By Anissa Gabbara | Photo by Jamila Lisbon
Laila Pruitt takes her craft hella seriously. She began acting at age 5, booking commercials on commercials before eventually landing a part in Freeform’s Everything’s Gonna Be Okay. Now, you can find her in the Starz crime drama series BMF.
Inspired by the true story of brothers Demetrius “Big Meech” Flenory and Terry “Southwest T” Flenory — who birthed the Black Mafia Family (hence, BMF), one of the largest crime organizations in American history — BMF has one season under its belt and is on deck for a second. Portraying the bros’ little sis Nicole Flenory, the 17-year-old, Atlanta-born actress notes this as her first major role. “Nicole is kind of coming of age in the first and second season, and she’s trying to find her way and become her own person,” Laila says. “Sometimes, it can be a little stifling to be the youngest and have everyone sort of treat you like you don’t know what’s going on, [and] living in Detroit in the ‘80s as the sister of two major drug dealers, I mean, that’s gotta be hard and have its own nuanced problems.”
Drawn to the story because of its very true roots, Laila hopes viewers will take far more away from the tale than the fact that it centers around the lives of drug dealers. “No one is one-note, so whatever perception you [have] about BMF, about Meech, about Terry or the family as a whole, there [is] another side,” she says. “No one is just a drug dealer, no one is just loyal, no one is just part of a family. So, I hope that people take away that there’s always something that they don’t know.”
To get into character, Laila listened to a lot of NWA and Rakim. She even got to meet the real-life Nicole. “I think it’s just really inspiring, the transformation that she’s obviously undergone. She’s an amazing person to know,” Laila says. As for the music, “It kind of got me into that space … where Nicole’s mindset might’ve been at the time … I also watched movies like Straight Outta Compton and different things like that in order to get the dialect because obviously, hearing me speak right now, I don’t speak like Nicole speaks, so I had to sort of train my voice in that way.”
Aside from acting, Laila is high-key passionate about screenwriting and directing. She describes her current mode as “stacking scripts,” where she just writes constantly to prepare for getting into production mode. “In the future, I would love to own my own production company,” she says. “I plan on having my notebook with me right at my side every day on set and taking notes from any of the directors that come through for BMF. Use the opportunity for all it’s worth right?”
And the platform, too. When she’s not putting in work on screen, Laila is focused on educating herself and others about current social issues, especially around the systems of education, justice, and race.
Looking ahead, Laila is set to join the cast of Secret Headquarters, an upcoming superhero film she’s all the way hype about. In the meantime, she plans to continue auditioning, working on her own projects, and generally, well, just straight up giving.