Written and executively produced by Queen Sugar filmmaker Ava DuVernay for Oprah Winfrey’s network channel, OWN, each season of romantic drama anthology Cherish The Day follows a fictional couple’s love story. An episode marks a single day in their relationship, highlighting the highs and lows that pulled them closer or tore them apart. The series chronicles the moment when the couple meet, to their very first fight and the point they realise that they’re in love and can’t live without each other.

S1 introduces Gently James (Xosha Roquemore), a caretaker who catches IT guru Evan Fisher’s (Alano Miller) eye at a library in Los Angeles. Their chemistry is unmatched, and it’s clear that they’re about to fall head-over-heels with each other. Like a love-sick teen, Evan stalks Gently’s Instagram page and he likes most, if not all, her photos to get attention. This man is so far gone that he swiftly slides into her DMs and asks her out on a date. The trick works like a charm. She responds to his message within a matter of days and they hang out at a pie store that has neither a menu nor seating. Because the confectionary is Gently’s favourite spot in town, she has all the items memorised and she orders the strawberry and Oreo speciality. Their conversation, while sitting at the parking lot pavement, goes smoothly and they don’t want their date to end. It’s the beginning of a beautiful romance, but Evan and Gently’s personalities are so different that they could stand in their own way staying in love.

“I love the idea of an anthology. I really wanted to play with the idea of having a different couple every season, because we wanted to push the boundary and play with the idea of different kinds of couples, but also different kinds of endings,” says Ava. “Every relationship and love story may or may not end in a fairytale, and it might be so for Gently and Evan. We’re completely open to those possibilities,” she adds.

“I’m a big sucker for love stories, and growing up I loved West Side Story, to Sleepless In Seattle, and really craved the black romantic endeavour, which I saw less of. I really longed to see that kind of black love story on television,” says Ava. “I'm constantly thinking about the things that are important to me, and trying to pinpoint and navigate my place in the world as a black woman and culturally. And black love is a radical part of the survival of black people, more important than the stories that make it in the history books, because love is the driver of all those things. (Love allows) people who are oppressed to survive in a world that doesn’t really love them, or show love to them. Even through this oppression and marginalisation and this bias and this racism is a part of our lives here, we’ve loved through it and we built through it,” Ava says.

Going the distance

Ava and the writing team weren’t only out to explore a young black couple’s romance, they also wanted to highlight ways in which two people from diverse backgrounds work through their differences to build and try to make their relationship work. Because of her rough childhood, Gently bought a ticket to Europe straight after high school and travelled the world to find herself. She worked odd jobs like waitressing in Greece and teaching swimming lessons in Berlin, and she now works for former actress Luma Langston (Cicely Tyson). Unlike Evan, who has always lived by the book and works at a reputable tech company, Gently doesn’t have a degree or drive a fancy car.

She’s free-spirited and doesn’t believe in keeping up appearances to impress people. It’s what attracts Evan to her but also what causes a rift in their relationship. It becomes apparent that he wants to “save” her from her tough life by making her life easier, like when he offers to buy Luma a new fridge after her old one breaks. Gently insists on settling for a cheaper one from a second-hand store, but Evan maintains that they should get a fridge from a “real appliance store”. They’re both set in their ways, and Gently wants to prove that she’s no damsel in distress. “You’re trying to fix something the way you want it done and you’re judging my way,” she says while irritated. Their argument doesn’t end well, and Gently drives off alone in her car, leaving Evan at the second-hand store to call an Uber ride home.

“The bottom line is that Gently certainly has trust issues and so does Evan. With time, you start to see the cracks in the veneer a little bit. You start to see issues he has within – a bit of the controlling aspect and expectations he has for Gently and who he wants her to be. When she isn’t, that starts to erode some of his trust in her, and in himself, and what he thought she was going to be for him,” explains Ava.

A lady in charge

Alongside Ava as executive producer of Cherish The Day is businesswoman and OWN boss Oprah Winfrey. It isn’t the first time these two powerhouses have partnered. They’ve also worked together on another OWN drama, Queen Sugar, and movies Disney’s A Wrinkle In Time and Selma, both of which starred Oprah and were directed by Ava.

“Ava is a visionary storyteller. She brings so much care, so much heart and so much love to the art she creates. I’m excited to continue collaborating together with our very first anthology series for OWN,” says Oprah.

Watch Cherish The Day S1 from Tuesday, 16 June on 1Magic (DStv 103) at 20:00 

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