Laya DeLeon Hayes is having an outstanding year as she recently graduated high school and is returning to her role as Delilah for the third season of The Equalizer.
The 18-year-old continues to grow in her stardom, and working with Queen Latifah and Lorraine Toussaint, who play her mother and aunt in the series, is an accomplishment an actor would yearn for.
Hayes is a bright, rising starlet viewers need to pay close attention to, especially in this new season. Her character’s storyline expands after last season’s cliffhanger where we see Robyn (Queen Latifah) get kidnapped while trying to take down Mason Quinn (Chris Vance). This unfortunate turn of events leaves Aunt Vi (Lorraine Toussaint) and Delilah on the hunt searching for Robyn alongside Robyn’s crime solving partners, Mel Bayani (Liza Lapira) and Harry Keshegian (Adam Goldberg).
In a conversation with BET.com, Hayes chats about being in a “master class” with Queen Latifah and Lorraine Toussaint, the most significant lessons she’s learned from the actors, and expectations for her character in the new season.
BET.com: Last season ended on a cliffhanger with Robyn getting abducted in front of Delilah and Aunt Vi, pushing Delilah to become more of an asset as she looks to find her mother. How will Delilah mature this season, and what traits will she develop?
Hayes: We left the second season on a cliffhanger with [Robyn McCall]’s abduction, and it all came to a breaking point. If you look closely, you could see in this episode and a couple of episodes before with Aunt Vi and Delilah how worried they were about what McCall does for a living, and they weren't sure of the mechanics that go into what she does. Due to that breaking point, and in episode 218 with Delilah helping her friend Vera, it will be interesting to see how McCall’s vigilante and home life will collide in Season Three. For Delilah, this means more emotional responsibility and forced maturity. This season, viewers will see Delilah take a lot more agency and inspiration from Robyn to provide insight for her Equalizer team.
BET.com: Delilah is “graduating” into a more prominent role in season three, while Laya graduated high school recently. How are you preparing to enter a new journey in your real life, and does this influence how you approach the role for Season Three?
Hayes: Graduating and being 18 years old is such a weird position to be in since you’re a kid, but also legal so you can be claimed as an adult even though you’re not old enough to do certain things still. While it’s weird, it’s exciting because there’s so much more I can do now, similar to Delilah. I will say even when it comes to relationships and friendships — getting rid of people who may not have benefited
[from] my life before and step into my own like Delilah. Now I can spend 12 hours on set instead of 9 ½ hours.
BET.com: Many of Robyn’s missions are ruthless, and you must come prepared to fulfill the task. Name three things in your opinion one should have when going undercover.
Hayes: You need to have a good disguise — I could go all day with [a] good disguise. You need a wig, sunglasses, and a fake ID [laughs]. These are the basics — you may also need a car and a weapon.
BET.com: Delilah is known for her logic and rebellion; viewers can see a bit of that in the new season's first episode. Will her rebellious ways hinder her in season three, or will it help?
Hayes: My prediction is both. Delilah stands up for what she believes in, which is one of my favorite things about the character. She cares about the people she loves and will do anything for them. We also can’t forget Delilah has PTSD, so she has to go to therapy and she’s trying to heal from what happened in the past two seasons. It’s a balance but she’ll get through everything due to the love of her family.
BET.com: Working with Lorraine Toussaint and Queen Latifah is a great accomplishment early in your career. What have you learned from sharing the screen with Lorraine and Latifah?
Hayes: It’s like watching a master class when I’m on set with them. They are such veterans in this industry and blazed the trail for young artists like myself. I’m fortunate to work with them and now bond with them — they're like my second family, and I love them a lot. The biggest thing I learned from both is defending your character. If you believe something fits your character and is suitable for your character, then defend it. Also, they emphasize speaking up and standing up for yourself. They have so much experience and are boss ladies — they call the shots.
You can watch The Equalizer on CBS on Sundays at 8PM ET.