Rising Star Layla Crawford Opens Up About Mental Health & Working With Will Smith On ‘King Richard’

Actress Layla Crawford | Image by Diana Ragland

By now you have most likely seen the brilliant ‘King Richard’ film, starring Will Smith, based on the real life story of Serena and Venus Williams‘ dad Richard Williams and how he brought up his daughters to become world tennis champions. In the film, we get to learn more about the Williams’ family, including the rest of the siblings who were all part of the journey to see Serena rise to greatness. Among the siblings on screen is Lynn Price, played by rising actress Layla Crawford, whose name you should keep an eye on.

At the age of 16, she is far from your average teen girl, and has already been seen in a number of major feature films and TV series, including ‘NCIS: LA’, ‘The First Family’, and HBO’s cult favorite, ‘True Blood’.

Already having a decade of experience in Hollywood, the path to on-screen fame is clearly laid out for this young star, especially with ‘King Richard’ getting some Oscar buzz. But Layla has been opening up in interviews about struggling with anxiety, given the expectations placed on her at such a young age.

We had a chance to chat with the Los Angeles-native about her own ambitions in Hollywood, her love of fashion, and her passion for using her large social media reach to advocate for social justice issues such as Black Lives Matter and #StopAsianHate.

Actress Layla Crawford | Image by Alyssa Bazaar

Tell us about working on King Richard, what was it like landing the role of “Lynn” and working alongside Will Smith?

I have to say, working on King Richard was an incredible blessing. Every day on set was so much fun and we all became like family off-screen. At the time of filming, I really didn’t have an idea of how big the movie would really be. Landing the role of “Lynn Price” was the perfect fit for me, because we are so much alike. Throughout the film, “Lynn” has so many fun and witty moments where the audience just falls in love with her.

Working alongside Will Smith was also a dream come true. Mr. Will has been one of my favorite actors for as long as I can remember, so having him be my co-star was truly a surreal experience. I have to say he really is a kid at heart. He’s funny, generous, and being able to see him get so in the character that he plays was all-around inspiring.

You have been acting from a very young age and appeared in some major TV shows and films. How did you initially get into the industry?

I started dancing at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy in Los Angeles when I was around 3 years old. When I got a bit older, I started to participate in plays at my school. This is where my love for acting and performing started and blossomed. I remember running around the house when I was younger, reciting lines from my favorite Disney Show and performing them in front of my family. When I was 6 years old, I told my mom I wanted to be an actress. Since then, she’s been helping me. I will never forget my very first audition for Disney’s Choo-Choo Soul. I ended up landing a role in the show as well.

There has been a lot of buzz about King Richard, including a potential Oscar nomination. How have you dealt with the attention the film is getting?

I’m filled with joy to see that audiences around the world are enjoying King Richard. The cast and crew put a lot of heart, energy, and enthusiasm into making the film. It was very important that we execute the story as perfectly as possible, because there was such a strong message behind the film and we are portraying such real, strong, and powerful women.

At first, the attention was a little overwhelming because my schedule instantly got busier with all the press that needed to be done. It can get hard trying to balance everything, but I am very blessed and grateful. We have already received a ton of nominations and awards, so on behalf of the entire cast and crew, “Thank you”.

Actress Layla Crawford | Image by Diana Ragland

You have been open about battling anxiety. Can you share more about this and why you feel it’s important to have more conversations about mental health, especially during the pandemic?

Mental health is a very important topic and I feel it needs to be talked about more these days than ever. I want to let your readers know that life can be hard at times and sometimes difficult to deal with, but to remember you are not alone. The pandemic has been hard on all of us and caused a rise in mental health issues due to the fact that many of us were isolated. It brought a sense of loneliness and uncertainty. No one should ever feel ashamed of how they are feeling or what they are going through.

I would like for people to remember that there is someone out there that feels the same way as you. My advice is to find what makes you happy, whether it be an activity, a sport, a TV show, or being with friends. You really need to find what makes sure you are happy and find ways to escape for when times get hard.

Aside from acting, you are also passionate about social activism. Can you tell us more about supporting the Black Lives Matter and #StopAsianHate movements, and what messages resonate with you most?

I am very passionate about advocating for many social justice issues, because we are the next generation and we need to be aware of what is affecting our communities and our world. We can start within ourselves by making sure that every day we are treating others with respect. We then can hold people around us accountable whenever we see injustice so we are practicing what we preach. No one should have to worry about the color of their skin or their ethnic background when it comes to basic human necessities and decencies.

As a self-professed “sneakerhead” and fashion lover, what looks are you into right now, and whose style do you love?

My go-to is streetwear inspired by 90’s Hip Hop and Urban Culture. Right now, I’m really into more CyberPunk looks and styling with the black tones and silver jewelry.

You have already achieved so much at the age of 17! Where do you see yourself in 10 years, and what kind of projects do you want to be involved in?

In ten years, I hope to still be acting as well as being involved behind the camera as a writer and director. I’d really like to break into the other industries such as fashion and real estate too. I always hope to be part of stories that inspire others and will help make a positive impact on the world that we live in.

Follow Layla Crawford on Instagram and keep up to date with her latest news.

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