Ajiona Alexus is everywhere these days. She’s reprising her role as Sheri in season 2 of 13 Reasons Why, she just dropped her first single on YouTube, and she has two major thrillers — Acrimony and Breaking In — currently in theaters.
Breaking In stars Gabrielle Union as a mom who’s forced to take some extreme measures when a crew of home invaders holds her kids hostage. Alexus plays Union’s daughter — but offscreen, the actress says Union is “more like a big sister” to her.
Read on to find out more about Alexus’ friendship with Union, her favorite memories from set, and her many, many plans for the future.
Brit + Co: You’ve done a couple of thrillers recently, including, of course, Breaking In. What draws you to these roles, and what drew you to this role, in particular?
Ajiona Alexus: Growing up, I’ve always been interested in doing suspense and thriller roles. For Breaking In, particularly, I like that it’s about women empowerment, and it’s about celebrating women and mothers, and about them using the resources they need to save the day. Because in reality, they’re given very few tools, and sometimes they’re given the short end. But it shows you that women are badass enough that they can make it happen.
B+C: Speaking of badass women, what was it like working with Gabrielle Union?
AA: I love her. She’s so amazing. She’s so real, she’s down-to-earth, she’s smart, she’s so capable of doing so many things. She’s definitely a role model for me, and she’s been such a role model through the whole process of filming the movie. She’s more like a big sister for me. It’s a blessing to meet people like her in the industry and to be able to gain knowledge from them.
B+C: What’s the best thing you learned from her?
AA: Don’t let anyone limit you. Understand that the smallest things are nothing, and the opportunity and what you’re capable of are limitless. You can do anything you want to if you put your mind to it. People are going to limit you and make you feel like, oh, well, this is too big. Never feel like anything is too big — always reach higher and above the stars.
B+C: That’s good advice. How do you give yourself the confidence to do that?
AA: I’ve always had people putting positive words and energy in my life and my ear. So it’s just remembering where you come from and having that foundation where it’s like, you’re worth it, you’re worth more than anybody can try to belittle you to be. Just be true to yourself and the natural you will shine through whatever it is you’re going through.
B+C: What’s next for you?
AA: I’m actually working on my EP right now. And I have a project I’ve been working on for a long time, so it should be released in the next month. I’m excited for the world to hear that, to see the music side of me.
I have so much that I want to do, but it’s about taking my time, taking those necessary steps to get there, not rushing it, just enjoying the moment. … There’s a lot to come — fashion, beauty, everything.
[I also want to do] a lot of community service — giving back, just making sure I’m using my career and platform to serve others and help people in any way I can. Because I’ve been so fortunate and so blessed in what I’ve been doing.
B+C: Are there any causes you’re especially passionate about?
AA: Growing up, I always did public speaking about anti-bullying and women’s empowerment. I always talk about having positive self-esteem, having positive self-worth. When you know that and you know who you are and you value yourself, it’s like all this negativity, it’ll be gone.
B+C: Besides Gabrielle Union, what other actors do you admire? Any dream costars?
AA: I love so many people. There’s so much to learn from so many people. I love Zoe Saldana, I love Cameron Diaz and Angelina Jolie — I think they’re all amazing.
B+C: Going back to Breaking In, what’s your favorite memory from set?
AA: The trailer moments are always my best — me and Gab cracking jokes, telling personal stories, just vibing on a personal level.
B+C: If you could sum up the movie in three words, what would they be?
AA: Women are badass.
Breaking In is in theaters now.
(photos via Leon Bennett/WireImage + Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)