Usually, when a Hollywood star releases a new film, she flies to London for an advertising blitz.
They often participate in a press meeting, where the film company rents an entire floor of an expensive hotel and invites journalists to come and interview them.
It’s effective for actors, because they can cut multiple interviews in one day in one place. There’s usually a lot of hanging around for reporters – but if you’re lucky, you get a free Coca Diet and cookie while you wait.
But just like pub quizzes, office meetings, and opening dates, the promotion of a new Hollywood movie has gone online to Zoom – where unfortunately there are no free snacks.
During the launch of The High Note, journalists are mixed up in different virtual meeting rooms, waiting to speak with film star Tracee Ellis Ross.
Thanks to the lock, the actress launches and promotes the film entirely from her own living room.
“It’s wonderful, but I miss people,” Ross told BBC News. “I don’t have shoes, so it’s good! I’m at home, it’s good too. But I wouldn’t mind seeing you face to face and being in your energy, it always makes a difference. But in fact, it’s nice to be able to do these things even if we are in a pandemic, and to do them safely. “
The High Note tells the story of soul singer Grace Davis (Ross) and her assistant Maggie (Fifty Shades star Dakota Johnson), who is herself an aspiring music producer.
Grace (not to be confused with 2017 X Factor finalist Grace Davies) is in the fall of her career. Pop star over 40, she is no longer successful number one and her manager encourages her to start a residency in Vegas to keep the money at stake.
The character is not based on anyone in particular – but there are many singers who have followed the road to Vegas in real life, including Britney Spears, Céline Dion and Toni Braxton.
The role marks the first time Ross has been heard singing. And the pressure is strong – his mother is Motown legend Diana Ross.
“It was my childhood dream, I always wanted to sing,” she said. “I haven’t put it aside, but I think the longer you wait to do certain things, the more frightening they become … The idea of comparing because of who my mother is, or the judgment of doing it now at this age, has become bigger than the dream. So when that role appeared, I thought to myself “now is the time.” “
Ross is best known in the United States for appearing in television series, including Girlfriends and Black-ish. Her performance in the latter earned her a Golden Globe Award in 2017 for the best TV comedy actress.
The High Note marks her first film role on screen since 2009. She says her successful television career has been “incredibly fulfilling,” but adds, “The truth is that it left me with little desire to pursue certain things.” , because I am tired and I have a full schedule, but I need something that really excites me and I say to myself “that’s it”. ”
Ross says she was drawn to the story’s message – which she describes as about two women, each pursuing her own dream regardless of what others expect of her.
Notably, the two women are “not opposite,” as Ross says. “The dynamic that we both developed was not the characteristic stereotypical schtick between the diva and the assistant. We were able to find that true bond of friendship that was in there, which gave him the right tone. “
Flora Greeson’s screenplay is a big part of Grace’s age. In one scene, Grace shows that few singers over the age of 40 are still achieving number one hits, especially female artists.
Frustration with ageism is one thing Ross shares with his character.
“What I do know is that I only got better with age,” she says. “I think I’m the sexiest I’ve ever been, and I’m almost 50. And I think of the other women who are in this age range and beyond, and I think, ‘why has there ever been a counting message coming out? It seems absurd.
“You think of Jennifer Lopez, Marisa Tomei, the list of extraordinary women is long, and there is so much to offer at this age. My mom on stage now at 76 is like, I think she is better than she has ever been! “
For Ross herself, being in her forties did not stop her from having the most successful decade of her career.
“I don’t think youth is everything, I don’t think so,” says Ross. “This wonderful expression” youth is wasted by young people “is great. I mean, there are so many good things about young people, but I don’t want to go back, I’ll tell you right now – I wouldn’t go back to my 20s if you pay me. ”
Initial reviews of The High Note – which is directed by Nisha Ganatra – have been overwhelmingly positive, although not complimentary.
Hollywood Reporter David Rooney said the film “has a lot to recommend, at least during those lean times.”
“It’s the kind of comfortable, enjoyable viewing that comes down as easily as compiling hits from a favorite artist,” he added.
Lewis Knight of the Daily Mirror said: “In the end, it is merit for the main actresses of The High Note that he remains so observable despite his rather formulaic nature and containing predictable twists and turns. “
The film is one of many films originally slated to open in theaters this spring.
Most of the others – including Mulan, Fast & Furious 9 and No Time To Die – postponed their release until later this year, in the hope that the cinemas will be open again.
But some studios have instead decided to publish their films online for moviegoers to rent at home. Trolls World Tour was the first major film to do so, and now The High Note is also skipping cinemas.
“I’m actually a little excited,” says Ross. “Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to see myself on the big screen as Grace Davis, but I have a pretty big TV screen! I feel like there is something really wonderful and intimate about being able to meet people where they are, their homes.
“I can only speak for myself, and right now I don’t know if I want to sit in a movie theater. It doesn’t sound like something I want to do, I’m happy to watch a movie here on the couch! “
Public concern over returning to overcrowded spaces after the coronavirus pandemic could cause serious financial hardship for cinemas, which are already struggling to lose revenue during the lockout period. The future of the industry is uncertain, to say the least.
“I think normality is going to be reshaped for all of us,” Ross recognizes, “so that we can respond to the reality of what we live in and have joyful experiences while receiving entertainment and expanding our lives by watching these stories. in a way that fits the reality of where we are. “
The High Note is available to rent from Friday, May 29 at digital retailers.