“Cherish The Day,” is the new, Ava DuVernay created and produced show coming to OWN tomorrow. About a couple’s relationship over time, “Cherish The Day,” stars Alano Miller and Xosha Roquemore. Ahead of its premiere, we spoke to Miller about the love, colorism, the fractured dynamics between Black men and Black women, and more. Check out the conversation below.
What is it that makes Black love unique, different, or special?
I think it’s a bond that we naturally have with one another. I think it’s something that is before slavery, in the sense of our connection. There’s this innate connection that I think is very special. It is something that covers the diaspora. It feels like there’s an easy acceptance and the understanding that it’s the two of you against the world. You both acknowledge that you live in a society that is not for us and wants to separate us. There is a beautiful power that is between us in Black love, regardless of gender, generally.
People will say, ‘Y’all are going to be the next power couple.’ They mean from an entertainment standpoint, a societal standpoint. But you are naturally just a power couple when you’re together. Because there’s just a great wavelength about how to navigate through the world and the sacrifices you’ll have to make to succeed in your goals.
To that point, we’ve been having a lot of conversations about the dynamics between Black men and Black women…
…even outside of romantic relationships—we’ve been discussing whether or not Black men are fully grasping the necessity of protecting Black women…
They don’t. We don’t. Not yet. Because we all live in a bubble. And now, we’re in a space where we’re separating ourselves. We don’t understand the power of Black women. We don’t understand the importance of Black women and how we need each other in order to continue forward. In order for us to tell our stories, in order for us to just bear witness for each other, to stand for one another. And it’s something that we’ll eventually get better with, just because we need to have more conversations about it. We need to talk about toxic masculinity. And people just say that phrase by the way. They just throw out toxic masculinity, not really understanding how to define it, the historical understanding of it, the trauma. And so until we’re willing to put all the cards on the table and be vulnerable, be open and be real about those things and understand that we can create a safe space where we won’t judge each other —until that time happens, we can’t make any movement. And until then, Black women will suffer because of it.
I’m so glad you said that because I didn’t know how I was going to phrase that…
I get it. I have these same conversations. Just so you know, there are always conversations being had about Black men’s roles in this space. How do we lift up women of color in a way where we don’t need to be at the forefront or feel slighted that we’re not being seen? This thing about being slighted. ‘Well, Black men are already forgotten.’ But if we’re being forgotten what do you think is happening to Black women? Then you had the historical part on top of that and how long it’s been. You just can’t deny that. And I think it’s about coming to terms with, ‘It’s not about you.’ There’s a bigger picture, a bigger story, and a bigger vision and a bigger future. If we don’t start preparing for our future generations, we’re going to continue this vicious cycle and we’re not going anywhere.
I was talking to my husband yesterday about this and I was like, ‘It’s so hurtful because it represents such a dysfunction. Black men and Black women we’re supposed to be together. We’re the beginning of humankind so when we’re not united, it’s like everything is askew.
It is. They say, ‘Historically, White people have separated Black men from the families and therefore the families are suffering.’ And I’m like that’s not true. You’re now putting down all the single mothers or the kids who grew up with these single mothers who’ve done miracles. I think it’s important for the bond to be there (between Black men and women) because you are a united front. But there is this notion that women are weaker and men are stronger and they represent the head of the household. And I go, ‘I think that’s a dated mentality. I think we’re equals in this conversation.’ And we need to talk about equality more and not be afraid that we’re equals. I think that’s a great thing. I don’t want to be with someone who is not able to bear the brunt with me. My wife (fellow actor DeWanda Wise)—they always say that joke, ‘She’s the better half.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, she actually is.’ She’s brilliant. She has the biggest heart. She’s a major empath. She’s super talented. Crazy talented. Her ability to connect and see the potential in people and see the potential in me and to be able to not make it about her and push you into the forefront. I have to be able to do the same thing. It’s about choosing one another. And that’s what makes you powerful, that you continue to turn it on each other and say, ‘Okay, this is where society wants you to fail, so let me help you with this.’ And vice versa.
How do you think “Cherish The Day,” an art that highlights Black love specifically, can help maybe show a more healthy dynamic that can exist between Black men and Black women?
I think this show is special is because we remind you of moments that you’ve had in relationships, regardless of what kind of relationship you’re in. And to not take them for granted. I think because we live in a microwave society, we want things to be very quick. We want what we see on social media. We want all these things that have to look a certain way and feel a certain way and we forget that it’s about being present. It’s about being able to take the moments and enjoy those moments. Enjoy the moments when you broke and you got to be on welfare. DeWanda and I, my wife and I, we’ve been on food stamps, we’ve had a church pay for our rent. We’ve been in all the iterations. And in spite of all of that, we laughed through all of that. We look at those moments as building blocks for our relationship because those moments that we remember.
Every time you take a step forward, there’s a new trial and tribulation that we have to go through. But this show allows us to take a breath and remember that love is possible if you allow yourself to be present in it.
Each episode of the show takes place over the course of a day. But the days are not chronological…
Right. Year, six months, three months.
So there is a whole lot of stuff that can happen in relationships between those time periods and it will affect the way you show up in a relationship. So what was it like preparing for what may or may not have happened between these two people?
I think it was a lot of fun. That’s an actor’s challenge is to fill in the gaps. And you’re doing that regardless of anthology or the jumping of time. But it’s even more so now, in that position. It was a lot of fun to hear Xosha’s point of view of what she went through in the relationship and how we got to that space. We had a lot of conversations about that, not really so much with the creatives just with ourselves about how to make it believable for us. But that’s a great challenge to have. It did inform us on what we were going to do by creating these backstories that no one was ever going to see.
I heard—and you can correct me if this is wrong—but I heard you couldn’t watch “She’s Gotta Have it” (starring actress DeWanda Wise, Alano’s wife) because of the sex scenes…
So, I didn’t want to watch it. Because I’m still a human being and I don’t see no one with my wife except for me. I respect the gentlemen who did it. We had a conversation, obviously, and they were very cool. But my wife is in control of those situations and I trusted her fully. But I didn’t want to go through that road with her. I was like, ‘This ain’t for me.’ I’m your husband and I will always be that. But I also don’t want to ever silence her voice. I want to support her. I was always the guy who—when she came home, I was there. I made sure there was food. If she needed a massage or she needed to just vent, or whatever else, I was there. I was going to be that kind of support system. So I’ll show up on the red carpet, I’ll do that kind of stuff but I don’t have to watch the show. I know how brilliant she is. So I don’t need to go, ‘Well, I’m supporting her because I want to see her work.’ I know who she is. I don’t need that part.
Does she have a similar issue with this show?
Pssshh! No! My wife is definitely different when it comes to—my wife is like, ‘Don’t embarrass me. Like look, you better grab her. Fall in love with this woman.’ She’s so much more like, ‘Hey, I don’t care.’ Meanwhile, I’m like ‘Bleh!’ But I got over that too. You get those moments. You get through those transitions. And it’s not real. And we know that. And I know that too but I was just like, ‘I don’t want to see all that…’
Visuals are strong.
Yeah, I’m like I don’t need that in my head.
Was there an intentional effort to cast Xosha because she’s a darker complected Black woman? Because seeing a darker-skinned Black woman as the object of affection is not common.
It’s not. It’s rare. From Ava [DuVernay]’s point of view, probably. I think it’s important and it’s needed. We actually had this conversation a little earlier about the fact that we keep putting these images out there and we don’t silence them and that we continue to push the notion that women come in all shapes and sizes, complexions, styles. Beauty is beauty is beauty. If we don’t do that, then we’re missing the ballpark as African American storytellers. There’s this thing that ‘Oh, you have to be fair-skinned with this kind of hair and this kind of eyes, with European features.’ And I go, ‘No. Everyone is more than enough and there’s enough space for all of us to tell every type of story because we haven’t told them enough.’ I was always honored, and I told Ava that I wanted to be there for Xosha. I wanted to be able to be her support system in it because people don’t tend to love on darker-skinned women and it’s absurd because as I grew up, all I grew up watching was that. The people I was around and tended to fall in love with happened to be of a darker hue. And I just thought they were beautiful human beings and I don’t know why this narrative is being told in this other way. I don’t quite understand it. But how do you deny a Gabrielle Union, a Nia Long, Robin Givens, Cicely Tyson, Grace Jones and say that they’re not beautiful?
Online, there’s a bit of a conversation or comparison between “Cherish The Day” and “Love Is” Do you feel any of that pressure?
I never thought about it to be honest with you because you’re just telling one story. I’m telling this story. I don’t know “Love Is” in that way. I just know that it’s important. If “Love Is” was on the air still, our show should be on the air as well. They’re drastically different. They’re both special and they’re both super important to tell. It’s not there in replacement or challenging. And I think that’s the thing we got to stop doing. We’ve got to stop pinning things together as if, ‘This is competing with that.’ There’s enough for all of it. We have not had the same amount of storytelling as Whites so we need to tell as many love stories—or whatever genre we decide—because there’s enough room for all of it. So watch anyway!
There is this notion that in order to ensure a successful relationship, things should be relatively easy when you’ve found “the one.”
What do you think about that idea?
I think that if you’re not being challenged individually and as a couple, how do you build your stamina, your armor and the cause? If everything is easy then who cares? When I was growing up, I used to come to church and think, ‘I don’t have a testimony.’ And my mom would always look at me like, ‘Boy, if you don’t shut up about this testimony.’ But I would think I grew up in a great household. And that’s a blessing. And I understand that that’s a blessing. Not to take that for granted. I kept saying, ‘Ahh, I just need a testimony.’
And then, me and my wife, we went through trials and tribulations. And not really with the marriage but just how do we get through the growing pains and the industry and the family things and all of that. And it made us stronger. It made us appreciate each other. It helped us sharpen each other. Our characters became better in that way. And I say we got to think of trials and tribulations differently. It’s the diamond. You were coal and it takes time and the pressure to bring out the beauty of it all. Because when it’s easy and it’s peazy, that’s when we take things for granted. That’s when we lose those moments and then we expect everything to be like, ‘This thing.’ As opposed to enjoying the moments when it sucked because it’s important. You can hold on to those moments to keep fighting for the next triumph. It ebbs and flows and it will never stop.
Is there anything else you want to add?
Just watch the show. I hope that this show builds a big conversation about falling in love in this day and time. And that we need it. And to not fall for the traps that society has set up for us, to think that you have to have it all before you meet the person or be with the person. You’re never going to have it. You’re never going to be right. You’re never going to be ready. You just have to be open. And you got to look up. And you gotta be real with yourself and be vulnerable. The more we do that, put all the cards on the table and say, “Accept me now for who I am. Because with your aid, I will become a better human being.’ Then you will really be able to see the importance and power of Black love and love as a whole.
Cherish The Day airs in a two-night premiere on Feb. 11th and 12th on OWN.