This weekend, writer/director Bomani J. Story celebrated the premiere of his debut feature, The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster, at the 2023 SXSW Film Festival. The story follows an ambitious science-focused teenager named Vicaria (Laya DeLeon Hayes), who believes that she has found the way to cheat death, but her experiments come with a hefty price tag attached when her monstrous creation begins to rack up a body count once it is unleashed into the community.
Daily Dead recently had the opportunity to speak with both Story and DeLeon Hayes about their experiences working together on The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster, being able to pay tribute to Frankenstein author Mary Shelley through their work in this film, and so much more.
Look for more on The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster closer to its release date, hopefully later this year.
Bomani and Laya, thank you both so much for being here today. I watched this yesterday and I absolutely loved it. I'm a sucker for anytime somebody kind of digs into the story of Frankenstein and finds new ways to explore it. So first and foremost, Bomani, congrats. This was awesome.
Bomani J. Story: Thank you. I'm glad it was able to resonate with you.
Oh, it did. And I would love to start with you and talk a little bit about this story because, again, it's this modernized take on Frankenstein, but also, I love the way that Vicaria is the central character because we don't see a lot of women, especially women of color, who have these scientific ambitions at the core center of many stories. I just thought that was really fascinating and I enjoyed it immensely.
Bomani J. Story: Oh, awesome. Yeah, it was very important to me to capture that because, personally speaking, it all starts in my household. I have two older sisters and they were mentoring me and shepherding me throughout my entire life, and so to try to capture their essence on screen was important to me. Not to mention, my mom also majored in biology, so it was almost inevitable that this would go down. Plus, the book was written by Mary Shelley, so it was my way to throw some respect back to her as well.
Yeah, it blows my mind that basically, we have this woman writer who gave birth to science fiction in a way, and yet, she’s very much still overlooked all these years later.
Bomani J. Story: Yeah, it's wild to me, too. I think I saw a story about science fiction stories somewhere and someone had left her off that list or something like that. I was just like, “What? Like, why would you do that?” It’s Frankenstein, it's so huge. People don't even read the book, but they already understand the story of it. And it's crazy to me that it would even ever happen that people don't put some respect on her name. She is the mother of science fiction, and not to mention just science fiction, but science fiction horror. She was doing it during the romantic era of literature, so that's crazy to me. I can rant longer for a very long time on this subject, so I'll stop [laughs].
Oh no, I hear you on all of that. So, Laya, I'd love to chat with you a little bit about coming into this project. What was the initial appeal for you when you were taking on this role? Was it just getting to represent a character we don't see typically? Was it the story? Getting to work in horror? I'm just curious, what was that initial hook where you read this and you were like, “I want to be in this, and I need to be in this”?
Laya DeLeon Hayes: It was really all of what you just said. I mean, to be a 17-year-old Black actress, you don't get many opportunities that really highlight complex or layered characters and, like you said, characters who are mad scientists or even just science pros. So, I think immediately when I read the character description, I was drawn to her. Sometimes you can also read a script and read characters and just not really feel inclined or feel a connection to them. But with Vicaria, it was almost immediate. For my first audition, I remember I literally could not stop writing about her and just wanting to figure out her brain and her complexities and why she made this decision or that decision when I only had the first draft of the script at that point. So again, the biggest thing for me was I want to play compelling characters and to me, Vicaria is that.
And then, the audition process I went through, and I did all the chemistry reads, that's where I met Denzel Whitaker, who plays Kago, and we totally hit it off. I booked the role and then I had meetings with Bomani, and it was like I immediately connected with Bomani. When you make a movie, you're going to be spending a lot of time with these people, so you want to make sure you have a connection with them. And I felt like from the first meeting with Bomani that we were on the same wavelength and that he was very insightful and knowledgeable for me to help me even dig deeper into Vicaria.
So that all played a part in my wanting to be a part of this. And on top of that, I had never done horror either, so it felt like a genre that was going to challenge me, honestly. I was saying for months before, I just want to scream and run around and cry, and horror felt like it offered that. So, I was really excited that this was the first time getting my feet wet in this genre.
Go HERE to catch up on our coverage of the 2023 SXSW Film Festival!
[Image Credit: Above image courtesy of Jim McGruie / SXSW.]