Idris Elba is always a very easy hero to root for on the big screen, but in Beast, there’s no surviving a rogue lion attack without the wits and tenacity of his two daughters played by Leah Jeffries and Iyana Halley.
They star alongside Elba as Norah and Mare, respectively. Mare is the older of the two and aspires to be a photographer like her late mother. Whereas there’s a good deal of tension between Mare and her father due to mounting broken promises, 13-year-old Norah doesn’t blame their father for past heartbreak and strives to diffuse the tension via her playful spirit. When the trio finds themselves being stalked by a rogue lion in isolated territory in South Africa, they need to embrace each other’s greatest assets and work as a family in order to survive the situation.
With Beast now playing in theaters nationwide, I got the chance to chat with Jeffries and Halley about their experience making the movie. Much of Beast focuses on the girls’ relationships with their father given how differently they feel about what he could have done when their mother was diagnosed with cancer, but the sister bond is also a mighty powerful force. Given the importance of having a strong collaborator in establishing such a believable connection on screen, I asked Jeffries and Halley what they appreciated about each other most as scene partners. Jeffries began:
“I felt like she really comforted me. It’s not something where usually you just click with someone this quick, or even have to play siblings with someone and you just get with them so quickly. It’s like, ‘Let me see how you really act in and out of it.’ On set and off set, she always comforted me, she always made sure I was okay and she was really a big sister to me and I love her so much, which made me really be comfortable on set. Like, if I messed up, they won’t be like, ‘Oh my god, we have to restart over again.’ She was like, ‘It’s okay. You’re good.’”
Halley continued by emphasizing the value of having a sister-like bond off set in addition to being able to spark one on set for the camera:
“We hung out outside of set a lot too so we became, like she said, almost real sisters so when we’re acting and doing our scenes, it didn’t really feel like acting. It just felt like I was protecting my little sister and trying to comfort her as she said. I think that made the connection even better.”
In addition to the deep family connections on display in Beast, the movie also features some extremely impressive VFX feats. That lion they’re up against in the movie? It’s created using digital effects, and it looks good. And it’s a good thing Jeffries, in particular, got such a hefty dose of VFX experience via Beast because shortly after wrapping the film, it was announced that she’d be starring in the highly anticipated Percy Jackson Disney+ series, and one can bet that show will involve a good deal of CGI as well.
What’s a VFX lesson learned while making Beast that Jeffries can apply to Percy Jackson? She pinpointed the importance of continuity. Here’s how Jeffries put it:
“There’s this thing called continuity, which means that everything has to be in the exact same place. So we could film something one day and I stop in this place or have something like this, that means I can film it like two months later and I have to be exactly like that. I’ve learned to now know exactly what place, what thing I have to be like. It’s really fun! I know they have to take a lot of pictures standing in different types of weird things, but it was fun though. It wasn’t something that’s super hard or anything.”
Looking for more from Jeffries and Halley? Be sure to check out our full conversation in the video interview at the top of this article!