Tony Nominated Actress Hailey Kilgore on the Power of Preparation & Seizing Every Opportunity


by Veracity Savant

February 14, 2024

She’s got now and next!

Hailey Kilgore is a phenomenal talent and the latest star to catch our eye in young Black Hollywood. An accomplished actress and singer, she’s known best for her current role as “Jukebox” in the hit series “Power Book III: Raising Kanan.” On the show, Kilgore plays a bright teen who has to navigate the challenges of coming into her own identity while struggling with being estranged from her parents and the pressure that comes with a family running their own criminal conglomerate. Recently, Kilgore sat down with Because Of Them We Can to discuss what it’s like to be a part of the successful series and how she’s taking advantage of everything that comes to her as an up-and-coming artist. 

Born in Texas, Kilgore spent her formative years in Happy Valley, Oregon. While not a huge city for entertainment, Oregon has a thriving theater scene thanks to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF), which played a crucial role in shaping Kilgore’s love for the arts. In high school, she participated in the August Wilson monologue competition, which brought her to New York and solidified her desire to pursue acting. 


“All of the best instructors come through… [OSF]. And so I grew up really loving theater and really studying the art of performance. And when…I got to come to New York, and that was really when I was like, this is what I want to do. I want to do this forever,” Kilgore recalled. 

She got her start on Broadway, making history in 2018 as one of the youngest actresses at the time to receive a Tony nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical for her role as “Ti Moune” in the Broadway revival of Once on This Island. Her portrayal also earned her a coveted Grammy nomination, Kilgore saying it was the affirmation that she was on the right path. 

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A post shared by Hailey Kilgore (@haileyfkilgore)


While working on the “Respect” film, a biopic honoring the late Aretha Franklin, she received the opportunity to audition for “Raising Kanan.” Eventually, Kilgore landed the role of LaVerne Thomas, aka Jukebox, a character first played by fellow thespian Anika Noni Rose in the original “Power” installation. 

“Storytelling-wise, it’s very specific. Also, it’s a long-running show, so I had to adjust…But it’s so much fun, and it’s the best college [since] I had to leave partway through my college journey. So this has been a wonderful, wonderful masterclass to be taken,” explained Kilgore. 

While getting used to the varying dynamics between theater and television, Kilgore has honed in on her talent, gaining a deeper and more fluid understanding of the character development it takes for television while also paying homage to all of those who paved the way for this moment. She credited her fellow “Raising Kanan” co-star Patina Miller and other veteran actors like Frankie Faison, Lorraine Toussaint, and the late Cicely Tyson with affirming her early in her career and helping to guide her to this point. Kilgore said early on, she looked up to actresses like Viola Davis, realizing that if she was going to take this acting thing seriously, she had to land similar roles.


“I remember being like If I’m going to be an actor, I want to do things that are in-depth. I don’t need to be pretty [or] whatever. I can be fly in real life. I wanted a character that I could really sink my teeth into and cause conversation, cause disruption. I think I’ve done that in many beautiful ways. And so to have…[so many people] in my corner doesn’t land lightly on me. I’m very blessed for sure,” she noted. 

The chances she’s getting do not exist in a vacuum either, and Kilgore said it’s something she’s starting to see with a lot of younger Black creatives in Hollywood. Those who have been working in the shadows for years are finally getting their moment. And for Kilgore, it’s important to note that she’s been working since she was nine years old, dispelling the myth fans might have of overnight success. Now mid-20s, she’s done a lot, and the praise she’s receiving now exists at the unique nexus of preparation and opportunity. 


“I think our everyday audiences are starting to realize, ‘Oh, a lot of these people have been here for a long time’…A lot of people thought “Power” was my first show, and they still do. I’ve been doing this for a long time,” Kilgore said. 

It’s a journey she shares with her character “Jukebox,” the journey of finding yourself creatively as a woman and an artist. While Kilgore admits she had no idea her gift as a singer would become a critical part of “Jukebox’s” story arc, it’s helped her identify more with the role and her character’s longing to be seen and break out of the stereotypical boxes people try to place her in.


“Every character I do, I try to find ways to tie myself to them. It’s just wanting to be seen so badly, but with me and Juke, I think it’s always been like [they] are okay with you…if you’re the one that holds secrets…if you’re tough…if you’re in the girl group…if you’re the [thing] that fits the thing, and you do the thing…And so now me as Hailey, as an artist…it’s like I’m here too. I have a name…And all I hope is that people recognize that,” she explained. 

That type of synchrony between Kilgore and her character is what makes the portrayal so genius; it’s why she resonates so much with viewers. While passionate about her work as an actress, Kilgore is equally passionate about putting her music out into the world and continuing to follow her aspirations as an artist. Currently, she has several projects that have been received wonderfully, and Kilgore is on the cusp of putting out a new EP, excited for fans to see more of her versatility. Her commitment to growth and evolution is inspiring to watch, and while having already achieved so much, Kilgore knows this is just the start of her journey. So she’s waiting patiently and enjoying every moment as she creeps slowly but surely to legendary status, having already dynamically impacted the culture she loves so much. 

“I want to be a future icon. I don’t want it right now. I have so much to learn, and I’m doing it. And as opportunities come best believe I’m prepared to the best of my ability. This is just the beginning for me.” 


Cover photo: Tony Nominated Actress Hailey Kilgore on the Power of Preparation & Seizing Every Opportunity/Photo credit: @HaileyFKilgore/Instagram/Starz

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