Millions of people across the world have been watching Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why since its release on the 31st of March this year.
Many have identified strongly with its diverse cast of characters, and one member of this cast is rising star Ajiona Alexus, who, besides acting for hit TV shows, makes music, does public speaking and also engages in charity work. With the huge impact that 13 Reasons Why has left on fans, it was recently announced that the show will be having a second season and exploring more in depth the journey of each character, including Ajiona’s character, Sheri Holland. In our chat with Ajiona we dived into behind the scenes preparation for Ajiona’s role as Sheri Holland, the impact the show has had on her, her charity work and more upcoming projects!
13 Reasons Why has left a huge impact to a lot of viewers old and young. What do you think about the approach of the show putting difficult topics to light, and the importance of having this conversation about teen suicide?
Ajiona: I think the show does a great job of addressing real life issues and challenges that teens deal with in today's society. It's extremely important to shed light on these tough issues in order to open up and start a conversation about the tough issues that we normally don't discuss. This conversation is necessary because teens are dealing with pressure of all sorts which include bullying, social media shaming, substance abuse, domestic violence and rape, all of these issues negatively impacts self-esteem and self worth.
What did you think about the massive diversity in the cast of 13 Reasons Why?
Ajiona: We have the best cast in the world. I love working with all of them. As for diversity, I believe that casting did an excellent job at pulling together a talented and diverse cast, that represents today's society.
Did you read the book Thirteen Reasons Why? If not do you plan on doing so?
Ajiona: Yes, I read the book! Although, in some ways, it’s different from the Netflix series the book is just as good.
What aspect of the show 13 Reasons Why was most important to you?
Ajiona: The message and the millions of people that we were able to help. 13 Reasons Why was able to start a dialogue about some really tough issues that are important for us to talk about. Many teens did not know how to start this conversation and the show was able to provide an opportunity for everyone to open up and communicate how they truly felt about these issue. Hopefully we were able to help someone through our work and at the end of the day, that is most important.
Do you share any traits with Sheri from 13 Reasons Why?
Ajiona: Yes for sure! Sheri was very sympathetic towards the entire situation I think she was one of the characters that actually felt something about the situation and she wanted to do right. She was nervous after what happened to her, I think in that way I definitely related to Sheri because I am always so sympathetic towards people and situations like this. Some of the characters didn’t care at all and it didn’t affect them in any type of way so I definitely did relate to Sheri on different levels.
What do you think about the rumors for a 13 Reasons Why Season Two? Would that be something you’d be interested in exploring?
Ajiona: Of course! It’s the most popular and well thought out show, of course I would love to be a part of a season 2. I definitely think there will be and there should be, the way they ended season 1 there’s just so many possibilities for more success and more seasons to come. I am excited to see what the future holds!
(UPDATE: It has been announced that 13 Reasons Why will have a second season. We cannot wait to see what the future holds for Ajiona’s character, Sheri, as she continues this journey!)
How did you prepare for the role of Sheri?
Ajiona: Something I have always been interested in that is very close to my heart is public speaking about anti bullying, I think in that way I’ve kind of been prepared for it. Because it’s something I’ve always done research about and something I always want to talk to schools about the importance to not bully. Bullying comes from a place, when you are not comfortable with who you are and you do things to others to bring them down, so when the show came to me I was excited about it because it’s something that I’ve always been doing, to be on a show like that it’s even better for me.
How did the process of building the season (13 Reasons Why) made you more aware of bullying and negative/irreversible effects?
Ajiona: I think being able to see the different sides of it because I’ve never known anyone to deal with something like sexual abuse or suicide, I’ve never known anyone personally to go through something so hard like that. So to actually be able to watch it and reading some of the messages from (fans) Instagram and Twitter I try to respond to some people and they tell me about their situations I definitely think it brings it to me on a more personal level to know that I was a part of something that helped people. I don’t know I think it’s just such a sensitive topic if you don’t deal with it personally you never really know what it’s like even if you watch Hannah Baker you can never truly understand that feeling.
If you were given the opportunity to star in another book adaptation, which would you choose and what character would you play?
Ajiona: Nothing off the top of my head, but probably a series like Twilight or The Hunger Games! I love them it would have to be something like that.
What were your auditions for 13 Reasons Why and Empire like?
Ajiona: They were actually fairly simple because at the time Empire was shooting in Chicago and I was in Atlanta and 13 Reasons Why was auditioning in LA. For Empire I actually did a self tape and I got the role from a self tape I did at home with my dad and it was the same with 13 Reasons Why and they liked it they did a callback and I sent another thing and they were like you got the part, so it was all self tapes.
What is one of your favorite lines from any project you’ve worked on?
Ajiona: I’m going to do one from 13 Reasons Why that Hannah Baker said “The least popular is the truth.” She goes like “you hear a lot of stories, but the least popular it’s the truth.” I love that.
We see that you love to sing, where did your love of music come from? Can we expect any music projects from you?
Ajiona: I’m actually working on my EP right now I’ve been writing a lot and getting in the studio. We’re in the process of finishing right now so hopefully it’ll be done very soon and I have some visuals to go along with it. I’m excited about it, it’s on a more personal level so I hope people appreciate it as much as I do.
Last, but not least we know you just finished 13 Reasons Why and you are currently working on Empire and your music, but what else can we look forward to from you?
Ajiona: Actually I have two films so you have to look forward to those. I’m also trying to be involved in more projects, my music is an ongoing thing. Something that is very close to my heart is anti-bullying so I’m always making sure I’m doing something like public speaking to help people in any way I can. And I am also very interested in brands, makeup, music and other lines so that’s something I look forward to in the future, I would say when it comes to my brand is kind of building onto it, charity or anything in that aspect or in the entertainment side.