For Dakota Johnson, 'The High Note' Is a Film About Women Supporting Women

Bianca Betancourt
Photo credit: Glen WIlson

From Harper's BAZAAR

In their film, The High Note, both Dakota Johnson and Tracee Ellis Ross play women at different stages of their careers attempting to follow their dreams. Johnson's character, Maggie Sherwoode, is an assistant discovering a passion for music production, while Ross's Grace Davis is a celebrated pop diva yearning to continue pushing forward a career her management team would rather she hang up with a Vegas residency.

Bolstered by a star-studded cast, Darkchild-produced soundtrack, and a heartwarming core plot, the new comedy from the two Hollywood heavyweights proves that when women work together to achieve those just-out-of-reach goals, the results can be off the charts.

For the film's lead, though, The High Note serves as more than just a feel-good weekend watch; rather it's a visual culmination of what happens when female actresses, screenwriters, and directors work together for a project. If anything, The High Note is just the tip of the iceberg as an example of how far storytelling—when shaped by women—can go.

Below, BAZAAR.com speaks with Johnson about her involvement in the film, working with a female-dominant crew, and her hope for the future of film.

This is a super-heartwarming film that follows two very different women who are following very different dreams. Why did you want to be a part of this film and help tell this specific story?

I started working in comedy, and I love it so much, and I don't often choose to make comedies. But I read the script, and I just loved it. I thought that it would be a really great time, and I thought I'd have a wonderful time making this movie, and be able to be ambitious and cool and funny and goofy, and also touch on subjects that are important to me, like young women really working towards their dreams and believing in themselves and supporting each other. Those are scenes in the movie that are important and that you don't often see.

Including yourself, it's a very star-studded cast. You have Tracee Ellis Ross, you have Ice Cube, you have a cameo from Diplo. What was the dynamic on set while filming?

It was just really funny and great. We were on a pretty tight schedule, so everyone was pretty exhausted most of the time. We were all kind of training before and after work anyway. Like, Kelvin [Harrison Jr.] and Tracee were in vocal lessons, and I was in piano lessons. So it was pretty full-on, but it was lovely. It was really lovely.

This is also a very female-centric film when you go behind the scenes. You had a female director, screenwriter, and then obviously you and Tracee starring as well. How does it differ being on a very women-centered crew compared to other films that you've done?

I think it's always amazing, and I love supporting other women artists in any category. It also always just comes down to the human and who the people are that you are working with. I've had really amazing experiences with more predominantly male sets, I've had really amazing experiences with predominantly female sets. So I think at the end of the day, it really does just come down to what kind of a human being you are and how you treat others with respect, and what kind of energy you put into the world.

Photo credit: Glen WIlson

In the film, your character is a young woman who's attempting to try something brand new in her life. I wanted to know personally for you, have you had an experience in your career thus far where you tried to accomplish something that people said you couldn't?

I feel like I'm always trying to accomplish things that I think I can't. I'm lucky that I'm surrounded by people who support me and believe in me, but I think that it's my own self-doubt that is my worst enemy. And I think that might be common for other people. Of course, there are jobs that I want to get that I don't end up getting, or people I want to work with that choose to work with other people, but it's a constant evolution, I think.

I also know recently you kind of took a new direction, you directed a Coldplay music video. Is directing something you see yourself diving more into in the future?

I would love to make more music videos. That's a department that I really love. I still have so much to learn, and I feel like I'm still trying to figure out how to do my job. But, yeah, I mean, if the opportunity arises, then for sure.

Photo credit: Glen WIlson

In the movie, your character, she has very eclectic musical taste. She kind of looks to old soul musicians a lot throughout the film. I would love to know, personally, who you're listening to right now and who inspires you musically?

Well, I'm always kind of listening to older, more classic music, but then I'm also searching for newer music and waiting for albums to come out. But I have been listening to a lot of Leonard Cohen, and I've been listening to … there's a new Perfume Genius album that is really great that just came out. There's a new Laura Marling album that just totally pierces your heart, and a lot of Bruce Springsteen and Otis Redding. I don't know. I really love listening to albums front to back, and Pacific Ocean Blue is an album by Dennis Wilson and is just a masterpiece, I think. I like to listen to that in the evenings.

You recently described women as being in a constant, uphill battle, fighting every day for their lives, whether it's for what they want, for equality, for so many different things. What do you want to see women in Hollywood overcome in the near future?

I would love to see more female directors and writers be recognized for their work in an equal way. I would love for there to be more female-centric stories told about astonishing women throughout history, and I would just love equality and respect within this industry.

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