EXCLUSIVE | Shakira Ja'nai Paye says 'All Day and a Night' shows a level of humanity missing in many movies
Paye said director Joe Robert Cole didn't try to feed the version seen in the media, making the movie stand out with many layers
Spoilers for 'All Day and a Night'
'All Day and a Night' explored the themes of generational trauma and systemic racism as they brought about a story of a young man, Jahkor 'Jah' Abraham Lincoln (Ashton Sanders), who tried to overcome his abusive upbringing. The cycle of tragedy, with no end to violence and street life, brings Jah to the same prison as his father, James 'JD' Daniel Lincoln (Jeffrey Wright). As Jah narrates a painful story, we see parts of his life in flashbacks and through his narration, we are able to understand how the events of his life had led to a desperate murder.
In an exclusive interview with MEA WorldWide (MEAWW), Shakira Ja'nai Paye, who plays the role of Shantaye, Jah's girlfriend and mother to his child. Shakira dishes details on how it was like to work with an impeccable director that helped elevate the actor's performances, how the movie stands out from other productions with similar narratives and her upcoming projects with the troupe, Obama's Other Daughters.
"Shantaye was very dynamic and flushed out and I had an amazing time playing her," said Paye who ended with the tole after auditioning for it with a casting director she's auditioned for in the past. "I felt like the role was right for me, but, you know, you go in and you give it your best shot. I found out I booked it about four weeks later. Shantaye is a phenomenal woman and very much an example of black women in the community who hold up their men when they're going through stuff," revealed Paye.
The movie touches on many stigmas, insecurities and struggles about children growing up in the grim inner-city life and Paye said she was grateful to be able to have the opportunity to tell that story. "I know so many people in that story. I'm from Baltimore, Maryland, so it wasn't foreign to me. And I think it was a story that needed to be told. The importance of love, the importance of nurturing our children and bringing them up and helping them not repeat the same thing generation after generation. It's trying to break curses, you know?"
While the movie has a similar narrative to portrayals such as 'Boyz n the Hood' or 'Fruitvale Station,' which tell the story of young people growing up through generational trauma and circular crime, Paye explained how 'All Day and a Night' stands out from the bunch. "I think it was just so many layers. Joe, the director of the movie, didn't try to feed you the version that you see in the media. He tried to create a level of humanity that we don't get to see in every movie. And I think that really showed on-screen like we were human beings living and trying to make the right choices even with things stacked against us," she said.
If you have watched 'All Day and a Night,' the flashbacks and Jah's narration would have easily stood out as the movie uses the protagonist as a force to bring the daunting story to life. When asked if the style that the movie chose to narrate its tale brought out its audacious personality, Paye said, "I think it helped audiences because it wasn't just like one thing that did it. I think even one of the lines is just like 'a ton of tiny little cuts that just keep adding up.' So when you see him, you see things when he was a child that brought him to his mindset as an adult and things that as an adult that pushed them even further."
"I think showing it over, different decades, and breaking it up and not making it just one moment really impacts the audience. Cause it's just like, 'yeah, I've been seeing this throughout his life,'" continued Paye. With a story that runs through the cycle of intense abuse, lack of role models, expectations to get into a life that one tries to stay away from, Paye hoped that if there was one thing that the audience could take away from the movie, it would be empathy," she said.
The actors and actresses in the movie provided a raw insight into their characters with the portrayal of heavy scenes that don't just shadow reality, but bring awareness to it. While this showcases the intense talent the cast has, Paye pointed out that director Joe Robert Cole was able to bring the best out of his team.
"Joe Robert Cole, the director, was patient and let the actors play. He didn't necessarily tell us exactly what to do. He asked us questions and then we came up with the answers and made choices based on the questions he asked. He provoked thought, which I love because instead of pinpointing things he provoked thoughts, which made me think, 'Well, how do I feel like, what am I doing at this moment?' And I think that really elevated all of the performances. As you could see, the acting was phenomenal, and we're all great actors. So having a great director lead you, it's golden," said Paye.
The film had intense scenes for sure and when asked what part of the movie was her favorite and hardest to film, Paye said, "I would say my favorite part to film was the night we did the sideshow, it was very fun. The cars were cool, the lighting was fantastic, and the music. And it just felt like you could really see and feel the culture in Oakland. And it was beautiful. And I'll say the hardest part was the fight scene that I have with Jakhor. It was just a windy day and there were dogs and one of the dogs kept running out and jumping on our legs and he was so cute. But we're in the middle of one of the most painful arguments the characters have to go through with each other. So it was definitely a challenge, but it was a lot of fun. And I feel like, it definitely helped push me as an actor."
So what's next for this fresh-faced beauty? "I'm in the process of starting a podcast for iHeartRadio with my sketch team, 'Obama's Other Daughters,' said Paye. She further revealed how the name of her troupe came about.
"So, the improv community is very small and usually, there aren't a lot of black women doing improv comedy. So when we started doing it, we would be the only black person in our class and we wanted to do improv and comedy with other black women. Somebody posted on Facebook, 'Does anybody want to do improv? Any black girls on the UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade) that's the theater that we work out of. And we showed up and then we were like, 'Well, how do we identify? that we're funny, we're black that were women in a title and a name.' And at the time, Obama was still the president. And we were like, Obama was basically royalty in our minds and from our point of view, like he's the first black president. So we were like, 'Well, what if we were his daughters?' Well, he has daughters, so we'll be his other daughters. So we pitched that and then it was fun and people resonated with it and they laughed at it and we were like, perfect. This is the name," said Paye who's been performing with the troop since 2016.
'All Day and a Night' is now available to stream on Netflix.