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Teyana Taylor is a jack of all trades and excels in every field she enters. In the new film, A THOUSAND AND ONE, the “Gonna Love Me” artist proudly steps into the lead role, playing a character named Inez, who is a Harlem, New York native just like herself. 

And while most may view survival as a task in itself, having to take care of yourself and another human seems damn near impossible… especially in the inner city. A THOUSAND AND ONE sees Teyana (Inez) kidnapping her son (Terry) from his foster home, as they both attempt to navigate the hurdles of life, simultaneously having to adapt to the aftermath of gentrification. 

The Source was invited to an exclusive, invite-only advanced screening of the film at WACO Theater Center in Los Angeles. Many emotions were felt during the two-hour film, from tears to laughter to everything in between.

Not only were Teyana’s acting skills impressively remarkable, but it was the storyline and messaging that viewers can resonate with most. Insert A.V. Rockwell, the indie filmmaker whose roots in New York directly inspired the film. Rockwell says seeing first-hand the impact of gentrification on the black neighborhoods in New York was the driving force, even stating she “felt like we were being erased as a city altogether.”

The end goal is to fight across generations for stability, creating a safe space, a safe home so you can work towards the American dream.” Serving as Rockwell’s major feature debut, the movie won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

The evening concluded with a super intimate Q&A between Rockwell and Beyonce’s mother, Ms. Knowles-Lawson. Read below as they discuss 

Ms. Knowles: You did a great job on the film. How does it feel to share your film with the world?

It’s a really beautiful feeling of accomplishment. To create any movie is really such a feat. People have no idea what goes into it, people that don’t work in production or work on movies. Getting my first film made and getting to tell the story that I really wanted to tell, a story I really cared about and felt passionate about, is really a blessing. I feel so grateful and the way it’s been resonating with people means the most. It’s why I got up out of my bed every day for the years that I did spend on this in the first place, so this is a real triumph for me personally.

Ms. Knowles: This is your feature directorial debut. You’re also the writer, that’s amazing. Who did you draw inspiration on for the characters? Especially Inez and Lucky.

A.V. Rockwell: I pulled from all of my life experiences. With Inez, she was a composite of so many women that have been in my life. This was a very personal film for me. I also wrote her from a position of what do I want to see? I really want to see a woman like this empowered, I really want to see her strength celebrated. I wanted to see her fully in control of her own destiny, for better or worse. She really does, right until that last moment in the film when she’s making the decision of what’s going to happen next. 

It was the same thing for Lucky, I was drawing on experiences on both sides. Experiences of men who I felt were great figures, great father figures. But through Lucky, you see somebody who’s a very great father, but not so much a great husband or great romantic partner. So much of this movie through Inez’ and Lucky’s relationship, you see dynamics between black men and women. 

Again, really going back to the idea of we are not here to protest for you, we’re not here to fight for you or be a supporting character in your journey. We really are looking for people that are standing by us, holy completely. Loving us holy completely, and not just loving the parts of it that’s most convenient for me. Loving my skin color, my hair texture, love every part of what my experience is. Devote yourself to me the way I do for you, you see that very beautifully in their dynamic. I pulled so much of that for this real life.

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Ms. Knowles: During the casting process, how did you know that you found your Inez in Teyana Taylor? She was amazing!

A.V. Rockwell: Teyana really did some outstanding work. I’m so proud of her and proud of our collaborative relationship, what we accomplished creatively. For me, it was important when I needed to make sure that I not only found an actress who had talent and depth to give to this performance and get to this character, but also had a truthfulness. Teyana could speak to this human being because she knows this woman, she’s been this woman at some point in her life. Those connected points were really important to me. 

Obviously, she’s a homegirl herself and that’s a bonus. She’s a New York woman herself,  but I felt like she was empathizing with Inez fully. Not looking down at her, because she’s so connected to this woman. That was really important to me. Because she’s not only

a woman who can relate to this character, but a mom. She put a lot of that even seeing what her dynamic was with the boys was really beautiful on set. 

After seeing hundreds of women, actresses — some were established, some people unknown. By the time we got to Teyana’s tape, I really felt the difference. Our casting director, the same thing. “I looked at Teyana’s tape, and I was smitten by it.” We immediately knew that something was there. 

Teyana had her own story to tell, her own pain that she could get out through this character. I always told her to embrace that, to embrace the parts of herself that people told her not to love. Because this character is on a self-love journey. I told Tiana to pull from the places that she has been told about herself to reject. No, you embrace all of that. 

Ms. Knowles: What do you hope that audiences take away, more than anything after seeing A THOUSAND AND ONE?

A.V. Rockwell: There’s so much in this film. I wrote it from a very nuanced place, so there is so much to take away in terms of the themes. In some ways, I feel like the movie doesn’t belong to me anymore, it belongs to people. They’re gonna interpret it in so many ways, beyond what I even had in mind as I was writing it.

For me at minimum, if it is healing for mothers and sons, that’s a win for me. Because people have the opportunity to see their moms and how complicated they are, in a better way and hopefully it nurtures our relationship. Ro me, this story was about unrequited love in so many ways. Not only within people within communities. How people relate to the cities and neighborhoods that they live in. Harlem in particular, it’s the mecca for Black history and culture, and to see it potentially being erased by gentrification and all the policies that set the stage for gentrification is really devastating.

Article written by Shirley Ju #TheSource