In her first series regular role, Aliyah Royale had to run the gamut of emotions. Starting with the initial episode of “The Red Line,” her character, Jira, loses one of her fathers to gun violence and decides she wants to meet her birth mother. The latter decision draws disapproval from her other father (Noah Wyle), culminating in a tearful confrontation. Royale dug deep to find the initial anger and eventual pain behind her character’s actions and found she learned a lot about herself in the process.
Royale: “This was literally the first pilot audition I got of the season. The audition scene I got was the one where Jira tells her father the shooting never would have happened to him and that she needs her birth mother. Seeing this girl be so powerful and knowing, ‘This is not right. This is what I need to be myself again,’ I was like, ‘Finally! A teenage girl who knows what she wants and doesn’t need someone else to tell her.’
“I knew I needed to show someone who was broken, but who was not satisfied with being in that place. She’s only 17 and she’s still a student, but regardless, it was important for her to not just let life happen to her, but to take it into her own hands. I’ve felt that a lot in my own life, especially trying to be something significant in the industry when I’m only 19.
“The scene when Jira said she wanted to meet her birth mother came up towards the end of the pilot process, and it was sort of the elephant in the room. In that scene, Jira is specifically vulnerable; she’s trying, in so many words, to say, ‘Things aren’t all right and this is the only thing I can think of to make things all right.’ The only thing she can do is ask for her birth mother. She’s thought about it for months — she has this folder of information concerning her adoption — this isn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision, and so I had to think of it as it’s been on her heart for a very long time. I don’t think Jira realized the capacity to which it would affect her father, but she knew it was something she needed to feel whole and to feel like a person again.
“Once we’d blocked it, rehearsed it and gone off to let the crew light and do their thing, I needed isolation. I think isolation is the most vulnerable time for people, and so I like to be by myself for a little bit before the scene starts. Then when we’re ready to go, I’m in it and I just really think of the character as myself and really put myself in Jira’s shoes. It felt natural. I don’t think I’ve ever had a role in my career that I identify with as much as Jira.
“We were very candid on set and we shared a lot just to help everyone understand where they were coming from with these roles, and the director of the pilot, Victoria Mahoney, told us to use everything. And it was the most freeing thing in the world. When you are telling real stories that you hope create real change and real conversations for people, you have to be honest with yourself. I was not as honest with myself as Jira is in this point in her life. To come out of that with a new vision of myself and what I want and how I want to affect people and change, Jira did that all for me.”