Imani Lewis is a true artist and a Rennaisance woman, and her passion and drive are inspiring.
She’s also one to watch in Netflix’s anticipated vampire sapphic romance, First Kill, which drops on Friday, June 10.
We caught up with the star to chat about First Kill, her music, Mocha Bands, her love and admiration for her castmates, and many passions. Check it out!
First Kill sounds and looks so exciting for so many reasons. What attracted you to this role? How did you land and prepare for it?
I think what attracted me to the role first and foremost is that I love strong characters. I love strong female characters that are sure of themselves but are still on journeys with themselves. I feel like I relate to that so much.
When I read for Calliope, I instantly fell in love with her. She’s so diligent — fast, strong, and strong-minded. I felt that kind of representation was just so necessary, and I’m excited for what it’s going to do for the other young girls out there that are going to see the character and see so much of themselves or who they want to be.
For sure. Can you talk a little bit about what this series is about and what we can expect from the season?
First Kill is a modern-day teenage love story that includes the story of a young vampire and a young vampire slash monster hunter who both come from these families with a long lineage. They’re both on this mission to obtain their first kills, but then they realize that that mission is a lot more complex than they could have imagined.
And in the midst of it, they end up on a journey through their own personal love story, this forbidden love story being that one is a vampire and one is a vampire hunter. The season gets so, so cool. It’s such a fantastic show, and I cannot wait for people to see it.
We are seeing a reemergence of vampire series and dramas that are coming out now. What do you think people love so much about vampire shows and romances, and what sets First Kill apart from many others?
Personally, I think people may just enjoy the fantasy of it all and that supernatural element, you know? Usually, people in the supernatural realm have different kinds of powers and abilities outside of the human world. I think that just makes the story all that much more interesting because it’s always some kind of forbidden love.
With First Kill, what makes it so distinct is there are two teenage girls, and the basis of their fight is the fact that they come from these different lineages that we’re hating each other for years before they were born.
The beauty of it all is that they’re able to find love and figure out how they’re similar in so many ways outside of the ways that they’re different. It’s so interesting to see this kind of story between two teenage girls.
Was that one of the appeals of this project? There’s such a limit on all types of diversity within this genre. It’s so awesome that you have a prominent legacy Black family of hunters. You have a sapphic romance, a coming of age one at that; how important and appealing was it to portray all of this diverse representation?
Oh, it was incredibly important, and I was so proud, and I’m still so proud that my character is part of such an incredibly diligent, strong, just well-rounded family.
I love that they represent strength and represent courage, confidence, discipline, and all these beautiful attributes that make up a strong family or make any kind of solid dynamic so immediately, and to see that kind of representation of it being a Black family just, oh, it just made me so excited. I was like, this is incredible.
I’m just so excited for people to be able to see that. I think it’s so incredible. I think the love story in itself is its own beautiful story. Seeing these different dynamics is just so important, and I’m just, I’m so honored even to be a part of it.
What’s that dynamic between Calliope and her family like? Is she closer to one sibling than another? What’s it like with her parents, and how does that family dynamic play out throughout the season?
Calliope adores her family, and there’s nothing she wants more than to feel like a part of the family and to feel accepted and worthy in their eyes, being that she’s the youngest.
And she’s the only girl, of course, too. It’s just a certain layer of protection they feel like they have to put and have over her. But she’s on this mission to prove that she’s just as strong as her older brother; she’s just as equipped.
Her father’s like the lion of the family, but her mother is the lioness of the family. Calliope is just proving that she’s been watching all these years and that she’s absorbed all the knowledge.
But aside from their duties as monster hunters, she adores her family, reveres her parents, and loves her brothers. They love her too. It’s such a sweet story and dynamic. I’m an only child, so it was so cool to play the younger sister of two older brothers. I loved it!
That was probably really cute! So you guys had just fun just sort of leaning into that dynamic while filming?
They’re awesome. They’re all awesome. It’s just like a puzzle piece that just fits. Perfect. They’re all so incredible.
You’re playing this badass monster hunter. Did you have to do any of your own stunts? What did those fight sequences and stunts entail?
Yeah. There was defensive training. A lot of Calliope’s skill is physical combat, so there was definitely a lot of training and preparation. Prior to this role, I had been kickboxing for a while, so I felt like I’d been readying myself for some time. Maybe I manifested it.
But yeah, there’s a lot of combat, a lot of hand-to-hand combat — a lot of weaponry. It’s so cool.
It will be so cool to see because my family doesn’t have supernatural abilities. Their abilities are from their training from being equipped in that kind of way. So it’s so cool to see, but when you see them, it’s like, they’re super humans. They’re all so strong; they’re beasts. It’s incredible.
What kind of weapons did you have to learn how to use? Do you have a favorite weapon now after, after practicing?
My favorite weapon would probably be the ax because an ax is a heavier piece of equipment. It’s something that’s not too easy to wield. So to have the kind of strength to wield an ax and to have your aim be so sharp is so dope. It was so much fun. We went through all kinds of swords and spears and daggers, but the ax was my favorite!
This is not your first time doing a vampire supernatural show. How was it different than your previous experience with Vampires versus the Bronx?
Yeah, with Vampire versus the Bronx, it has a lot more comedic elements, you know? And my character in vampires versus the Bronx is not the hunter. But in terms of like the relationship to these supernatural characters versus my character, it’s fairly similar in that it still feels like opposition, but for different reasons.
On First Kill, my character is born into this family where this is set in stone long before I came into the picture. I was born into this lineage and born into this skillset, where I had this set responsibility, and I just accepted it as my fate. Vampires versus the Bronx is a very different story.
I’ve seen the First Kill fandom in action. They are genuinely super excited about this series! How has the fandom response and experience been for you? They’re already this passionate, and the project isn’t even out yet. How has that been for you?
It’s awesome! They’re so creative, and they’re so funny and so supportive and excited! That makes me excited.
It’s so hard not to tell them anything. I’m like, “No, you guys just to wait!” But they’re all so supportive and sweet. They go hard — they’re diehard supporters. I can’t wait for them to see this series. I appreciate all of them immensely. They make me excited and get me all jittery,
I was looking through social media, and they are ready and rearing to go. They’re already a very passionate, exciting, fun bunch.
Of course, they’re super excited about the series’ romance, so could you walk me through that? Did you and Sarah have natural chemistry, or was it something you two had to work on to build?
Oh, it was definitely natural chemistry from the chemistry read for our characters. We both were like, “Oh my, yes! I’m glad you’re Juliette; this has to be!”
She’s just such an incredibly talented actress, but just an awesome person beyond that. And it’s so much easier, and it’s so much more fun to work with someone with your same sense of humor, and you both are experiencing all these things for the first time.
And we literally just supported each other and held each other’s hands through this whole process. And it has been one for the books, one of my favorite experiences by far. Yeah, we just clicked, like we’ve known each other for years, and I’m so honored, and I’m so blessed that it went as smoothly and as fun as it did. She’s such a light.
Now switching over a bit, Mocha Bands, a fashion line, Hightown, and First Kill — you’re like a freaking Renaissance woman. Do you love staying busy? What inspired you to delve into so many things and explore so many of your passions at once?
Yeah. I’m just so passionate about so many things. I don’t believe in pigeonholing yourself to like one thing. Sometimes, things that you’re passionate about extend an olive branch to other things that you end up finding yourself passionate about.
I’m an artist that loves and respects all arts; whether that’s performative, literary arts, or if that’s fashion, music, painting, or anything under that spectrum, I’m all for it.
I’m an Aries, so I’m naturally very passionate, very steadfast, diligent, and disciplined. So I’m like, as soon as I touch something, I want to master it. Like all things, all things I want to master.
I think life is too short to pigeonhole yourself to one thing. We All have 24 hours, so we might as well fill it with things that we love doing.
I mean, clearly! I read up on all the things you do, and you stay busy. I was listening to your music on SoundCloud. I have an eclectic taste, and you had me at Lauryn Hill as your inspiration. It was so dope. So, how are things going for you musically?
Awesome! Yes. I am making more music. I’m putting out a project sooner than later, and I’m so excited for everyone to hear it. I’m so happy.
I’m seriously trying to contain my excitement. All of this music feels so new, versatile, and so fresh. And there’s going to be a song for every kind of person. As you said, a lot of people’s ears are very eclectic. Many have an ear for jazz, then rap, and then reggae, and then R&B.
I want my project to feel like a mixture of all those things — like there’s a song for everyone. It’s the same thing with the clothing line. I want there to feel like there’s a piece for everyone, and everyone feels seen and feels included in some kind of way. I’m so hyped for many reasons, and I can’t wait for everyone to see it.
You have so much going on all of the time. How do you balance everything without burning out?
Who told you I don’t burn out? [Laugh] I’m always spinning my wheels. But again, I feel like when you’re passionate about something, it never truly feels like work. It just feels like something that you enjoy. Everybody should have the luxury to do the things they love and make a career out of it. It’s like chess, not checkers; you gotta take the time.
Back to First Kill, what are you most excited about the fans actually seeing?
I’m most excited for the fans to see how the characters change throughout this season. I hope people apply that same change to themselves and understand that we all think we have ourselves figured out until we are introduced to something different.
It’s important that we allow ourselves to go on those journeys, excel, and continue learning ourselves and seeing how we change and see these things through.
I’m excited for the audience to see such strength from this powerful black family. I’m excited for them to see a romance that may look similar to their love lives or different from their love lives, or just to see this battle and be able to apply it to their own struggles.
Hopefully, it motivates them to see these things through, fight for what they believe in, fight for what they’re passionate about, and what makes life worth living. I’m so excited for people to feel seen and represented through this project.
I love that response. Were you familiar with the source material before you got this part, and did you read it?
Yeah. I was given the book, and I definitely read the short story. And when I read the short story, I said, “Oh, this is gonna be awesome.”
Of course, when you get the audition, they give you like a short synopsis of what the story’s going to be like or what the character is like. But even from that alone, I was super drawn in. I was like, okay, this has the potential to be really cool. But even then, I don’t think I was really prepared for just how great this season truly is.
The book is fantastic. Victoria Schwab is an incredible writer, and again, I’m just so honored that she even saw me for this character. All of her stories are incredible. When the writing is awesome, it almost makes the work seamless. It’s so much easier because the writing is just so phenomenal. It definitely drew me in.
We’re TV Fanatic, so I love asking what your favorite shows are and what you binge or recommend people check out?
Oh, I definitely recommend First Kill on June 10 on Netflix. Definitely binge it, first and foremost.
Of course. Nice plug. And Hightown, right?
And High Town. All three seasons.
Ironically, I’m really not much of a television watcher. I’m more of a reader. I sit and read books for hours. But in terms of shows that have had me attached, Ozark is so good that it’s ridiculous.
I love things like Money Heist, and what’s my show with Raymond Reddington? The Blacklist! Those are all my kinds of shows. I love shows where the characters are like subtle powers, like the professor, Raymond Reddington, or Laura Linney [Wendy]. Like they all do their work with a smile.
Oh, Queen of the South. Those are my kind of shows where you walk into a room, and everybody knows. Laura Linney, with her deep dimples — she can sell paint to a dry wall. Those are all my kinds of shows.
But it doesn’t really go much further than that. When I watch shows, those are the kind of shows that I enjoy. Is it intentional that they’re all Netflix shows? I have no idea.
—- This interview has been edited for length and clarity—-
You can catch Imani Lewis in First Kill when all eight episodes drop on Netflix on June 10.
Will you be watching? Sound off below!