5 Breakout Performances to Have on Your Radar This Summer

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WHO: Hailey Kilgore

WHAT: This is Hailey Kilgore’s summer. The 22-year-old, who earned a Tony nomination for her performance in the Broadway revival of Once on This Island, is hitting screens big and small with not one but two big projects over the next two months. First up, she has Power Book III: Raising Kanan, the prequel series of Starz’s popular Power franchise, where she is stepping into the role of young Jukebox, Kanan’s strong-willed confidant whose tomboy sensibilities bring to mind ’90s icons such as Queen Latifah, Lauryn Hill, and Aaliyah. Following Power Book III’s July 18 premiere, Kilgore will have you singing and groovin’ when she joins Jennifer Hudson in the highly anticipated Aretha Franklin biopic Respect, in theaters August 13, as Carolyn, Franklin’s younger sister, co-collaborator, and backup singer. 

I was especially excited to join the Power franchise in Power Book III: Raising Kanan because… I remember I was in the middle of filming my first film, Respect. We had these crazy-long shoot days, and I was having so much fun I was rarely checking my email! We were in the middle of a scene, and I got a text from my manager about this really cool role in the Power prequel, and her name was Jukebox (geniusly originated by Anika Noni Rose, one of my idols). I freaked out and immediately did a self-tape and asked for updates every day. I even begged my team to ask to get me out of filming for a day to fly to New York for a test with the producers. When they told me I booked it, I cried like a baby.

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I am probably most like my Power Book III character Jukebox in that… Juke is such a badass. She is talented, quick, and street-smart. Most importantly, she has heart and is willing to do the work. I grew up really motivated and love being an overachiever. I love the hustle that life brings, and so does Juke. I also think we are both very emotionally deep people, and we have so much to give, even if we don’t know how sometimes. It has been really therapeutic playing this role, for sure.

The series is set in the early ’90s, and some of my favorite Jukebox looks are… Jukebox is my fashion alter ego. We are complete opposites when it comes to fashion, which is so funny! Juke is the ultimate tomboy (baggy clothes, no makeup, hair in a braid, chillin’). She is a part of the Lo-Life Crew, so she’s always rocking Ralph Lauren Polo gear. My favorite jacket is the red-and-blue fleece jacket, and my outfits are never complete without a fresh pair of Timbs.

My fondest memory working on the film Respect is… Really, it was just the glamour of it all! The fashion, the hair, the makeup, everything. It was always so much fun every morning when the cast would walk on to set and just transform. It was so cool to really step back in time and just play. It felt like the best cookout every day! I really miss everybody.

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My favorite musical number in the film, hands down, is… Uhhh, don’t do that to meeee! If I had to choose, I would say—only because I have to choose one —“Respect.” Really because the sequence, which was brilliantly written by Tracey Scott Wilson, was just so beautifully executed and so honest. It starts with the three sisters around the piano discovering the re-creation of the song originally recorded by Otis Redding. Then, the song really takes off! It was so magical in that studio that the energy was crazy. Everyone was singing and jumping around the room. Ms. Franklin’s spirit was there. We could really feel it!! Amazing.

The stories or projects that make me feel excited to work in this industry are… I have discovered over the years that I am a sucker for simplistic realism. Just tell a real story and let the character navigate and feel naturally. I am a really huge fan of Ari Aster, Ava Duvernay, and Lena Waithe. Everything is so honest and different. I love that this new wave of producers and writers are pushing the walls of the “stereotype” box and bringing raw and unique stories to the table. People really connect to that stuff, and as an artist, it is so exciting.

If you catch me off duty, chances are I’m wearing… I am always in athleticwear, or I am serving a full lewk. There’s no in between for me. You will see me in a lot of Naked Wardrobe, Free People, and Joah Brown.

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When it comes to fashion, I’m a total sucker for… I am such a girly girl, so I love anything feminine and formfitting. I love going out, too, so lots of dresses and jumpsuits. Interestingly enough, in the last few months, I have been incorporating a lot of tomboy elements into my looks thanks to Jukebox. So a lot more streetwear and mixing and matching my formfitting favorites with baggy jeans or pants. Think very Aaliyah ’90s vibes.

My summer wardrobe would not be complete without these three pieces…

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