Charlize Theron can't wait for her daughters to (someday, when they're old enough) watch her new movie, The Old Guard. Not to see their mom kick butt -- as they will in any number of her films, from Atomic Blonde to Mad Max: Fury Road -- but to see her co-star, Kiki Layne.
"It's so amazing that I get to be in this film with Kiki. My girls came out when we made this film, and I just love that my children will look back on this film and see themselves reflected. Kiki is a reflection for my girls," Theron told ET's Kevin Frazier. "And that's so important. We need more of that."
The Old Guard is the story of a group of immortal mercenaries tasked with protecting humanity, led by Theron's Andromache of Scythia, aka Andy. Layne plays their newest recruit, Nile, a young, Black soldier who discovers her abilities after being killed in action while serving in Afghanistan. The actor, who broke out in 2018's If Beale Street Could Talk, sees her role as revolutionary only in that it actually reflects real life.
"For whatever reason, Hollywood has had a very limited view of what life is and what certain people in certain roles, what they look like," Layne said. "And this film basically says, 'No. There is so much more room, so many more people who can fill these roles and tell these stories.' I'm just looking at a point where it's not just a surprise, where it's like this is the world and our films should reflect it."
Adapted from Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernandez's graphic novel of the same name, The Old Guard is one of this summer's sole tentpole blockbusters. And Gina Prince-Bythewood, who is the first Black woman tapped to helm a comic book film of this size, actually signed on to the project because of Layne's character, among other diversity built into the fabric of the story.
"When I read the script and her character popped up, I was like, 'I'm in,'" she revealed. "The fact that I get to put a young, Black, female hero into the world in a movie like this? Obviously, we know how rare it is. And we need to see ourselves like that. The world needs to see ourselves as heroes, to be inspired by and aspire to be."
Ultimately, Prince-Bythewood hopes Layne's inclusion in the film will inspire the industry to examine its negligence and expand casting across all genres, but also to launch Layne in this one as the superhero she is. "Not a lot of women work in this space. And it's not just learning choreography and doing the training, I have to believe that you are a warrior," she said. "To find Kiki Layne, who's so dope, I feel like we've created another action star."