Laya DeLeon Hayes is an actress to watch. She currently plays Queen Latifah’s daughter on the hit CBS show The Equalizer and now she is starring in the horror flick The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster. Written and directed by Bomani J. Story, the movie is a re-imagination of Frankenstein with Laya DeLeon Hayes as Vicaria, the scientist. Born in Charlotte, North Carolina but raised in Los Angeles, the 18-year-old brought the haunting to film to life that smoothly tackles race, gender and death.
In a sit-down with BET, Laya DeLeon Hayes opens up about the relevancy of The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster and much more.
BET: How did you land the lead role in The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster?
It started as just an email in my inbox, as actors can all relate to. I think what stood out to me the most was the title. It's one of those things that jumps at you. You're like, “Wait, is that what we think it is?” And then I read the character description and immediately I felt that this was something more. The goal as an actor is to be challenged and play characters as complex and nuanced as Vicaria. It was a whole audition process and a lot of meetings with our director Bomani J. Story, which really solidified my understanding of the script and character.
BET: Explain how this movie deals with some serious issues that are relevant right now, especially for young Black folks?
People know the idea of Frankenstein and they know what the story is about. What Bomani was able to create is something that relates to the Black community. It talks about our stories, our truth and themes that are important to us – in a story and a genre that we aren’t even a part of the conversation. It means a lot that we can actually get this movie made and that there's an audience for it. But for young black girls, there's not much representation where you see someone who's intelligent, innovative, and brilliant, but also at the same time flawed and trying to understand her community and also her feelings of grief and what to do with those feelings. I feel grateful that we get to show that on screen.
BET: The film's opening line is “death is a disease,” and your character believes that she can cure death. How do you feel like that resonates in our current culture?
It's a very impactful line. I think because we're dealing with Frankenstein, there's this fantasy element to the book, that in our movie, it's humanizing all of that. It's grounding and bringing it down to what relates to our communities, and who we are as people seeing, not just a two-dimensional person, but someone who's three dimensional, a whole human being. There are two horrors in our story. It's not just the creature or this monster, but everything we go through as Black people. So that line, “death is a disease,” depending on who you are, when you watch it, and what you feel about it, it can lead more towards not just a physical death, but also a mental death, and how systemic pressures or systemic oppression can end up infiltrating your mind to where that mental death can sometimes be more impactful than just your physical.
BET: Are you a fan of the horror genre?
I’m a fan of it now. [Laughs] I’m a fan of doing horror. But before this, honestly, I'm pretty much a scaredy cat. I would get scared going to the movie theaters to see a horror movie. But if anything, this has opened my eyes to how exhilarating the genre can be, not just to watch it, but to be able to create a horror film was one of the most fulfilling things I've ever done. So, I hope to do more in the future.
BET: Why should the BET audience support The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster?
They should support The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster because we need to support Black art. Also, it relates to what's going on in our own lives, you don't get to see many characters like this, who are full people and have duality. There is juxtaposition all over our film. And I think that when you see that movie, you'll be able to relate to these characters in a way that a different audience wouldn't be able to.
The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster is in theaters on June 9 and On Demand and digital on June 23.