the real Frances Taylor Davis.
Aramide Tinubu: How did you come on to “Miles Ahead”? What excited you about the project?
Emayatzy Corinealdi: Well I came on through the normal audition process. I went on tape, and then Don saw the tape and I was cast from there. What excited me about the film was Miles Davis himself. He’s someone that I didn’t know all that much about at that time. But, my dad was an avid record collector and had all of his albums. However, he was always just kind of mysterious to me, I just didn’t know that much about him, so that was interesting. And then there was the relationship that he and Frances had, which I knew nothing about. So, when I was reading the script, it was just so enthralling as a woman to read this woman’s life story. She existed in a time where it was tough for Black people in general to do anything, and she still was able to achieve all that she had achieved in her career. She was one of the original members of “West Side Story”. She was in “Mr. Wonderful” opposite Sammy Davis Jr., and she was this prima ballerina. She was cultured. So, to have all of that and to be in this relationship with Miles Davis and he tells you he wants you to quit your career…
AT: And you do it.
EC: Yes, and you do it. That for me as I was reading it, I thought this is fascinating because in this day in age that’s not something that would really happen, and even more so just for me, I asked myself ‘Would you do that?!!” Whenever scripts make you ask those questions to yourself you know there’s something there. So for me, that’s what made me excited. And on top of all of that, it’s Don Cheadle and he’s just one of those actors that if you can get the opportunity to work opposite, than you better do it. All of that is what brought me to “Miles Ahead.”
AT: Speaking about Don Cheadle, he’s this thespian, but this is his directorial debut. Despite his immeasurable talent as an actor, were you nervous at all about the fact that he was stepping behind the camera?
EC: No actually, that’s not something I was nervous about at all. I was just nervous in general about working opposite Don Cheadle (laughing). But that was really it. I didn’t really think about the directing portion, because though this is his first film outside of directing episodes of “House of Lies”, I just see Don as one of those consummate actors who just knows how to do everything already. If you’ve been doing something for so long, and for so many years, you pick up things so that’s not something that I was concerned with going into it. I was just excited to work with him as an actor. And then, to work with him as a director on his directorial debut was also exciting to me.
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Image: Miles Ahead