Chyna Layne Won’t Stop Talking About Domestic Violence & Why Sisterhood Is Vital: EXCLUSIVE

Aramide Tinubu
Chyna Layne
Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK. DESIGN: CIERRA MILLER/STYLECASTER.

There are stories that we gravitate towards, and there are other narratives that we must tell–no matter how painful they are to discuss. In TV One’s Original Film, In Broad Daylight, actress Chyna Layne tells the real-life story of Jordan Boudreaux, a young mother was abducted and terrorized by her ex-boyfriend. While many stories that center around domestic violence and abuse do not have happy endings–Boudreaux’s story is different. Her family refused to give up on her.  Layne steps into Boudreaux’s shoes bringing the gut-wrenching story into the light.

With more than a decade in the entertainment industry under her belt– Layne first achieved notoriety in the 2007 Oscar-winning film, Precious. Since then she has gone on to star in Netflix’s She’s Gotta Have It, the horror/thriller, The First Purge, and Barbershop: The Next Cut among many others. As Layne continues to make strides in an industry that has drastically changed in the past several years, she is only interested in telling stories that make her feel something. She recently spoke to STYLECASTER about In Broad Daylight, She’s Gotta Have It and her next big project.

“The casting director who cast me in Precious recommended me for the role,” Layne explained. “When the script landed on my desk, the first thing that I was really drawn to was the fact that it’s based on true events. With Jordan–this is someone whose family rallied to not give up on her, to find her. Oftentimes when we see these stories in the news, the families are waiting on the police. This family did not wait on the police.”

in broad daylight Chyna Layne Wont Stop Talking About Domestic Violence & Why Sisterhood Is Vital: EXCLUSIVE

Image: TV One.

Though In Broad Daylight tackles a subject matter that may feel uncomfortable for some viewers, for Layne, exposing the truth–no matter how ugly or messy it might be, is necessary.  She explained,

I was really touched to be able to dig into the layers of this girl. I also felt that for us to be able to see a young, Black couple in their 20s going through an abusive situation was something that I had not really seen that much. When I’d seen domestic violence or intimate partner violence on television and on-screen, it’s usually associated with middle age America or an older generation of Black couples. A lot of us, especially in our age group, don’t really understand that domestic violence or intimate partner violence begins, oftentimes, way before the first hit.

Abuse of this kind rarely begins with outright violence. For the Cadillac Records actress, viewers needed to see the build-up between Jordan and her boyfriend, Steve (Curtis Hamilton). “There’s also mental, verbal abuse,” Layne explained. “You just sort of let that slide. You see it as romantic things like, ‘I’m going to take care of you. You don’t need to work.’ Sometimes that’s the beginning stages of trying to isolate somebody and destroy their financial independence, and that’s the setup for the downfall of your life.”

To prepare for the role–Layne took it upon herself to listen to hours of 911 phone calls from domestic abuse survivors. “I definitely can’t forget them,” she reflected.  “I can’t unhear them. Also, watching police interviews of women telling their stories, I can’t unsee that. That will stay with me forever. I felt like it was important because, in addition to speaking with women who’ve gone through this, I also wanted to see the state of women when they’re still in this situation and they’ve just come out. Many of the women that I spoke with personally were already survivors who had already begun their healing process. It made me want to be even stronger for my loved ones, to really be brave enough to speak up even more. If I see a friend or family member or even if I ever, in the future, God forbid, go through a situation like that, prevention and communication is key. It was inspiring.”

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Image: TV One.

One of the things that Layne loved about Jordan’s story and her role as Shemekka on She’s Gotta Have It was the sisterhood displayed in both projects. Too often today, women are pitted against one another. She explained,

The catfighting is a lie. It just happens to make it to screen because it’s good for ratings. However, one of the things that I love about Shemekka in She’s Got To Have It is that she has those Brooklyn principles and that was something that, of course, the writers and Spike [Lee] brought to her, but I was also able to add on as well. In episode 209, there’s this conversation between Nola and Shemekka. One of the things that she says is, ‘In public, I’m going to support you like you’re right, but behind closed doors, I’m going to tell you you’re wrong.’ That’s the principle that I grew up on. I’m from Brooklyn. That’s really how the majority of most women are in real life. That’s how we create a safe space where somebody like Jordan can go to a family member, can go to that sister, that cousin, that mother and say, ‘Hey, I’m in a situation where I’m being hurt.’

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Image: Netflix.

The East New York native also wants young people who aspire to get into the entertainment industry to think critically about funding their dreams. “Once you decide to make that commitment to become an actor, you are the CEO of Chyna Layne, Inc.,” she of her concept, Fund Your Dream. “You are the CEO of that, which means that with any business that you’ve started, you have to create a two-year to five-year plan –even a six-month plan. Art can’t just live off of inspiration and creativity alone. It has to be financed. How do you pay your bills? I think that that’s important for actors to understand. We’re not taught the business of acting enough. Oftentimes, people who are artists who are aspiring to try to make it, they will quit because they can’t afford their acting classes and they can’t afford to pay their bills. Financial planning is something I think that artists need to understand more.”

With In Broad Daylight’s debut and She’s Gotta Have It coming to an end, Layne is already looking towards her next big project. “I just re-optioned a script that I had been working on for years, and it’s a script that takes place in Jamaica,” she revealed. “I’m really excited about it. I’ve been working with the RuJohn Foundation, and they give back so much to the Jamaican youth through arts, and they provide scholarships to schools. I said that I have to bring more projects to Jamaica. I have to be a part of that because it is so important for us to tell our stories. Though I can’t say what it’s about, it’s an incredible script. It’s going to be something that has never, ever been done in Jamaica before–at all.”

If you or someone you know is being abused please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline by phone at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).

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