Rashida Jones Speaks On What She Hopes Her Father— And The World— Learns From 'Quincy'

Rashida Jones Speaks On What She Hopes Her Father

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October 29th 2018

Rashida Jones, 42, the lead actress on NBC’s comedy Angie Tribeca and her father, the legendary musician Quincy Jones, 85, are in the building. But not just any building.  They have arrived to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) where 3.5 million visitors have come from all over the world since September 2016 to view global history through the African American lens. The NMAAHC is hosting its inaugural African American Film Festival and the Joneses have come to attend a screening of their 2018 Netflix original documentary, Quincy, at the event. Quincy follows the life of the entertainment icon and was directed by Ms. Jones. In the film, we learn that this is not the pair’s first visit to the museum. Two months before its grand opening, the father-daughter duo received a short tour while the museum was still under construction. Mr. Jones played an important role in planning and producing the opening concert, which included then-President and First Lady, Oprah Winfrey, Stevie Wonder, John Legend and more. Ms. Jones joked that her dad, who has had a remarkable career spanning 80 years, is a walking museum and she is right. His highlight reel includes multiple Grammys and he’s worked with countless iconic musicians -  Dinah Washington, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, and Dizzy Gillespie, to name a very few. There are no Michael Jackson Thriller and Bad albums without Quincy Jones. No “We are the World.” He composed the scores for the original Roots miniseries, The Wiz, and The Color Purple. His impact is undeniable. Ms. Jones’s schedule as an actress, writer, producer, and director is quite full, but she did not hesitate when Jane Rosenthal, an eventual producer of the documentary, initially came to her with the idea of the documentary and stated that only Ms. Jones could direct it. She got a camera a couple months later, received a crash course on some of the more technical aspects of direction and got to work with the co-director Alan Hicks. George Tillman, Jr. moderates a panel with Rashida Jones, Alan Hickman and Quincy Jones, for Quincy screening at NMAAHC Film Fest. GETTY Events Nelson George moderates a panel with Rashida Jones, Alan Hicks and Quincy Jones, for Quincy screening at NMAAHC Film Fest. GETTY Events After shooting for 800 hours, travelling to 25 countries, reviewing 2000 hours of raw footage, and digging into “the vault,” of historic footage on Mr. Jones, the directors manage to capture huge moments on the world stage as well as the quiet, introspective moments in the life of a complex man, who is not without controversy and flaws, but does seem to be guided by a deeply held principle received early on by his father, “Once a task has begun, never leave until it’s done. Be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all.”    As Ms. Jones sits down with Shadow and Act for a chat in the museum’s green room, she is poised and fabulous, wearing a flowing, earth tone gown. The new mom is literally glowing, but the notoriously private actress is not one to talk about her personal life or this new milestone. (The proud grandfather has no such rules and would later announce to a packed theater in the Q&A after the screening that his daughter gave him the wonderful gift of a grandson in August. Ms. Jones gives him a look that surely he understands, and she quickly moves on to another topic.) Ms. Jones has only 10 minutes to chat before she must leave for a guided tour of the museum. We jump right in. Shadow and Act: How did you feel the first time you saw the museum with your dad?Rashida Jones: Seeing my dad, see his life, seeing his friends, seeing the people he worked with, seeing the people who passed and seeing that all land on him, it was so emotional for me but I think also just the magnitude of history that's here that he was a part of, the people that he knew, it was all so surreal.Shadow and Act: How do you feel now to return for the screening of Quincy?Rashida Jones: It’s truly a full circle moment. To come back here to screen this movie, you can't really wish for anything more than that. It's so nice to be able to go somewhere that's featured in your film and show it there and have people enjoy it in that way. It brings a new context to the museum, a new context to my dad, and a new context to watching the movie.Shadow and Act: What has been the reaction to the documentary? Do you read the reviews?   Rashida Jones: It's been incredible, so positive and very personal for people I think. Some have said that it makes them want to get up a little earlier the next day because of his incredible work ethic on display. I try not to look at the reviews but sometimes I do look. Ultimately, it's such a personal movie and I feel like if you have a criticism of it, then that's on you. I really feel very healthy about that because I think we made this movie from a place of love but also from a place of wanting to tell a story that we felt had to be in the world. The people who respond to this positively get that and the ones who don't, well, they're looking for something else and they just didn't find it here and that's not really my business.Shadow and Act: You introduce us to your six siblings and huge blended family in the documentary. What has been their reaction to the overall project? Was there any push-back?Rashida Jones: They were really supportive because I think it's clear in the movie as well, there's something about being around my dad, whether you’re a family member or just somebody who loves him, that you have to know that his intention is love and that's how you have to approach it, that's how you have to be present and if you can't do that, it's kind of like, don't be around. He's like a hub of love and the fact that ex-wives and ex-girlfriends and all these people can come together for Thanksgiving or Christmas, that's because of him. It’s because he sort of demands a certain level of appreciation, tolerance and unconditional love of each other. And if you're not down with that program, you just don't be around.Shadow and Act:What was it like working with Alan Hicks? Did you have conflicting ideas on what to cover?Rashida Jones: Well I think we were pretty in sync in terms of what the feeling of the movie was at the end and I feel very lucky because I look up to Alan. The documentary that he did [with] my dad called Keep on Keeping On had a big beating heart to it as a movie, and I think that's a really hard thing to do so I really relied on him to draw similar out in this movie. To be around my dad is a very loving, warm place to be. Alan maybe had a better sense of how to objectively bring that out but we were very in step on how we wanted the film to be.Shadow and Act: Did your dad, who is a masterful composer and producer, step on your toes as a director?Rashida Jones: No. He was very generous. He basically told Alan and me “show me when you're done”, which is exactly the thing you want to hear when you're making a movie about somebody, especially a family member. He gave us all the freedom in the world.Shadow and Act: If you had an opportunity to do a spin-off of the film, would there be any era that you would hone in on further?Rashida Jones: I feel like every single one, you could do a whole series on. Maybe the Frank Sinatra moment because there's something about that particular time in American history that I find so fascinating. Frank, who had no reason to stand up for Black people except that he loved the music and had friends, used his power to make change and I would love to get into more of that.  It wasn't on trend to stand up in the civil rights era and be the only person saying, “Hey, this is not cool,” but he did it.Shadow and Act: You’ve shared that part of the reason that you left in the intimate hospital scenes where your dad was facing serious medical issues was so there would be something concrete to remind him about the importance of taking care of his health. Do you still have to gently remind him sometimes?Rashida Jones: Yes, I try. Yes, I do. I mean we were also hoping that watching the film again tonight, that it will be another reminder.  He did yoga last week so that’s good. He has a pattern and the great part of his pattern is that he affects culture in a global way, in a way that nobody else has and the bad part of this pattern is that he drives himself to the edge.Shadow and Act: And what do you do for your own self-care?Rashida Jones: That's a good question. As much time as I spend with people, I also have to spend my time alone. I just have to be still and quiet sometimes.Shadow and Act: What women directors have inspired you?Rashida Jones: Julie Dash, who I think attended the festival. Daughters of the Dust had a big impact on me just in terms of the style and how she brought light to a place, in an area and a culture you would have never known about otherwise. I also love Sofia Coppola, just the way she kind of paints her characters. I'm a huge fan of Nora Ephron because I love romantic comedies. And I love Ava Duvernay as a person, as a filmmaker, as a role model. I love the way she thinks, I love how inclusive she is. I love how strong she is and how clear her voice is.Shadow and Act: Do you see yourself as having any role in combating issues regarding the lack of diversity in the industry and the silencing of women?Rashida Jones: Yes. I think it's my responsibility as someone who's aware of the privilege of being able to tell stories and from such a large scale. We have to be accountable in terms of how we push conversations forward regarding representation and that means diversity in front of and behind the camera, that means telling stories that haven't been told before, that means shedding light on storytellers that haven't had the opportunity before. Any chance I get to do that, I do.Shadow and Act: Do you think there's any message in the documentary that would be helpful for this moment politically in this country?Rashida Jones: Definitely. This movie, as much as it's about a man and his work and his life, it's also about the history of Black America. Representation is everything. I feel that way with filmmaking but I also feel that way in politics. I'm hoping that people can connect to this story and that it inspires people. I want people to know that they have a real place in this country and the best way to make sure that is the case is to vote.Quincy is streaming now on Netflix.READ MORE:The NMAAHC Celebrates Pioneer Black Woman Filmmaker Madeline Anderson At The Inaugural African American Film Festival

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