This October, the true story of Mamie Till-Mobley’s persistent pursuit of justice for the 1995 lynching of her 14-year-old son, Emmett Till, comes to theaters. Alongside Whoopi Goldberg and Danielle Deadwyler, Jalyn Hall takes on the role as Emmett. Ahead of the film’s theatrical premiere, Hall spoke with LA Confidential about the historical movie, his duty as an actor and his upcoming role in Disney Plus’ The Crossover.
What was your audition process like?
The audition process was different because they didn't tell us what it was for. IAnd we knew that it was very heartfelt and pulling heartstrings and stuff like that, but we didn't know the magnitude of it until they told us that it was the Emmett Till story. I was probably auditioning for weeks until they told us that it was Emmett Till.
They had brought me into the into MGM headquarters and they were like, “This is your last interview.” And I was like, “Alright, cool,” but come to find out. It wasn't even an audition or interview. They had just told me I got the job. That was a great time. Me and my mom both cried and it was amazing.
Did you feel any sort of pressure about portraying Emmett Till?
I knew that the project was going to be serious… but once I figured out that it was Emmett Till, there was a sense of pressure and there was a sense of like, “Oh my God, it's even more serious” because of the background and the history and who the person was and what he has meant for our community and our history and so many things that he's changed. It wasn't just a character that I was playing anymore. It was a movement.
I took that in, but I still wanted to go full steam ahead with the utmost confidence.
How did you prepare for the role?
I watched as many documentaries and YouTube videos as I could find and communicating with the director. She sent me like a bunch of stuff down from the environment that he was in— the clothes that he liked, the clothes that were appropriate, his life story, things about him. It was a bunch of information that I attained myself, and then there was even more information that was given to me to study
What was it like working alongside Danielle Deadwyler, who plays Emmett’s mom Mamie Till-Mobley?
Danielle was a great mom. I feel like our bond was so great and she's so funny and a great person to be around. Her aura is so amazing, so all of that really translated on camera and into our real life relationship.
For your acting career, is it a priority for you to devote your talents to projects of such great importance?
It's not so much as me being an actor wanting to take roles like this, but me just being the person that I am. Acting at the end of the day is telling a story, but some of these stories aren't just stories. Like with this child, he was a real person with dreams and aspirations and personality. So for Jalyn Hall to want to take on more projects like this is just morality and it's my really want and need to make sure that the important stuff gets out there to the best of its ability. So, yes, as an actor, I would love to take more roles like this, but me as Jalyn, I need to take more roles like this to enlighten my community and the community.
You recently wrapped filming on Disney Plus’ coming-of-age series The Crossover. What did you enjoy about playing Josh? I can imagine it was different from being on a project like Till.
lIt's my first time actually being in an ensemble, a predominantly kid cast, so it was super fun. We had a great time. And from some of the clips that I saw, it's going to come out amazing.
One thing I've loved about being Josh is that he's like me. I can kind of make the character whatever I want it to be or or whatever is relatable. And I feel like that's like the best thing about this show is that it’s super authentic and most of the stuff that goes on in the project is stuff that is happening with-real life kids. Even I have lived through certain things, even everybody on the cast has lived through certain things that we touch on in our episodes. My main thing about playing Josh is that I get to embody a kid who's going through things that other kids are going through.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Photography by: Antwon Maxwell; Courtesy of Till