Priah Ferguson and Jalyn Hall on Relating to Disney Dreamers Academy Students, Overcoming Hollywood Disappointment, and Aging Out of Roles (Exclusive)
The 2023 disn Dreamers Academy provided 100 of the most ambitious high school students nationwide with a life-changing and immersive career and leadership session. Over a four-day period, the students were introduced to new opportunities via career sessions that taught valuable life tools, leadership skills, effective communication techniques, and networking strategies. Students also participated in in-depth workshops that aligned with their specific disciplines in dreams throughout the fields of business, entertainment, and sciences, and even career opportunities within The Walt Disney Company. While there, celebrity mentors gave them words of wisdom on how to keep their inner magic shining as they remain steadfast in their pursuits. Two of those celebrity mentors were Priah Furgeson and Jalyn Hall.
Both young starlets are extremely busy with their work. Fresh off of the movie award season, Hall received critical acclaim for his role as Emmett Till in the film Till alongside Danielle Deadwyler. The Whoopi Goldberg-produced film chronicled the tragedy that sparked a surge in activism in the Civil Rights Movement after the 14-year-old Chicagian was virtually beaten, shot, and lynched while visiting family in Mississippi after a white woman alleged he made a pass at her in the 1950s. Despite not being nominated for any major award during the season, Hall's name is being spread throughout Tinkle Town.
Furgeson has made a name for herself within the Netflix family with projects like Stranger Things, My Dad the Bounty Hunter, and The Curse of Bridge Hallow. Now, she's eager to spread her wings and showcase more of what she can do with carving out her own lane.
PopCulture.com was among a handful of journalists invited by The Walt Disney Company to experience the four-day weekend. While there, Hall and Ferguson chatted about relating to the 2023 class as youngsters who continue to chase their dreams, as well as their respective career goals.
PC: What attracted both of you guys to the Dreamers Academy? And being both young actors in Hollywood, what is your advice to the Dreamers here to keep it pushing?
PF: Well, I love that young kids are putting themselves in an environment where they can learn about their dreams and the careers that they want to tap into and get into. And they're getting advice or have these mentors who are already in that environment that they want to get into in the future. So I love that. I'm always big about kids chasing their dreams, of course. And I like that there's a strong adult system and a system of mentors who are here to do that for kids.
JH: I'm really excited about them following their dreams, of course, because when I started, it was just me and my mother, and it was just us on this road that we knew nothing about because nobody in our family has ever done this before. But the fact that they know exactly what they want to do at this young age, literally the same story for me, it's really empowering and inspiring. And I would say if I had any advice, it was just to hold onto your dreaming. Keep, like you said, keep it pushing because one day, you're going to going to get there.
PC: Now you guys are both in amazing projects. You guys are both killing the game now, Jaylan, obviously, you starred in Till, which was a culturally phenomenal and an impact, but we feel as if you guys were really snubbed during the award season, and I'm sure you had some feelings about it too. Yeah. So what did that situation teach you as a young actor? And was there any advice that you got from your mentors in Hollywood about how to not allow that to negatively impact you moving forward?
JH: So honestly, when I started, that was the biggest, I think that was the biggest hump I had to go over. Because in this business, there's a saying it's "You're going to hear a thousand nos worry before you hear one yes." And let me tell you, I have experienced that first. And sometimes you can feel kind of distraught or down, but it's your village. And like I said, your dream is what keeps you going.
And honestly, regarding the Oscars [snub] and everything like that, I tell every, everybody, when I get questions like that, the movie is the real reward. It's fun to have a shiny trophy, but everyone saw it, and everyone retained the message, and everyone was moved and altered in ways that will change the world. So ultimately, my trophy is just being a part of the movement.
PC: And then you, Priya, obviously we know you from Stranger Things, and I love the film that you were in with Kelly Rowland and Marlon Waynes. So you've done a lot of stuff with Netflix. Obviously, we're all here for the streaming services. But what are you looking to do next to showcase your range outside of Netflix and to really show more of what you can do as an actor?
PF: Definitely creating my own content. I think that's what I want to move into. Showing more things with people who look more like me and different kinds of roles and different kinds of environments that they don't see themselves in as much as what I want to lead into. And also, of course, season five is the final season of Stranger Things, and it's kind of bittersweet, but it's also good moving into another direction, and see what the industry holds for me. And I guess, unfortunately, breaking away from that character, seeing myself in a brand new character and a new dynamic in general, I guess it would be fun.
PC: How are you guys both going about aging in Hollywood, getting out of the kiddie roles, and transitioning into young adulthood?
PF: It's hard.
JH: It's hard. It's hard, especially when they don't want you to age. The golden standard is when you're older, but you look young enough to play younger, and it's like, "All right, man, I don't really want to do that.: But me personally, I'm thankful for any role that I get, unless you guys know me from Dylan on All American. And even with that show, new episodes asre coming out, and Dylan is growing up, and we get to see that in a different...and we get to see that in a different light. And then a lot of the new roles that I have been adapting, like Bruiser and Till are more adult-based, grittier roles which I...
PC: Have more depth.
JH: ....exactly, more depth, which I am honored to do. And then you see The Crossover coming to Disney+ April 5th, go ahead, check that out. And then you will see me play a teenager growing up in a family in basketball and sports, and that is just a whole new world. So I'm really excited at the diversity in my career.
PF: Yeah, I agree. I definitely think it's hard because as I'm getting older, I want to play more older roles, but because of my look, I'm still petite or whatever, I do get the younger roles. Especially by being in Stranger Things, because in the eighties, it's a more period piece, and kids in the eighties already look younger or, I guess more like their age back then. So I think being in that does make me look a little bit younger than people expect.
But then I was in Boo, which made me a teenager, and that was how I was in real life, which was also really fun. And I'm also doing animation. It kind of, I guess, like what Jaylan said, it varies. So I guess it's fun, but growing up and getting more grittier roles and getting to play your actual age and older, that's kind of what I want to do more. And that's what I like.0comments