Despite Questions, Tracee Ellis Ross Says Her Her High Note Character Is Not Based On Her Famous Mother

Dakota Johnson and Tracee Ellis Ross in The High Note
(Image credit: (Focus Features))

Tracee Ellis Ross’ latest role in The High Note has the actress playing fictional music icon Grace Davis, who is looking to reinvent herself in the industry after a decade by recording a new album. Since the Black-ish star is famously the daughter of living legend Diana Ross, she’s been asked whether the character is modeled after the “Endless Love” singer. Here’s how Ross responded:

I did not share any of this with her. I told her I got a big movie, but I did not tell her what the movie was and that I had to sing in the movie. I walked through that on my own and with a lot of tears with friends. And I understand there have been a lot of questions, like, 'Are you playing your mom in the movie? Is this movie inspired by your mom?' And the answer to that is no.

The High Note marks the singing debut for the 47-year-old Tracee Ellis Ross. The actress had never let anyone hear her sing for much of her life, as she pursued film and television roles, most notably with the early ‘00s sitcom Girlfriends. Ross told ET that she did not discuss the role with her mother, Diana Ross, while it was in the works. She did, however, clue her mom in when it came to recording demos for the songs in the movie.

There was a conscious effort from Tracee Ellis Ross and The High Note filmmakers to avoid the diva character having similarities to Diana Ross. Ross made sure when her hair was done, it didn’t channel The Supremes singer. The High Note’s director, Nisha Ganatra, said the film used Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Madonna and Tina Turner as references, but not Diana Ross.

Ganatra had Tracee Ellis Ross in mind for the role from the beginning because she loved her work and felt Grace Davis could use her authenticity. The only thing the director wasn’t sure of was whether she could sing, though was willing to use “movie magic” for the singing instead of recasting the role. To Ganatra’s luck, Ross could very much sing. You can check her out in The High Note trailer below:

Also starring in The High Note is Dakota Johnson, who plays Grace Davis' personal assistant, Maggie Sherwoode, who believes Davis’ new album my present an opportunity for her to pursue her own dreams in the music industry. Like Tracee Ellis Ross, the actress also grew up in the world of show business since her grandma is The Birds actress and model Tippi Hendren and her parents are actors Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith.

The High Note was previously set to hit theaters on May 8 until theater closures stalled its release date plans. With this, it's become the latest new release to be sent straight to homes for the price of $19.99 rental price. So far, the movie has been met with mixed-to-positive early reviews. The High Note is currently available to rent – check out what other new films are coming this year with CinemaBlend’s 2020 release calendar.

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.