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5 Questions: Shailyn Pierre-Dixon talks Book of Negroes

Shailyn Pierrre-Dixon is a star on the rise. The young Canadian actress gives an incredibly brave performance as the Young Aminata in Clement Virgo’s Book of Negroes, now available on DVD, and based on the acclaimed book by Lawrence Hill. Pierre-Dixon is wise beyond her years, and commands the action on screen as the young version of the central character that drives the story, (Aunjanue Ellis plays the older Aminata).

Pierre-Dixon is next signed up for Between, a post-apocalypse show that also features her Best Man Holiday co-star Shailene Garnett. Between is part of a unique partnership between City and Netflix. We spoke to Pierre-Dixon by phone, and she gave some incredible insight into how she remained focused on giving her all.

What kind of response have you been getting for Book of Negroes?

I said to my mother “this is my big debut”, a lot of people think that they like the first episode the most, and I was very happy to hear that. I feel like the first and fifth episode were the most important ones. A lot of important things happened during these episodes. In the first one, she is captured, and in the fifth one, a lot of events happen to her, and just a lot goes on.

Did you enjoy working with a cast hailing from so many different places?

I love to meet new people, and we got to travel to a different country and continent. In total, it was just amazing. In Between, I face a tiger, and in Book of Negroes, I’m on a slaveship.

Did you find this project difficultly times?

Oh yeah. For example, when I’m captured, I found that part hard to do and difficult. After those kind of scenes, it got easier. I use breathing exercises, and I told myself I was going to be fine, It will look good, and just to do my best.

Is your mom active in helping you?

My mom is involved when we’re picking projects. She’ll first look it over and see if she thinks it’s good, and then she’ll come to me and ask if I like it, or if I don’t like it, or if I think I would enjoy doing it, so that’s usually what happens.

What do you think is the moral of Book of Negroes?

I think the message is telling Canadians and Americans people around the world that we need to learn more about everyone’s culture, and how people journeyed from, let’s say Africa to Carolina, and how they survived, and how their lives went, and even if they didn’t survive, their life story, and it’s a good way of telling people that we need to pay more attention to these kind of events that happened in the past, and acknowledge that people have stood up to these kind of terrible events.