Jalyn Hall Speaks on MLK Jr. Transformation for New Series and His Love of Historical Roles [Exclusive]

The young actor stars as a young Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the new National Geographic series.

Jalyn Hall isn't slowing down. After starring in the critically acclaimed film Till as civil rights figure Emmett Till, he takes on history again in National Geographic's Genius: MLK/X as a young Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The limited series is described as the chronicling of "Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X from their formative years to their rich, parallel stories as they shape their identities and become the change they wish to see in the world; the two visionaries ultimately rise to pioneer a movement." The 17-year-old is definitely one to continue to watch as he effortlessly transforms into such historical figures with conviction and an award-winning smile. The latter caught the eye of Invisalign, and outside of his acting, Hall has partnered with the brand on a new campaign. Hall spoke with PopCulture.com about his role in MLK/X, how it compared to his work in Till, and how Invisalign os helping him reach his personal and professional goals. 

PC: Congratulations on MLK/X. Going into the project, as a younger actor, how much about both men did you know?

JH: I think going in as just a young man in our society today, you definitely know the bones of it. You know everything you're taught. What you dive into, to further educate yourself, is where you get to the meat pf things. But then going into it as a young actor, I actually got to learn the personal side of these characters. And that's one thing I really enjoy about playing these historical roles is that I get to see them in a humanizing light, something beyond the pages, in something beyond the archives.

What type of research did you do and what did you discover along the way? You also mentioned that you got to understand these men both as humans. Did you get to speak with MLK Jr.'s family?

It's so crucial to have people with first-hand access, and credible access. And luckily, I was around people who were actually there, who witnessed it, who felt it, who lived it. So I definitely had the resources of people who were so well versed in this time and so well versed with these legends. I also did my own research in terms of reading. There were also just conversations with the people on set, and those were the ones that I truly valued because I knew that I was getting the real deal and putting it to life in my work.

How was the audition process when you initially brought in to audition for MLK Jr. or, was it for both characters as young men?

Yes. I went straight out for the MLK Jr. role. When I got the audition, it was just something in me that felt really confident. I'm confident about all my projects, but this one in particular, it was very important for me because of this new age and era where we're able to tell not just any story, but the stories of people who have helped shape our future and our world today in a way like no other, and in a way that, with all respect, no documentary could embody. I love documentaries to learn the historical aspect of things but I feel there is a different connection when it's a film or something that you can actually connect with on an emotional level. 

Obviously both MLK Jr. and Malcolm X are beloved, but for different reasons. And now that you've had more of an intimate experience with learning about these men as people, what's your take on their separate processes to making progress?

After learning about it and filming it and then watching it, you kind of see that they're two sides of the same coin. When you think about them both, you think about balance. I feel as though they are the yin and yang. I feel like the better question is: Who knows what they could have done given a longer lifespan, given a longer reign and being unified? I don't think that either side is wrong. But there is always a more pristine way, a more easier way together. And I feel like that's the message there is. What can we get done together? Not just by ourselves? So I agree with a lot of their methods. But my question is: What could we accomplish together?

This isn't your first time portraying a civil rights icon. You starred as Emmett Till in the critically acclaimed film Till. How would you say that the experience is filming MLK/X differed?

Just the atmosphere and the people you're round. You definitely get a sort of innocence in the adolescence of both of these characters. But you also get a sense of realism and grit as well. So as much as they differed in story, the emotion didn't change quite a bit.

Would you say that one, experience was heavier while filming? Because of the subject matter of Till, did you take any of this home with you when you were filming, or did you leave it on set?

Unfortunately, or realistically, I'll put it with, with doing such a heavy role, it's easy for that to attach to you and you bring it home. But that's when your family comes in and that's when your loved ones come in. Luckily, it was my mom who kept me grounded and safe mentally, which is very important. And it's definitely heavier, because we all know the time and the situation and the trials and tribulations and the eventually the tragedy that Till underwent. So it was definitely heavier in a mindspace, but luckily I was able to come out of that, due to my family.

You're also on a new Invisalign campaign outside of all of the work that you're doing. How did this partnership come about?

Growing up, I always had my signature gap. It's kind of my trademark.  But you can still have that and also have a great all-around smile. And I was so steadfast on getting there, and I would just talk to my mom and tell her the Invisalign aligners are the way to go. I told her that I would like to indulge in Invisalign treatment. And time passed and we eventually got in touch with them. And they're so easy to work with, and so fun to work with. It's been an overall great time. I feel like every time I put them in, I'm working toward my ideal smile and my ideal confidence, my ideal image. So after everything that I'm doing, new projects that I'm working on, new seasons that I'm working on, I also have these Invisalign aligners entirely, and I love it.

What does your, new partnership with them entail?

Well, for me, it entails a new and brighter future. I love being a part of the Invisalign family. I love the treatment itself. Working with the team is like being with family. There's so many people who's a part of it that genuinely love the product, which makes it easier and more comfortable. And I think that spreading that message would be great for just people in general to get that notion in that confidence to be like, 'Hey, I want to try out this Invisalign treatment.' I know I've seen everybody using it and it really works. So I feel like for me, it's definitely a transformation for myself. But also for the product and brand in general, just reaching as many people as we can, to help them find their ideal smile.

What would you say are the biggest benefits of Invisalign? Not just esthetically, but like you mentioned, for your personal confidence.

I think that a lot of times, especially in society today, appearance is a lot. I feel like having your face and your smile unaltered by anything but just a clear, sort of like protective shield that changes your smile for the better, is the ideal way you want to go. So I think that for me in particular, even having them in, I can feel the smile getting better. It makes me want to smile. And having that confidence in any room, in any capacity, in any career, not just my own, is a blessing. Especially going on set and being able to keep my appearance and keep everything so easy to talk to. 

You and I actually met at last year's Disney Dreamers Academy. The next one is coming up, this spring, in April. Is that something that you'll be attending? And what was your biggest takeaway from that experience?

Well, to answer your first question, I'm so spread thin with a lot of business right now. So, I don't know, I would love to, but I don't know at this time. But I can definitely tell you, after going and having the experience that I had, they say Disney World is one of the most happiest places on Earth, and I agree. The fun and the amenities aside, just the kids, the young people, like myself who I got to interact with and see in such a bright light, it just really is in the name: Dreamers. You see the dream and you see them acting it out. It's very important to me because my career, my dream, and my goals started with the dream at such a young age. And luckily, by the grace of God, and my supporters, and my mom, I was able to get there. And when you see it in these young people, this is very inspiring. So I took away, a lot of inspiration from them, a lot of just awe and, what we can accomplish together. And I'm just amazed if I go back, I'm going to have the time of my life again.