Tracee Ellis Ross Admits Her ‘The High Note’ Character Wasn’t Inspired by Her Mother, Diana Ross
In The High Note, Tracee Ellis Ross plays superstar Grace Davis, a middle-aged diva with a killer wardrobe, big hair, adoring fans, and a dedicated personal assistant who helps change her life.
While it was easy for fans to draw comparisons between Ross’s character and her real-life mother, the legendary Diana Ross, the actress admits that she didn’t pull any inspiration from the famous hitmaker.
Tracee Ellis Ross says the movie’s not about her mom
Growing up as the daughter of a mega-star like Diana Ross, it’s easy for people to assume that Tracee Ellis Ross draws inspiration from her mother whenever she plays characters that closely resemble the singer.
Though Ross could have easily cribbed a bit from her mom’s lived experiences while playing fictional diva Grace Davis in the film The High Note, the actress didn’t take the easy way out.
Instead, the Black-ish star used her more than 20-years of acting experience to bring the character to life, drawing inspiration from the film’s script rather than her mom.
“I know people are asking and people want to know, ‘Did you take inspiration from your mother, is this a role that is an ode to your mother?'” Ross recently told The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s not. It had nothing to do with my mom. The script had nothing to do with my mom … It was wonderfully written. It was all on the page and there wasn’t far that I had to look [for inspiration]. So between our director and what was written, it was there.”
Of course, some moments reminded Ross of her mother while she was in character, but other than that, the idea of channeling the singer’s superstar persona didn’t cross the actress’s mind.
“I was playing a superstar music lady. But I wasn’t like: ‘Yes, this is a moment that reminds me of when my mother did…’ — no, not at all; or let me do my ‘this is me being my mom.’ Literally, it just didn’t come up for me,” Ross explained to The New York Times. “The only way it came up for me was, I was very convinced that Grace Davis wore fake eyelashes. Tracee hates them. That she always wore really high heels. I wear Birkenstocks. That she had stage hair and home hair, and life hair. These were things — which again have nothing to do with my mother — these were just things I wanted to do character-wise. But when Tracee puts on eyelashes and a whole bunch of hair, it’s inevitable. I look like my mom’s child. She spit me out.”
Tracee Ellis Ross directly confronts her mother’s legacy in ‘The High Note’
As the star of ABC’s Black-ish and the executive producer of the show’s spinoff Mixed-ish, Ross has stepped outside of her legendary mother’s shadow. But in The High Note, the actress confronts the famous entertainer’s legacy head-on.
Since she plays a fictional pop diva, Ross was forced to overcome her fear of exploring her secret desire to sing professionally.
“As a kid, it was something that I always wanted to do,” she said. “For this role, I had to face the dream and the fear all in one.”
After find time to give her singing career the attention it deserved, Ross took on this particular risk. Though it would have been easy for her singing career to suffer in comparison to her mother’s, the actress didn’t let the fear of how people would respond to her singing stop her making trying something she’s always wanted to do.
“Was I going to be compared to my mom? ‘Cause I can’t be her,” Ross told Rolling Stone. “I’m not supposed to be her! At 47 years old, the magnitude of my mom’s career — her gifts, her talents, who she is — still was blinding me to allowing myself to try something.”
She added, “Let’s be honest, we live in a world that is incredibly judgmental and really specific and prickly. They don’t give people the chance to try new things. You either gotta be great or you’re garbage. It’s not easy, especially when you’re established at a certain level, to try something new you might not do well at.”
Fears aside, Ross embraced her singing voice, which has wowed everyone, including her mother. “When we originally started demoing the songs, I got her in my car and played her the music,” Ross shared with USA Today. “We were holding hands and we both cried. So it was very special to finally let my voice out in that way.”
The High Note is currently available on VOD.