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25 Sep

Iyana Halley Talks Getting Her Big Break In ‘Beast’

Though it’s possible you’ll recognize her face from appearances on Abbott Elementary, This Is Us, and All American: Homecoming, Iyana Halley is poised to develop into a household name together with her latest role in Will Packer’s Beast.

Acting 2013, the 29-year-old actress says the project, which finds herself, alongside costars Idris Elba and Leah Jeffries, fighting for survival within the South African Sahara against a disgruntled lion, was a no brainer to sign onto when she saw the script.

“Besides working with Idris Elba, who’s a tremendous actor, this script was so suspenseful. Even just reading it, I used to be wondering ‘oh my god, what’s going to occur? Are they going to make it? Are they going to survive?’”

US actress Iyana Halley attends the world premiere of “Beast” on the Museum of Modern Art on August 8, 2022 in Latest York City. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

Audiences were clearly captivated by that very same sense of suspense and tension, as Beast debuted at #2 on the domestic box office over the weekend. That is thanks partially to Halley’s breakout performance as Meredith Samuels, eldest daughter to Elba’s character, navigating each the emotional obstacle of their strained relationship and the physical obstacles of their eventual family crisis as “second in command” defending her family unit.

“The journey that my character Mere goes through, she has an actual character arc,” Halley said. “With all of that, I knew this [film] can be a tremendous one.”

Halley, who says she has all the time desired to try her hand at an motion thriller, was challenged beyond the bounds of what she had experienced on prior shoots, thrust into stunts and physical endurance for the primary time.

“I absolutely am not used to motion stuff. I feel like this movie really got me out of my comfort zone because I actually needed to be sure that I used to be figuring out, doing yoga, and stretching so I could sustain with the scenes. At first, I used to be really out of breath a number of the time,” she laughed. “Bal [Baltasar Kormákur], our director, was really big on us doing all our own stunts, so I actually couldn’t cheat anything!”

One scene specifically, which she was careful to not spoil, found Halley’s character interacting with the film’s antagonist, the wild lion stalking the Samuels family across the South African wilderness. The actress makes it clear that every thing you see her doing in said scene, she actually did.

Iyana Halley Talks Getting Her Big Break In ‘Beast’ Alongside Idris Elba

Except for the chance to push herself, filming Beast gave her the chance to learn directly from one among the culture’s most beloved actors.

“Working with Idris Elba is literally like sitting in on a master class,” Halley said. “All the things that he’s doing, I’m just watching and taking notes. Not only is he acting when it’s time to act, but when the camera will not be on him, he’s asking questions and learning the entire time. On set, I’m just watching how focused and dedicated he’s, and I’m taking my mental notes.”

On top of learning through osmosis, Halley was directly encouraged by Elba, who helped her recover from a bout of nerves early into shooting.

“One among the moments that was really amazing to me was a day where I’m feuding with my dad and we get into this really big argument. I used to be really nervous at first and I feel like I used to be really entering into my head. And Idris just said ‘it’s okay Iyana. Don’t be nervous, you’ve got this,’” she recalled. “I feel like those words of affirmation really just made me feel more comfortable because he didn’t should say that.”

Filming for over three months, with what Idris described as long hours with a number of downtime and in often harsh cold temperatures, the actors ended up forming a real on-set family that found each of them teaching, learning, and fiddling with each other within the time they’d together.

Iyana Halley Talks Getting Her Big Break In ‘Beast’ Alongside Idris Elba
Iyana Halley, Idris Elba and Leah Jeffries on the world premiere of “Beast” held at The Museum of Modern Art on August 8, 2022 in Latest York, Latest York. (Photo by Nina Westervelt/Variety via Getty Images)

“Being in South Africa for 3 months, which is a very very long time, really bonded us,” Halley said, noting that she and costar Jeffries even resided in the identical apartment complex while on location. The fun family dynamic created somewhat of a barrier for the actress to create the stress and resentment that needed to be expressed on-screen between herself and her movie father.

“Because we grew so close in a positive way, I had to search out things from other people to plug in and react to,” she said. “Mere and her father have a very up and down relationship, and in fact, Idris will not be a person who is like his character. He’s way cooler and nicer.”

But, with encouragement from her recent on-screen family, Hally was in a position to push through and deliver an impactful performance that helps drive this exhilerating motion thriller.

Beast is in theaters all over the place now.

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