*DISCLAIMER* This interview was conducted prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike.
Last month, with the release of the horror feature film The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster, Amani Summer played Jada, which saw her be directed by Bomani J. Story (who also wrote the film). Amani worked alongside actors including Laya DeLeon Hayes as Vicaria, and she reunited with the cast for the film’s premiere at SXSW earlier this year. Amongst Amani’s other screen work, she has filmed episodes of Taste It or Toss It and FTS Kids News, and she has been cast in the upcoming Series 4 of Genius, playing the role of Attallah Shabazz, with the series following the life of Malcolm X, played by Aaron Pierre. Chatting with us, Amani talks about playing Jada in The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster, attending the film’s premiere earlier this year at SXSW and being on set of the upcoming Series 4 of Genius.
In the new feature film The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster, you play Jada, can you tell us about the film?
The film is about Vicaria, who is played by Laya DeLeon Hayes. She is smart and wants to cure death after her brother Chris dies. She tries to bring him back to life but a lot of things happen. Jada looks up to her but she gets busy and does not have time for Jada anymore. So Jada starts being friends with the monster. He is nice to Jada and she teaches him how to talk.
Was there anything that drew you to the role and how was it reading the script for the first time?
What drew me into the role of Jada was that she was sassy. I am not a sassy kid at all so I was excited to be sassy and not get in trouble for it. It was good and sad at the same time reading the script for the first time. There were a lot of sad scenes but I don’t want to spoil the movie for the people who have not seen it yet.
Can you tell us about your character Jada and what was she like to play?
Jada was a little sassy to everyone but she really loves her family. She does not like reading. She is nice to the monster even though he looks scary. It felt really good playing Jada because that was the only time I could have an attitude and be sassy.
What was it like filming alongside the rest of the cast, including Laya DeLeon Hayes as Vicaria?
It felt really good because it was like I was working with my real family. Everyone was super nice. I learned so much from watching them. I still keep in contact with them. Laya was amazing! She made sure that I was ok in every scene. In one scene she was nervous about me seeing it. It made me feel good to know that she was looking out for me. If I needed something, she made sure someone got it for me as soon as I said it. I learned a lot from her acting too. She is a great role model for upcoming actresses like me.
How did you find the experience on set of the film and being directed by Bomani J. Story?
The experience was great with the director Bomani. He was patient with me and fun. He let us make our own decisions sometimes with our characters. He told us to have fun with the script. That made it easy for me to be Jada. He taught me how to bring me to the character. I’m thankful for him giving me a chance with his film.
How do you feel now The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster has been released and who do you think will enjoy watching it?
I feel great about the release! Now everyone can see all of the actors’ hard work put together. I think people who love horror movies will love watching it.
What was it like attending the premiere at SXSW earlier this year and how has it been seeing the viewers’ response to the release?
SXSW had a lot of firsts for me! It was my first time seeing the movie, my first time at SXSW, my first time on a plane, and my first time in Texas! It was like a family reunion. I saw all of the cast again and we got to watch together. Then we got a chance to spend time together after the film. I liked the viewers’ responses because they were jumping and scared. I am pretty sure I would have been the same way if I was not in the movie.
We understand you will be playing Attallah Shabazz in Series 4 of Genius, is there anything you can tell us about filming this role?
It was a dream come true because I really wanted to play a role that was based on a real person. I prayed for a project like this. Everyone on set was nice. That made it easy for me to just be Attallah. I was happy that I got a chance to work with Aaron Pierre and Jayme Lawson. I gained two sisters on set, it was really fun filming with them. My trailer and the food were really good too!
What are you looking forward to for the release and how was it telling the story?
I am looking forward to a lot of people watching it because it tells a true story. I am glad that I got to be a part of Malcolm X’s story about his life. I watched videos and read articles about Attallah to help me tell her story her way.
How was your time working on Taste It or Toss It and FTS Kids News?
I loved Taste It or Toss It because I love to eat and cook! Anytime I can do something I love with my love for acting it’s really fun. When I did FTS Kids News, it felt like I was a part of the actual news but just for kids.
How did you get into acting and was it something you always wanted to do?
Yes, acting has been something I wanted to do ever since I was three years old. One day I told my mom that I would be on TV, her phone, everywhere! She put me into The Actors Scene acting school summer camp to see if I liked acting. After I learned a little about acting, they had an acting showcase. I was able to get my agent Carol Shaginaw from the showcase and then I started getting auditions.
Can you tell us about your acting and dance training?
I have had a lot of acting training from some great coaches at The Actors Scene, Catapult, Imaginary Emissary, and Alicia Kelley. I have been dancing since I was two years old. I have taken tap, ballet, jazz, hip-hop, and lyrical. My favourite is hip-hop, I don’t really like ballet.
What are some of your favourite films and TV shows to watch?
My favourite films are Home Alone and Annie with Quvenzhané Wallis. I watch them over and over. My favourite TV shows are Young Dylan, That Girl Lay Lay, Pretty Freekin Scary, Villains of Valley View, Big City Greens, Raven’s Home, Bluey, I Love Lucy, and Saturdays.
How do you like to spend your free time?
I like spending my free time watching all my favourite shows, playing school, doing schoolwork, playing on my trampoline, making crafts, and going to the park. I also like donating and giving back to help others.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you can tell us about and what are you hoping 2023 brings for you?
No, I don’t have any upcoming projects at this time. I am hoping 2023 brings another horror film and a recurring role on a TV show. Thank you for taking the time to interview me and learn more about my acting journey!