Twenty-two-year-old Ajiona Alexus is a star on the rise.
After starring on TV One's The Rickey Smiley Show from 2012-2014, she soon garnered mainstream attention for her role as a Young Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson) on Empire from 2016-17, the 2018 Henson film, Acrimony and her current recurring role in 13 Reasons Why, which returns for a second season this month.
Talking to Shadow and Act about her new movie, Breaking In, a thriller produced by Will Packer and headlined by Gabrielle Union, Alexus told us about her character, working with Henson and Union and how important it is to be selective in the roles she takes.
Breaking In stars Union as Shawn Russell, a woman who “will stop at nothing to rescue her two children being held hostage in a house designed with impenetrable security. No trap, no trick and especially no man inside can match a mother with a mission when she is determined on Breaking In."
In Breaking In, Alexus portrays Jasmine Russell, the teenage daughter of Shawn who is both headstrong and rebellious.
[caption id="attachment_303335" align="alignnone" width="1361"] Photo: Universal[/caption]
“I grew up fast as a teenager, so I was never really like that," she notes. “I grew up faster than Jasmine so I had to put myself back in those shoes of being a teenager. I think I have a lot of similarities too. It's just taking those experiences and translating that into Jasmine.”
While Alexus’ career is just getting started, she's already had the opportunity to work with acclaimed actresses like Taraji P. Henson (twice) and Union.
“They are amazing. Something about me is that I can always observe and learn from people. Taraji and Gabrielle are amazing. To be with people like them, learn from them. With Gabby, she is just so fun. We are like sisters. She’s so real, she’s so down to earth. She gets it. It is so important to have people like her and Taraji to make a pathway for women like me in this industry."
When asked if it is important for her to take on diverse roles in a changing industry, Alexus enthusiastically responded, "100 percent, 100 percent."
She continued, “I’m very selective about everything I do and take in my career. It’s very easy to get caught up into that stereotypical role of what people expect you to be. So you have to set the bar high and create that path for yourself in a way and take those roles that are going to be more outside of the box, that creates opportunities for African-American actresses. It is so easy to get put in a box. I make sure my roles are very versatile and very different and show people I can do different spectrums of everything out there as far as the acting side of film."
The film premieres on May 11 and is produced by Will Packer, James Lopez, Craig Perry, Sheila Hanahan Taylor and Union. James McTeigue is the director. Billy Burke, Richard Cabral, Levi Meaden, Jason George, Seth Carr and Christa Miller also star. Jaime Primak Sullivan (whose story the screenplay is based upon), Valerie Bleth Sharp and Jeff Morrone are executive producers.