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Kiki Layne is already proving she’s one of the most versatile actresses in Hollywood

Three months after moving to Los Angeles, actress Kiki Layne had her first audition.

The role was for Barry Jenkin’s screen adaptation of If Beale Street Could Talk, based on James Baldwin’s 1974 novel of the same name.

After being blown away by her audition, Jenkins’ requested a script reading with her on-screen romantic partner, Stephen James. The rest is history.

Beating out 300 other actresses for the lead role, she was cast in an Academy-Award winning director’s film. It was as if Layne’s journey to La La Land was written in the stars. Beale Street was the 26-year-old Cincinnati native’s feature film debut. Layne’s performance was lauded by critics who were impressed by her newcomer’s compelling portrayal of the lead character.


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The film follows the story of Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James), childhood friends who fall in love but whose communion is interrupted when Fonny is accused of a crime he did not commit.

With the help of those around her, Tish fights to free her husband from prison before the birth of their child. Shifting between the past and present, Beale Street is a crucial depiction of young Black love.

Since the story is transmitted through Tish’s POV and her narration drives the film, a lot of screen time is dedicated to the young actress.

The audience is intimately aligned with her subjectivities as the gentle and tender romance is transmitted through eyes and we watch her grow and mature as she goes through life in the devastatingly beautiful film.

After attending DePaul University and graduating with a degree in acting, Layne had begun to build a name for herself in the theater scene in Chicago, until she, like many others, was hailed by the allure making it big in Los Angeles.

Layne was introduced to Jenkins’ script by her friend who was also auditioning for the lead part that James eventually landed. Speaking on the role, Layne recalled to the Chicago Sun-Times,

“Something just told me that this was the role I was waiting for. I just had to get in the room…When I read Baldwin’s book, I knew I absolutely had to get this. It’s a beautiful love story, and a role like this doesn’t come around often.”

Next, Layne will appear in a screen adaptation of the beloved and much-studied Richard Wright novel, Native Son.


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The film is directed by Rashid Johnson and the screenplay was adapted by Suzan-Lori Parks. Native Son will have its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 24. She told the Chicago Times,

“This is another adaptation of a really important piece of black literature. I’m super excited for it and thankful to be working in the industry at a time when these adaptations are happening.”

Layne told Variety,

“I’m just feeling thankful that right out of the gate, I get to let audiences know that this is the type of work that really matters to me, and that I recognize that I have the ability to say something with my art, with the projects I choose.”


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While her acting career has been kicked off by two screen adaptations, Layne doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as an actress and is committed to having her name attached to a variety of projects. She continued,

“I could do comedy, action, or even science fiction. The only thing I’m sure of is that I want to keep doing work that speaks to me.”

As more and more Marvel and DC comic book characters take over the silver screen, Layne wants in on the Marvel Franchise. She revealed in an interview with ESSENCE that she has her eyes set on the role of a superhero — X-Men’s Storm. She told Variety,

“She was an image of myself, of a powerful chocolate black woman, and I just think that’s an amazing image to have and I really want to play Storm,”

She disclosed that her agents and managers are actively plotting to make it happen.

Halle Berry famously played Storm in the first four X-Men movies, while Alexandra Shipp took on the role for 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse, as well as in the upcoming Dark Phoenix, set to hit theaters on this year.

On her strategy to stay grounded, Layne admitted that she takes it one day at a time.

She revealed to the Chicago Sun-Times, that she intends on returning to Chicago and reimmersing herself in the theater scene saying,

“I left before I had the opportunity to pursue work more widely in Chicago. I want a career filled with a lot of variety. It’s important for me to not be put into any type of box because that steals the fun of acting. I want to do everything.”