[LOS ANGELES] – With a vivacious personality she believes stems from her American and Latin roots, Aixa Kendrick was excited when auditioning for the role of Natasha, a troubled introvert, in The Company You Keep, a short feature film by writer-director Laurie Fielder.
Her enthusiasm won her the part and in September she was selected Best Actress at the 2020 Hip Hop Film Festival.
Many actors, notably Anthony Perkins and Sir Anthony Hopkins, have made their name playing neurotics, but that is not what attracted Kendrick to Natasha.
“I totally fell in love with Laura Fielder as a storyteller because she wasn’t trying to create a campy bloodbath thriller at all. Laura really got deeply into the psyche of human societal horror…where loneliness, the unknown and not fitting in becomes the tormentor,” she explained. “Such a real and relatable story to many of us, right? And so Laura and I discussed many underlying conditions to Natasha’s story. Two key things— one, she is on the autism spectrum, specifically Asperger’s Syndrome, which can straddle a range of issues. And two, without support and because of that syndrome and her inherent difficulty in being able to reach out and connect in a typical way, she inevitably grew quite entrenched in her inner world…A world in which what once was her solace, becomes her prison.”
Production on The Company You Keep began in 2018. Since opening in 2019 it has been shown at The Katra Film Festival and The Montreal International Black Film Festival, earning strong reviews.
The Hip Hop Film Festival award is the latest accolade for Kendrick, a former model whose father is from Alabama and mother from Puerto Rico.
Her lead in Oya: Warrior Wind Goddess A Dance Drama won her a Best Actress AUDELCO Award. Kendrick credits roles in other plays like Sojourner’s Truth and Black Sparta, for putting the edge on her acting.
As for her confidence, much of that came from her parents — Donald Gene Kendrick, an aerospace engineer, and Carmen Hilda Allende, an Occupational and Physical Therapist.
Their diverse background also played a role in Kendrick’s upbringing.
“I am bicultural— African Boriqua by way of Rio Grande y Loiza in Puerto Rico and African-American by way of Alabama. It’s what and who I am,” she said, adding that, “My parents raised us to see ourselves beyond the constructs or limitations that certain folk wish to put upon us. We are cosmic people. Of course, we were aware of the dumb assumptions and mental baggage and behaviors attached to ethnicity. But Paul Robeson, Frantz Fanon, Celia Cruz, James Baldwin, Dick Gregory, Bomba y Plena, Sun Ra, Albert Ayler, Marian Anderson, Hector Labor y Willie Colon, Miriam Makeba— all of these rich textures and more fertilized my cultural seed bed growing up.”
Aixa Kendrick has guest-starred on television in Law and Order: SVU and appeared in the films, Sisters and John Wick 3.