Netflix has an upcoming film entitled “Burning Sands” releasing on the streaming service in a little over a week. The controversial film starring Trevor Jackson (American Crime) in a breakout leading role, directed by Gerard McMurray and executive produced by Caroline Connor and Common, tackles the taboo subject of underground hazing when pledging a fraternity.
Imani Hakim, lovingly known for playing Tonya, the sassy younger sister to Tyler James Williams’ Chris on Everybody Hates Chris, landed a role as fashion major Rochon in the film. Her character is the leading lady for Jackson’s character who has to witness firsthand the effects hazing has on her significant other. During an exclusive interview with Glambergirlblog, Hakim shared her experience working on set, her views on hazing, and how she managed to transition from child to young adult star.
While working on “Burning Sands” dealing with raw subject matter you would think it would be tense on set, but Hakim describes it as “family feel” explaining the great environment she got to work in often having too much fun on set with co-stars Rotimi (Power) and Serayah (Empire). Imani started the process of “Burning Sands” in November 2015 when she first auditioned. She later was called back to meet with Writer/Director Gerard McMurray and Casting Director Kim Coleman. McMurray told her, “I knew you were my Rochon as soon as I saw your audition tape. I know you can pull it off.” And that she did once filming started in May 2016.
The film, also starring Alfre Woodard, Steve Harris, Tosin Cole, and DeRon Horton, released its trailer last week putting on full display the uncensored “rite of passage” some men go through when attempting to become apart of a life long brotherhood by joining a fraternity. When researching the role, since Hakim never attended college and pledged a sorority, she got advice from her best friend, a soror, and other people in college to get into the mind of Rochon.
“They have minor things that they do for hazing and I get that you want to test people a little but I never think that anything is worth it when someone’s life is at jeopardy,” Hakim said about the idea of hazing. She continued, “At that point I think we’re taking it too far. You should know your limits, there’s no way that you should be completely putting people through suffering and danger just to be apart of something like brotherhood.”
Keep in mind “Burning Sands” is not a film out to bash fraternities or sororities, but to draw attention to a “tradition” that is very much said to not be happening anymore, it’s illegal, but very much still does. “I do understand the controversy around this subject because it is a sensitive subject that we don’t ever talk about and we are pulling the covers back unveiling the truth. People are talking about it and that’s what we want, we want people discussing it. This isn’t something that’s against HBCUs.”
“I think it’s a good thing that people are talking about the issue of hazing. I understand why people pledge and this isn’t a jab at the idea of pledging it’s the way they go about it.”
“Burning Sands” asks the question indirectly about speaking out for what is right or remaining silent, Hakim weighs in. “This is the ultimate the test. It’s like how much are you willing to endure until you reach your breaking point; and that’s overall in life you know. Someone asked me ‘would I speak out against hazing.’ From the stand point that I am, I’ve never pledged, I’ve never gone to college, I’ve never been in a sorority, so my answer would be yes, but I also can understand when people don’t because they want something so badly and they just want to feel apart of that sense of community. It all depends on that person personally.”
Transitioning from child to young adult star appeared seamless for Imani. Since Everybody Hates Chris, she’s worked on big projects like: “The Gabby Douglas Story,” “Chocolate City,” and “Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens.” She credits her parents and manager for keeping her so grounded and aligning herself with the right crowd. Meditation, yoga, and journaling have also been major keys in helping Imani during different periods in her career.
“With this industry, which is something I learned about myself too, it can be really hard if you’re not working and you’re just auditioning all the time because you’re not going to get the instant gratification that you would like. Acting is beautiful but it’s one of those art forms that is in not in our control, so you have get permission to do what we love, somebody has to cast us to do our art form,” she shared.
Hakim advised other artists to find another outlet that’s in their creative control to maintain themselves in between gigs. “That would be my advice for anyone who’s doing this, dive into other things that make you feel good. Keep yourself busy doing other things that make you happy. It will keep you sane for much longer.”
Keep up with Imani Hakim on social media by following @anakih1 on Twitter, @realimanihakim on Instagram, and search The Official Imani Hakim on Facebook. Check out the trailer for “Burning Sands,” available on Netflix March 10th, featuring Imani Hakim, in the clip below. Share your thoughts in the comments.
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