What 'Breaking In' Star Ajiona Alexus Learned About Kicking Ass and Taking Names From Gabrielle Union (Exclusive)
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Sneak Peek at Season 2 of '13 Reasons Why'

The actress tells TooFab how Union taught her to "never limit yourself" while working together on the film.

"13 Reasons Why" star Ajiona Alexus got to show off a different side of herself in "Breaking In," a new thriller which finds her fighting off a home invasion alongside on-screen mom Gabrielle Union.

Both women put some serious muscle into their performances, something Ajiona told TooFab she was thrilled to take on.

"I'm such a tomboy in a way. I kind of grew out of it a little, but I still have that within me," she said. "So whenever it was time to do stunts or whatever I was like, I wanna do it. They're like, 'You sure? You don't have to.' It was fun for me."

Alexus didn't do much training for the more physical demands of the role, instead wanting to come across as any real 16-year-old girl would when placed in the same dire situation as her character. Her favorite moments to film: hitting one of the invaders with a pool stick and shimmying through an air vent.

"That's the scariest one," she said of the latter scene, "because I was hanging and I could literally fall and twist my neck. Luckily, I held on tight and got through it!"

Alexus was a longtime fan of Union, joking she'd think twice about becoming friends with anyone who hasn't seen "Bring It On" before. But, unknown to her, the love went both ways. "I was obsessed with her performance in '13 Reasons Why'; I just had to have her," Union -- who also produced "Breaking In" -- said of casting Alexus in the film.

The 22-year-old actress said it feels "amazing" to be recognized like that. "I was already a fan of hers, so to work with someone who I'm a fan of be a fan of mine is amazing," said Alexus. "Me and her, we're both real, down to earth, we're both humble. We just clicked so well. She's like my big sister right now. She's somebody who I know is really there for me and has my best interest."

Working alongside Union and watching her wear both the actor and producer hats was something of a learning experience for Alexus as well.

"She showed me you can do both sides, never limit yourself, there's so many possibilities," she said. "Acting, that's only one thing, you're a whole brand, you're a whole person, you have so many things you can fulfill and do in life, so don't let anything or anyone stop you. Especially being an African-American woman, she's doing so much and she's not only talking about it, she's showing you. I really appreciate her for that, she's so dope for that."

One of the reasons Union really wanted to make this film was to put a different kind of heroine on screen, calling out the importance of diversity and the shift we've recently seen in pop culture. "Growing up and seeing kick-ass women on film or in TV, it was incredibly rare," Union said in the press notes for the movie. "Having a ball-busting woman of color? Unheard of. So what's changed? Olivia Pope, Annalise Keating, every character Lupita has played, and those characters are making people money. People are finally recognizing that heroes come in all shapes and sizes, and we want to see them reflected accurately on screens big and small. If it makes dollars, it makes sense."

Alexus said being a part of that changing tide with this project is an "amazing" feeling. "I feel like I'm fulfilling one of my purposes that I want for my entire career," she said. "To be able to do that while doing something that you love is beyond amazing. I think it's more-so about having those females who are strong and African American who can keep that going and don't get caught up in whatever else is going on. It's like, remember the importance of your career and what you can really utilize it as."

"Breaking In" hits theaters May 11, just in time for Mother's Day!

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