Passion burns fiercer than a thousand suns; as the feeling of overwhelming desire tends to be many individuals’ driving force. The question is not when we start to experience this emotion, but what the general cause of it is. For Lyliana Wray, the origin of her passion stems from the arts, as her layman performances in school plays and community productions lit her inner flame. Now, after her highly notable performance in the Nickelodeon series, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Lyliana discusses life outside of acting, challenges within the industry & her experience filming the highly anticipated Top Gun sequel.
Megan Morgante: What attracted you to pursue a career as an actress?
Lyliana Wray: I have always loved to be involved in school plays and other community performances. When I was 9, I auditioned and booked my first role in a television movie. I was hooked! I loved everything about being on set. I knew acting would become a priority and I couldn’t imagine it any other way.
MM: What is it like to be in the spotlight at such a young age?
LW: Working in the industry feels like a natural part of who I am, so it is hard to see it as being in the spotlight. I have extraordinary opportunities and have worked with and know so many talented people. Because of this, I do feel a sense of responsibility to be professional, warmhearted, and grateful; it’s important to leave a kind impression wherever I go.
MM: Do you have any hobbies or activities you enjoy partaking in to help you maintain a sense of normalcy when you’re not acting?
LW: When I am not acting, I love reading, exercising, listening to music, and watching movies. I also play the ukulele!
MM: You starred in the Nickelodeon series Are You Afraid of the Dark?, what was your experience like working on that show?
LW: Working on Are You Afraid of the Dark? was an amazing experience for many reasons. We filmed in Vancouver and it was the first time I had ever been out of the country. Our director, Dean Israelite was incredible; he challenged me to grow as an actress and the entire cast and crew made every day special.
MM: What is your connection with the AYAOTD cast like?
LW: I would say my AYAOTD cast is family. When we first met, Dean and our producers had us play ice breaker games and meet for outings to help us quickly develop friendships that would show up on the screen. When we weren’t working, we spent time together at the pool, in the gym, having dinners, movie nights – it was the best! We all stay in touch and are proud of each other. I’m so lucky.
MM: What is it like to be a part of the highly anticipated sequel of Top Gun?
LW: Are there words?! Top Gun is an iconic movie that most people know either because of its aerial stunts, action sequences, music or the actor’s performances – it’s a movie everyone loves. Being cast in a Jerry Bruckheimer film, directed by Joseph Kosinski, starring Tom Cruise and an amazingly talented cast is a life-changing experience and I am beyond excited and grateful to be a part of it.
MM: I’m assuming your character from AYAOTD differs from your character in TGM. Is there anything you do in particular to channel your character in different roles?
LW: When playing different characters, it helps me to know why they do the things they do. What is their backstory? Fears? Joys? What motivates them? I use as much information I can to give a character life. I rely on my instincts as well as trust the director and the actor in a scene with me.
MM: Have you ever experienced any challenges throughout your career?
LW: I am in an industry that comes with exciting wins and a lot of rejection; one that can often have ideas about what I should or shouldn’t be. The biggest challenge is protecting my mind and heart from the negative chatter of “if only” – “If only you were taller…prettier…had better skin…whiter teeth…. brown hair…” It is impossible to be everyone’s everything and I often have to remind myself my everything is enough. I also have a wonderful team of people, personally and professionally, who support and encourage me every step of the way.
MM: Of all the roles you have played in the past, which one is your favorite?
LW: This is a difficult question to answer – every project is special, and I love each role for very different reasons. I think one I often think about is a short film called, Albedo Absolute. At the time I was a full-time gymnast and in the story, my character fell down a wishing well. I worked with a stunt team, was fitted with a cartwheel harness and from 75 feet high tumbled down to a mat below. It was an unforgettable day!
MM: If you could work with anyone in the industry, who would it be?
LW: If I had to pick one person today, it would be Greta Gerwig. I really admire her work as an actress and filmmaker!
Photography by: Monroe Alvarez
Written by: Megan Morgante
Hairstyling by: Lucy Gedjeyan
Makeup by: Aaron Paul