If there was ever a role Teyana Taylor was born for, it was as Inez in “A Thousand and One.”
The film, in theaters Friday, tells the story of a young woman fresh out of prison who reestablishes a relationship with her young son, Terry, and takes him from foster care without the permission of the authorities.
The movie about an impoverished single mother, struggling to survive in New York City, resonated with Taylor.
“The synopsis of what the story stood for was enough for me. And, of course, you know, Inez being a Harlem girl and I’m a Harlem girl,” Taylor told CNN. “What this role meant to me and the women in my life and the women all around the world, it was something that I wanted to take on.”
“You know this was like a dream role for me to be able to get a serious role where people could see what I could really do,” she added.
Taylor isn’t the only one who fell in love with the project. The film was awarded the prestigious grand jury prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and she’s been winning raves for her searing performance.
There’s already Oscars buzz, something Taylor is incredibly humbled by.
“To go from just sitting at home watching the Oscars to being in Oscar-type conversations, of course, is an honor,” she said. “I would be grateful even with just a nomination. That’s big.”
While Taylor may be new to awards conversations, she’s far from unknown.
The 32-year-old was a teen when uber producer Pharrell Williams first signed her. Viewers got to know and love Taylor after her appearance on the MTV series, “My Super Sweet 16.”
What followed was Kanye West bringing her to his Good Music label, acting gigs in film and TV, including “Madea’s Big Happy Family” and “The Breaks,” as well as fame for her dance and choreography skills.
More recently, Taylory’s successes include 2018’s “Keep That Same Energy (K.T.S.E.)” album, featuring her first platinum single, “Gonna Love Me,” and the E! reality series, “We Got Love Teyana & Iman.” She stars on the show with her husband, former professional basketball player and “Dancing With the Stars” champion Iman Shumpert, and their two young daughters.
Taylor was six months postpartum with their youngest when she filmed “A Thousand and One,” a time, she said, that allowed her to tap into intense emotion to play Inez.
“Keeping Inez and all that trauma on set and then coming home and flipping the switch and being supermom was definitely challenging,” she said. “I was dealing with postpartum and also dealing with the death of a lot of my friends and some family members while filming in Harlem. Having to go to funerals during my lunch break was a lot, you know? But I was able to put all of that emotion and all of my mourning into Inez as she was dealing with a lot of things and a lot of [losses] in her life.”
Next Taylor is set to star as Dionne Wariwck in a biopic. She also intends to expand her directing credits from music videos to film.
“I’ve realized all the work that I’ve done as a director with music videos, it’s always been narrative based,” she said. “I’m ready to tell a story. I’ve been telling these stories [in music videos] in three minutes. Now I’m ready for my full feature. I’m excited.”