With Cherish the Day, executive producer Ava DuVernay brings us an anthology that examines the inner workings of a relationship over the course of five years. Starring Xosha Roquemore (The Mindy Project) as fun-loving Gently James and Alano Miller (Underground) as her more tightly wound boyfriend, Evan Fisher, the series’ eight episodes each track a single day in the life of the romance.
In a recent chat with EW, Roquemore discussed the show’s novel conceit, working with legend Cicely Tyson, and more. Following its two-night premiere earlier this week, Cherish the Day settles into its normal time slot of Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on Feb. 18.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: It seems like the structure of Cherish the Day would be a fun challenge for an actor because, although it is linear in terms of chronology, you are jumping forward in time incrementally.
XOSHA ROQUEMORE: Yeah, it was fun because I felt like I got to explore the character really wholly. I got to know her over a five-year span. So much changes over five years. In film you get the whole script, so you know where your character is going to go. But on TV it’s getting revealed to you as we get each new script. So it’s fun to see what was happening and then have to rise to the occasion of piecing it together with the story we already told.
Did you feel like you had to get to know Alano really well in order to make the relationship feel like it was lived in?
Luckily for us, we already knew each other, not that we’d ever worked together before. But I think that’s always one of the great challenges of acting when you’re playing any relationship: mother, father, lover, daughter. You have to get in there and build that relationship, and this show is based on relationships so we had to build it even stronger. The relationship is always the heartbeat of any story.
What was the experience like working with Ms. Cicely Tyson, a living legend?
It was so amazing to work with a legendary actress who’s been doing it for so long and who’s so brilliant, I was just honored to be in her presence. And it was cool to see her process and life and work up close and personal. She was so fun to be around, and full of really cool stories.
Is she someone who leads by example, or did she offer any concrete advice about the business?
We didn’t really talk about working in the business on set. I just wanted to keep it natural. And I felt like the gems that came up just from hanging around her were actually better than if I would have asked a series of industry-related questions. We read our script together. We ran lines. We just talked. We were just two actresses, which was even cooler to me because I could just be around her being herself doing her thing, and just learn.
My grandma passed away in 2015, but man, oh man, would this be her show… the Oprah Winfrey Network… and Ms. Tyson one of her favorite actresses of all times. She would just be over the moon.
Given that the show will cover so many years, we’re going to see both the ups and the downs, right?
Yeah, it is such a roller coaster since each episode takes place over a 24-hour period, we get into the details, the nuts and bolts, from the extraordinary to the mundane, because we’re with these characters for a whole day. So we see decisions they make in love. You get to dive into the details, and it makes it really realistic and still familiar. Some of the stuff I was reading I was like, “Oh man, I’ve been through this!” Or, “I have friends who’ve been through this!”
Since this is an anthology, it will presumably have a different cast and story for future seasons. But some producers like to shuffle around some of the same actors in series like this. If Ava asked you to return to play a new character in another season of Cherish the Day, would you be interested?
I’m interested in anything Ava asks me to do, honestly. [Laughs]