Iyana Halley Talks Taking On One “Beast” Of A Role… The Bonus Being Getting To Work With Idris Elba

Iyana HalleyPhoto Credit: Antwon Maxwell

Iyana Halley has a pretty good job. Why? She’s co-starring with Idris Elba in Universal Pictures’ upcoming release, Beast. In the film, which hits theaters on August 19, she portrays Meredith, one of Idris’ daughters on a sightseeing trip to a South African game reserve. However, their journey quickly becomes bloody as the family and their wildlife biologist friend (played by Sharlto Copley) come face-to-face with the massive apex predator hellbent on killing every human it encounters. In addition to Beast, Halley had a standout role in the Oscar nominated, Licorice Pizza and recurs on the ABC hit series Abbott Elementary. She also had a recurring role on the monumental series This Is Us, playing the adult version of Annie Pearson, Sterling K. Brown’s daughter. But first, we talk Beast, working with Idris, and what’s next for this rising young star.

Iyana HalleyPhoto Credit: Antwon Maxwell

What was your favorite thing about working with Idris Elba? What was a specific moment you can recall about being on-set with him?

Omg, working with Idris was seriously a dream come true. There were so many things I loved about working with him, but I must say that I truly admired his kindness, patience, and humble manner. Working alongside him was like a masterclass, truly. I learned SO much. I was pretty nervous at first, but he made me and everyone else around him feel so comfortable! Another great thing about Idris is that he is such a huge jokester and kept me laughing most of the time we were filming! He also loves music and beatboxing, so during our down times he would make a beat and we’d all start to freestyle songs which was hilarious. It definitely brought us all closer together too, which I really loved. We quickly became a little family!

What can moviegoers expect from Beast?

Moviegoers can expect many twists and turns and a lot of suspense!! I think one of the many cool things about this film is that it has relatable components including family life and issues, and well… we can’t forget the LION!!! It will for sure have everyone on the edge of their seats. I’m most excited to watch it in theaters with other people and hear their reactions! It will definitely keep you on your toes.

We hear you shot in the jungle in South Africa. Had you been before? Was it terrifying/exciting? Is there any particular moment that stood out?

We absolutely shot in the real jungles of South Africa and I can’t lie, I was very nervous at first because I didn’t know what to expect. That was my first time out there but I adapted quickly, to my own surprise! Let me tell you, I am so used to living a city life so being that far away on a whole other continent for 3 months was totally out of my comfort zone. We started our South African journey in Cape Town, which I would compare to Los Angeles actually, then we moved to Limpopo. While in Limpopo, we lived in huts. Yes, real life huts with bamboo ceilings! I would go outside and see horses, baboons, all different kinds of birds, bats, and other things which of course I am not used to. I should also add that I am seriously terrified of bugs and animals but I am so proud of how I was able to overcome all and put my fears aside and unlock a new fearless version of myself! There were so many new things that I have never seen up close and in person. I mean, we went on game drive tours where I took selfies next to rhinos and giraffes! Filming Beast was definitely an experience of a lifetime that I am forever grateful for and will never forget.

How did you prepare for such a vigorous role? What was your fitness routine like in preparation?

Once I was told I booked the role of ‘Mare’, we had about a month before we actually traveled to South Africa. I immediately dived into the script and started breaking it down. This is my biggest role thus far and I wanted to make sure I was fully prepared, of course. In terms of fitness, I have to admit I didn’t realize how much physically was required of me and found myself so out of breath sometimes but I challenged myself in a good way and pushed through all of the vigorous physicality required. This role showed me that I can go far beyond the limits I set for myself, I just have to believe in myself and work hard, which I did! I made sure to do simple things like stretching every morning before work. I now have a trainer lol so I can make sure I will be even more prepared for my next big role!

You play “Adult Annie” on the mega hit series This Is Us. Was saying goodbye as hard for you as it seemed to be for the rest of the cast? Who did you connect with most on set?

It was actually so hard saying goodbye to everyone! My time on the show was brief, so I thought I’d just say my goodbyes and go, but I actually shed some tears when the series wrapped! The cast makes you feel like family. I connected with everyone there, but mostly with my sisters on the show, who are super sweet, and the very talented Sterling K. Brown who played my dad. He is so silly and fun. Every day we worked together he would make everyone laugh! I’m so excited to work with everyone again on different projects in the future.

Iyana HalleyPhoto Credit: Antwon Maxwell

It’s said that everyone on This Is Us had a role within the cast itself – the photographer, the set mom, etc. What was yours? Who seemed to be most like his/her character?

I definitely played the sweet quiet one, which was funny because I play the adult version of the younger Annie. I didn’t get to meet her, but I was told that we have the same exact mannerisms! Sterling (who plays Randall) is so much like his character, it’s crazy! That super silly quirky Randall you see on TV is just like Sterling when cameras are off!

You were involved in the big episode where Mandy Moore’s character passed away. How did you prepare for it?

That was such a touching episode! I prepared for the role by substituting Rebecca (Mandy Moore) as my great grandma who passed away. That helped me bring out the genuine emotions i needed and made me feel as if she were my actual grandmother. I cried like a baby when that episode aired.

What was the mood on set that day?

The mood for me at that moment was very somber. I think overall everyone knew that the series was ending, and although we all felt grateful and excited to be working together we were still sad knowing the show was coming to an end.

What are five things people might be surprised to learn about you?

Ahh, let’s see!
(1) I know how to sew! For a while, I was making custom outfits for my social media followers and friends/family! I can make patterns and all of that!
(2) I am very family driven.
(3) I am very interested in skincare and run my own business called Haus of Halley Naturals!
(4) I was born in Brooklyn.
(5) I absolutely love traveling!

What’s next?

I do have a couple of projects currently in development, but I have also had the pleasure of being a part of so many cool films/tv shows that are currently available for streaming! My first thriller movie, Wayward, was released in June and I would love you all to check it out! I’ve always dreamed of playing a superhero, so I’m patiently waiting and preparing for that kind of role to come my way. I am also very big on praying and manifesting and I plan to keep working very hard so I know the best is yet to come! I love to be challenged and I am so excited about the journey ahead … so watch this space!