Adriyan Rae is the Vagrant Queen in SyFy's hit series based on Vault Comic's story Vagrant Queen.
It was divine intervention that led Adriyan Rae into a career in film. She attended the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia and became a certified Medical Laboratory Scientist before moving to Atlanta, where she found her passion for performance.
She landed her first role in Burning Sands, an independent feature that was produced by Netflix. You can catch her in roles on Donald Glover's Atlanta, BET's American Soul, and Hulu's Light as a Feather.
But lately, she's been playing a child-queen-turned-outlaw on the run from a galactic government as Elida Al-Feyr in SyFy's Vagrant Queen.
Maggie Lovitt (ML): How have things been going with quarantine?
Adriyan Rae (AR): Quarantine, for me, wasn't really much of a difference. I am very much a person who is in my house all the time. It was just that all my favorite stores were shut down, and they still are. It was just converting to home workouts that were the most difficult.
ML: Have you been bingeing any TV shows?
AR: Yes, prior to the last week, I've been bingeing Avatar: The Last Airbender for the fifth time. Which I just absolutely love. It's so deep. Since March, I've watched Succession, The Outsider, and Killing Eve. I'm waiting for the last episode of that.
ML: Oh yeah! I think the finale is this week, isn't it? I've lost track of when shows come out.
AR: I've been a part of the Black Lives Matter movement for the past week, so I haven't really been watching much TV. I've been researching and fighting the good fight.
ML: So have you been out protesting?
AR: I have indeed.
ML: You went to school for Medical Laboratory Scientist, how did you get into acting?
AR: And Physician Assistant Studies. I got into acting by divine intervention. I swore I was going to be a surgeon since I was like five. I went to school for science, and I was doing great, and I loved it. I graduated, and I went to Atlanta, which is the black entertainment capital. While there, I was like, “Alright, I want to sing.” In the midst of trying to get on with singing, I met with Epic Records and things like that.
I was introduced to acting on a video set. Where they were like, “Do you want to be the lead (in the music video)?” I was like, “Uh, I don't know. No.” They told me I just had to act like this was my boyfriend, and I was like, “Alright!” I tried it, and they told me I was pretty good at it and suggested I try acting.
Literally, everything just aligned. I found a mentor who taught me Stanislavski and Stella Adler's methods. And trained me in the fundamentals. And then I got on set, and I was like, “Oh! This is what it's like to be at work and have it not feel like work. To really love your job.”
ML: And then to jump into Vagrant Queen, which is such a huge role. What was the audition process like?
AR: The audition process was a self-tape, which is really cool. I love doing self-tapes. I got the audition, and I was like, “Oh! This is cool. It's a comedy, action, and drama. It's like Guardians of the Galaxy!”
I remember we got feedback pretty fast. I had just done another audition, and I got an email, and I swore it was going to be for that audition. But my manager was like, “No, it's for Vagrant Queen! Wow. They must really like you.”
They had some notes, so we redid the take with the notes. And I remember not really liking that tape that much. I cried. I was like, “I really loved that one, and now I'm not going to book it.” But then four days later I got an email that said I had booked the role.
ML: That's amazing that you found out so quickly!
AR: Hollywood is a fast yes and a slow no.
ML: With the role of Elida, how much of your portrayal is comic-based, and how much is a collaboration between you and the showrunner?
AR: Initially, with my audition, it was based on what I had available. I had the pilot, and I had the comic book. It was really cool because Jem (Garrard) merged the worlds really well. Because she merged it and I had the visual of what the world looked like, it was really easy.
Once I was on set, I really relied on Jem. I had built Elida from child all the way to the present because I also had to play teen Elida. Everything from her favorite colors and foods. What she's eating right now.
What she used to love. All those things I've built. So I would talk to Jem and make sure that's what she wanted and what was in the comic because she loves the comic. That's more so how we made the character and her arc.
ML: Were there any challenges during filming you weren't expecting?
AR: Heck yeah! I was in South Africa, which was completely different than my normal life. I had never been outside of the country before. It was a challenge because of the time difference with family being so far away. It was a challenge of learning stunts. I did like 98% of my stunts.
Sometimes with the schedule, we'd have six-day workweeks. So we were working for six days a week, twelve hours a day. It seems like you'd have twelve hours, but that's really seven hours to yourself for sleeping and showering.
Sometimes you have to figure out if you can just eat at another time. You have to study and work out. It's a lot of that. That was the challenge.
Working that schedule. And making sure I had time for my mental health, for Elida, for stunts, for personal development, and working on auditions that were still coming in. Juggling, it all was the challenge.
ML: What is your process for getting into character as Elida?
AR: Are you an actor as well?
AR: Then, you'll understand. By episode three or four, it was really easy to jump into Elida. When I first got on set, there were those first-day set jitters. Music is my sanity. So I started listening to music, empowering music.
That's what really helped me get ready for Elida. It really set the tone for her confidence and abilities. It got me out of my head of being scared or worried. Elida doesn't worry about that stuff.
I would start my day off by eating my food, listening to my music. Then when I had to get my ears put on, I'd take my music off, but once they were dry, I put it right back in. Journaling also really helped me.
ML: Did you have a playlist for Elida?
AR: I have a playlist for every character I test for.
ML: I do the same thing!
AR: It's really helpful. Especially when you're testing. It's just so hectic. You get there, and there are other people there, and you're like, “Wait, what are they doing here? I thought they liked me.” It's a lot, so it helps me focus on who I was trying to be.
ML: Looking online, I found that Vagrant Queen has a really solid fanbase. I asked some fans about their burning questions.
AR: Oh, I love them!
ML: Their number one question was about this burgeoning relationship between Elida and Amae. At the time of this interview, they just shared their first kiss. So, what can fans expect from that relationship in the finale?
AR: Some wild things happen in the finale. What's coming is a possible strengthening of their bond. They both know where they're at now. They both know exactly who they love, who they care about, and what's important. They're both in a good space. That is a trying time for interpersonal relationships to thrive.
ML: There have been several betrayals and twists with Elida's allies and close friends. How do you approach these emotional scenes?
AR: I approach them as human as possible. I take out the themes of Vagrant Queen. Take it out of being in space or about a monarchy. I make it as human as possible. It became more about “How does betrayal feel?
What does betrayal look like? What are the different layers of feeling betrayal? What are the different layers of actual betrayal?” Since many of them are happening. I just went from there and really allowed those to be natural reactions to what was happening. I thought that would resonate the most, as it resonated most with me.
ML: Focusing more on human emotions, rather than the epic space drama.
AR: Exactly! If you focus on, “My loyalists did this.” It's not going to resonate as much as, “My father figure did this.”
ML: Do you enjoy shooting the fight scenes?
AR: Oh, I love it! Literally, my team would be like, “It's an action day!” I love the fight scenes. It's so invigorating and cool to learn these choreos and see how they come out on screen. With this last episode, we worked so hard.
With a lot of the fights, I didn't have time to learn. With the karaoke fight, I had learned that in five or ten minutes. The port fight I learned in probably a half-hour. With the finale fight, I had like a week. I got to practice with Paul (du Toit) and really worked it out. It's awesome; I love it.
ML: Do you have a favorite location or planet that they visited this season?
AR: I loved the aesthetic of the dunes. It was absolutely beautiful. It was hectic to shoot it because it was sand dunes. It can be really windy.
It was a desert so it was hot and it was cold. But aesthetically, it was beautiful. I really love the Winnie. It was an actual ship with an upper and lower deck. I used to hang out in my room and kick people out of my room.
ML: Speaking of rooms, what's something you always have to have in your trailer?
AR: A candle. It's so weird, but I always have to have a candle. I always have to have tomatoes. I have tomatoes on every set.
ML: Is that your go-to snack?
AR: Yes! Tomatoes and vinegar. It would be like one o'clock, and I'd be hungry, and they'd be like, “Do you want your tomatoes?”
ML: Well, that is a perfect segway into catering. I've always said I got into acting for the catering.
AR: Isn't it great? You get to try something new. And I don't feel bad for wasting if I don't like it.
ML: What's the best meal you've had on the set of Vagrant Queen?
AR: I didn't really eat much at catering. I had a snack pack. I was in so many scenes, and our schedule was so fast, I hardly had time to walk over to catering.
They got me this snack pack that would go with me to each scene. I'd probably say chips were my favorite snack. In Cape Town, they have these different flavors of Lays chips. They had this chili flavor that was my favorite.
ML: What is something you always have to make sure you have with you on set?
AR: I have this book of Elida. That is like my Bible. It is with me everywhere I go. I always have to have that and my Air Pods. It's her journey; I mark her out. It has everything she loves and doesn't love.
If there's a scene where some food pops up, that's blue, but she hates blue food. I don't want to miss that. It's written down in my book. I need that so I can hit that beat and to incorporate that nuance. I can't go anywhere without that book. The crew used to find my book and move it. I'd be like, “Someone has lost my book!” My blue book was a big thing.
ML: Did you come across any restaurants in Cape Town that you loved?
AR: Elida is vegetarian, so when I'm filming, I'm vegetarian. It changed the restaurants that were available for me.
Cape Town is known for its barbecue and really good meats. But they had great restaurants like Nü. I ordered from them a lot. They also had Nobu, which was right by the water, and they had fresh food. It's hard to find vegetarian sushi.
ML: So you're very method when it comes to Elida.
AR: It's a balance of being method, but being able to come out of it. When there are episodes like five or six where she's going through tumultuous emotions of loss with people dying, I have to be able to come out of that when I go home.
ML: Before we wrap up, what can you tease about Elida's own personal journey in the finale?
AR: Elida finally finds her voice and shuts up other people.