Tessa Thompson And Nnamdi Asomugha Say Some Studios Didn't Think There Was An Audience For 'Sylvie's Love'
Photo Credit: Amazon Studios
Film , Interviews

Tessa Thompson And Nnamdi Asomugha Say Some Studios Didn't Think There Was An Audience For 'Sylvie's Love'

Sylvie’s Love hits Amazon Prime Video this week after its premiere earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival. The film got a great response in Park City theaters, something that stars Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha are grateful for, considering that most releases have pivoted to streaming or have a hybrid release amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“I’m so glad that you saw it at Sundance because we made the film hoping that people would be able to see it on a big screen and that they hopefully go crazy for it,” Asomugha told Shadow and Act. “Now everyone’s got to watch it on their iPads, so I’m glad that you watched it there and you enjoyed it.”

The film is set in the late 1950s and early 1960s, following a saxophonist named Robert, who is a member of a jazz quartet who is seeking more for his career and talents. He meets Sylvie (Thompson), who while working at her father’s record store as she waits for her fiancé to return from war, wants to work in television. Sylvie and Robert develop a friendship that returns romantic, but they are pulled apart by life. Years later, with Sylvie now working as a television producer and Robert’s career waning due to the popularity of jazz declining, they reconnect in a chance meeting and learn that their feelings never changed.

The film presents Black romance in a period drama, something that is few and far between in Hollywood, given that most narratives set in the era usually have some element of trauma involved. But, Sylvie’s Love just depicts Black people are simply existing, as they did in between marching for our rights and much more. “I know that it was paramount for both of us [to have a love story during this time period],” Thompson told us. “We’ve talked about so, so much how, even in times of strife and struggle in the Civil Rights Movement, people were still finding time to fall in love, to have children, to laugh. to dance. That is one huge form of resistance…to find joy. We’re finding that now during these times. As much as we can take to the streets and yell justice for Breonna Taylor, we also have to gather inside of our homes and love up on each other, particularly when there’s the country at large saying we don’t matter. We have to say we matter to each other.”

“I think that that’s something that felt important for us — that one way of minimizing our humanity is to not allow us to be full ass human beings and also love and have relationships,” she continued. “So that felt impactful for us and just selfishly, I have always wanted to do a period film. I just have always wanted to have that glamour and that glitz and get that kind of star treatment, and I never thought that I would have the ability to, so you say it’s a dream come true for this to be in the world…it’s a dream come true for me to be in it. This is the kind of film I would celebrate from afar if I wasn’t. So I feel very lucky that I get to be in it.”

Photo: Amazon Studios
Photo: Amazon Studios

But, Black people just simply existing may have been an issue for the entities that got pitched the film, as Asomugha explains. “The other thing that I would say [added] fuel to our tank was just trying to get the film made and going through this process of going to studios and financiers and having everyone say that they don’t believe in it because they don’t believe there’s an audience for this film, which was just so interesting for me. Having not been in this business very long [and] just that I know the films that I watched growing up and the films that I love…and I’m the audience.”

“So for you to say, there’s no audience….obviously, maybe they didn’t have a metric for it..a lot of the people in those positions don’t look like us. So, they’re only going to go off of if they are the audience, a lot of the time. To hear that there was no audience for it. I think that sort of fueled my fire a little bit more to saying, ‘Let’s make sure this gets done.’ I don’t think Tyler Perry is looking and saying, ‘There’s no audience for my film.’ I don’t think Martin Scorsese is looking and saying there’s no audience for [his fim]…even if only Italians watch it, there’s an audience, you know? So that made it that much more important to get a story like this out there, just to show that there is an audience for this type of film.”

Watch part of the interview with Thompson and Asomugha below:

Sylvie’s Love hits Amazon Prime Video on Dec. 23.

Shadow and Act is a website dedicated to cinema, television and web content of Africa and its global Diaspora. With daily news, interviews, in-depth investigations into the audiovisual industry, and more, Shadow and Act promotes content created by and about people of African descent throughout the world.

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