Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia
Telling the tragic true story of 14-year-old Emmett Till is no easy feat but rising star Jalyn Hall brings him to viscerally painful life in Chinonye Chukwu’s Till. Hall reminds us that Emmett was an ordinary, playful teenager before his shocking murder compelled his devoted mother Mamie (Danielle Deadwyler) to confront the racism of Jim Crow America.
“I feel a lot of the time, people forget that he was a 14-year-old boy,” Hall says, “and it was crucial for me to represent that accuracy. I was 14 when we filmed it. Emmett and I were very similar. In all the research that I did and in learning about all his traits, I saw a lot of myself in those. That’s the one thing I want to bring to everything I do, so that the world will be getting a very accurate and authentic representation of what they’re watching.”
Hall wanted to act from early on. “When I was younger, I was really adamant about being on TV,” he says. “At that age you don’t really know what you want to be. But I kept saying it.”
After he attended a showcase for a performing arts camp, Hall persuaded his mother to let him attend AGI Entertainment, a performing arts school based in Marietta, Georgia. And by the age of eight, he had been discovered by Pantheon Talent Agency’s Nick Roses.
At 10, Hall landed a major recurring TV role in the CW drama All American, but it’s his most recent role in Till that has pulled him into the awards conversation. Hall recalls the unconventional audition process that landed him the titular role. “I didn’t even know I was auditioning for the role of Emmett Till until my second audition,” he says. “My audition tape was the scene in the car with Danielle and I singing, and then us dancing in the bedroom while exchanging dialogue. It was easy to get into that headspace the first time, because it wasn’t the heavy stuff, so I could interpret a good way to do it.”
His perception of the role changed once he understood he was to portray a monumental figure from the civil rights movement. “They told me what the role was for, and I had these deeper conversations with my mom because this is very serious stuff, having to see her son endure just a tiny fraction of what Emmett endured, but for acting purposes.”
WHEN & WHERE
Next up on Hall’s roster is Miles Warren’s Bruiser, in which he plays Darious, a teenage youth yearning for a worthy father figure. “It’s a very inspiring and eye-opening story to me. It has those tense moments that really grab your attention. I was very happy to be a part of it.”
Then there’s the upcoming Disney+ TV adaptation of Kwame Alexander’s novel The Crossover. The series is a coming-of-age story that follows twin brothers (Hall and Amir O’Neil) as they deal with the pressures of teen life and basketball superstardom. You can also still catch him currently starring in Season 5 of All American.
“I want to have a lot of diversity in my career,” Hall says. “With All American, I can be a snarky, growing teenage boy. With Till, I can be a part of heavy material that sparks conversation that affects the world in a historical way. I have things that I’m working on which shows me as an actor in an entirely new light. And that’s important, because to have different tricks up your sleeve, is something that I think every great actor should have. And that’s what I hope to have.”