Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Sarah El-Mahmoud

How Mariah Carey And Prince Helped Inform Kelvin Harrison Jr.’s Performance As A Classical Composer In Chevalier

Kelvin Harrison Jr in Chevalier

Among the many exciting 2023 new movie releases hitting theaters this week is an impressive biopic about a Black musician you’ve probably never heard of. Chevalier tells the widely untold story of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, who was a French Creole conductor of orchestras in Marie Antoinette’s court ahead of getting involved in the French Revolution. When Kelvin Harrison Jr. portrayed the historical figure in Chevalier, he told CinemaBlend about why he was inspired by more contemporary artists like Mariah Carey and Prince. 

While making Chevalier, Harrison Jr. studied violin for seven hours a day to become the virtuoso and composer. There was only few pieces of Joseph Bologne’s original works left following much of it being destroyed in Napoleonic times. During our interview (also above), the actor shared what he was able to gather from his portrayal with the music he did get to hear. In his words: 

One of the first steps of preparation is just listening to the pieces that remained and the recordings and trying to find what instinctually was coming up from me as I was listening to it. What was I hearing? Was I hearing someone who was really traumatized by their past? Was I hearing someone who was trying to overcome certain things? Like where was the tension in the pieces? And, also like he's a show off. You start to see him playing just these wildly hard to reach notes that are just up there on the board. And you're just kind of like, well, this is a showman. This is someone that is here to give a show. It's like when Mariah Carey hits high notes, she's giving a show, she's like, I can do this, can you? And I think it says a lot about his character. So the music was huge for me and in defining who Joseph's person was.

Obviously Kelvin Harrison Jr. could not meet Joseph Bologne or even access many records at all of the man, but listening to his music gave him a lot to work with regarding imagining how he might have been like. The actor realized that the composer was a “show off,” and much like “All I Want For Christmas” singer Mariah Carey does with her discography, he didn’t shy away from providing impressive music moments in his work. Harrison also told us this: 

I listened to a lot of Prince, "Darling Nikki" was the top song on my playlist. Something about it was just so sensual and I really wanted to have that sensuality and that just like rockstar rawness ripping through like, just everything that Prince had us in that song. And, you know, I had a really interesting playlist for this movie. I think a lot of people would be kind of surprised, like a lot of Kodak Black and like Lil Wayne and Drake and just random stuff like that. Just hype music, to be honest. Cuz he kind of has this like 'I'm the man about town' type thing. So, I wanted to have that energy.

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

Release Date: April 21, 2023
Directed By: Stephen Williams
Written By: Stefani Robinson
Starring: Kelvin Harrison Jr, Samara Weaving, Lucy Boynton, Ronke Adekoluejo, Marton Csokas, Minnie Driver
Rating: Rated PG-13 for thematic content, some strong language, suggestive material and violence
Runtime: 107 minutes

While one would think the Kelvin Harrison Jr. movie would have the actor reaching for other classical composers of the era, he instead chose modern Black artists like Prince, Kodak Black, Lil Wayne and Drake to help him contextualize the virtuoso for himself and get in the mindset of the composer. The actor is fully aware of how surprising that is given Chevalier's time period, but it sounds like it really allowed him to embody the historical figure in his own way. 

Joseph Bologne was the illegitimate son of a Senegalese servant and French plantation owner who found rank in the French nobility. In the movie, he aspires to compose and feature an original opera of his own, where he meets Samara Weaving’s Marie-Joséphine de Comarieu de Montalembert. They secretly fall in love despite it being against the law for them to do so. 

Chevalier makes for a really interesting biopic, so we highly recommend you check out the movie about the forgotten classical composer. You can see Chevalier in theaters this Friday, April 21, and check out the ReelBlend podcast interview with the Chevalier writer and director

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.