The Cincinnati Herald’s Celeste Kearney (right) talks with film star Kiki Layne. Photo provided

The Cincinnati Herald’s Celeste Kearney (right) talks with film star Kiki Layne. Photo provided

By Celeste Kearney

Herald Contributor

As Black people, it is our love that has gotten us through and continues to get us through. – Kiki Layne

“It is our love that allows us, even in [difficult] circumstances, to laugh, and to find joy,” said SCPA graduate, Kiki Layne, the star of Barry Jenkins’ (Moonlight) new film, If Beale Street Could Talk.

In her debut performance, Layne plays Tish, a 19-year-old woman dealing with challenging circumstances surrounding her childhood best friend turned financée, Fonny. Layne sat down with The Cincinnati Herald to talk about the movie and the importance of Black love.

Beale Street is based on the 1974 novel of the same name by James Baldwin. The story follows lovebirds Tish (Kiki Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James) in 1970s Harlem as they tackle their relationship. Before they are married, Fonny is sent to jail and Tish soon learns that she is pregnant. The plot weaves the timeline before and after Fonny is arrested to tell their love story.

Photo provided

After graduating from the School for Creative & Performing Arts in Cincinnati, and then DePaul in Chicago, Layne continued to pursue her love of acting in Chicago before she made the decision to move to Los Angeles. Three weeks after moving to LA, while helping a friend prepare to audition for Beale Street, Layne had an epiphany: She needed to play Tish. Tish “is so strong because of how vulnerable she is and because of how open she is to giving and receiving love and how hard she fights for love,” Layne explains.

Layne says that the portrayal of Tish as a strong Black woman was different from what the media typically shows. Layne realized that she never had seen in the media a strong Black woman like Tish. “I feel like media has a very limited image of what a strong Black woman looks like.” Layne says Tish challenges the typical Black woman image, as does the film in general. “You see all of these different types of strength,” Layne adds.

She said she hopes that people in Cincinnati “feel encouraged to dare to step out of the boundaries of Cincinnati,” and that viewers everywhere will grasp the power of Black love. It is “under attack by so many different things and so many things that other communities don’t have to deal with,” Layne says.

Although she is a newcomer, Hollywood already is celebrating her. But she warns, “Home is always going to be here…Cincinnati ain’t going nowhere.” She says when “all that Hollywood stuff” gets to be too much, she’ll be right back here, home in Cincinnati.

If Beale Street Could Talk is playing at the Esquire Theatre in Cincinnati. Ticket information can be found at

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