Teyana Taylor fans have been given a first look at her debut starring role, just ahead of the theatrical release of acclaimed indie film A Thousand And One.
After making a splash at the Sundance Film Festival last month, where it not only wowed critics but also took home the coveted Grand Jury Prize, the film has been slated for a March 31 release in theaters nationwide.
The movie’s powerful trailer, released on Thursday (February 23), finds Teyana Taylor playing Inez, a young streetwise mom who resorts to kidnapping her young son from the foster care system after being released from Rikers Island, New York City’s largest jail.
Without revealing any other major plot points, the trailer swiftly jumps ahead to the point where Inez’ son Terry comes face to face with the consequences of his mother’s decision as he begins thinking towards his future after high school.
Throughout the movie — directed by native New Yorker A.V. Rockwell — the changing landscape of Taylor and her character Inez’ hometown of Harlem becomes just as integral a personality in the story as those being portrayed by actors.
“I feel like as a New Yorker I’m honored to be making a film about the city the way other filmmakers I admire did, like Spike Lee, Scorsese, Woody Allen,” Rockwell said in an interview with IndieWire. “They’re just really known as New York people making New York films, but I was making a heartbreak letter more than a love letter. I didn’t really feel like I had a lot of examples of that to criticize in my own way. New York broke my heart.”
Though she’s no stranger to acting or cameras, A Thousand And One sees Teyana Taylor in her first lead role, delivering what Indiewire calls, “a commanding, breakaway performance.”
Yet in a recent interview, Rockwell admitted she wasn’t sure about casting the semi-retired R&B singer in the movie.
But ultimately, Taylor won her over with her authenticity.
“Within a short audition tape I got to see the breadth of what I was looking for in terms of not only what was critical in terms of performance,” A.V. Rockwell told Collider, “like just the actor being able to really give something honest to the scene, but also the authenticity that I was looking for and feeling like I could see through her performance that she knows this human being in real life or she is this human being in real life in the ways that I needed an actress to really connect to the material, because I think you don’t see a lot of that in Hollywood.
She added: “I didn’t want it to feel like it was performative. Like, ‘Oh, let me be this urban woman, this ghetto woman,’ or whatever. You know what I’m saying? I needed somebody who’s just like, that’s my auntie or that was me at a particular age, and I think Teyana had that in her innately.”