‘Maya & Her Lover’ stars talk about their chemistry and the movie that won fans over at ABFF

EXCLUSIVE: Ashanti J'Aria and Shomari Love break down this "coming of age story" and reveal a connection that helped them bond at the beginning of filming.

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Maya & Her Lover, a stirring film that reexamines the traditional coming of age story in a non-traditional way, was nominated for the Fan Favorite Award at the American Black Film Festival when it debuted last year.

Written and directed by Nicole Sylvester, the film follows Maya (Ashanti J’Aria), a 39-year-old woman dealing with her own complicated baggage from her family and life journey, who begins a sexual relationship with Kaseem (Shomari Love), a 22-year-old man.

The film, while giving Kaseem plenty of room and development, never loses focus on Maya, allowing for a uniquely female point of view.

In an exclusive interview, theGrio sat down with J’Aria and Love, who broke down their chemistry, how they felt about developing their characters and more.

Screengrab via Instagram: @mayaandherlover
Maya and Her Lover 1091 Pictures

Both actors gravitated to the project the second they got to read the material.

“My initial reaction was, ‘Wow,” J’Aria explained. “This woman goes through a lot of stuff that you don’t typically see Black women go through on camera…there’s such an emotional journey for Maya.”

J’Aria said that Maya & Her Lover is absolutely a “coming of age” film, stating, “You come to a place in your life and you realize that things are not what they seem, and the only person responsible for correcting it is you. No one’s coming. So, you know, it’s really interesting to see what a woman at this place in her life does with these circumstances and filling this world.”

Both J’Aria and Love are native New Yorkers, which made the project even more special.

“I’m from Queens and it was exciting to be from the pantheon of films from New York,” J’Aria said. “You know, Nicole really loved Spike Lee‘s work and Do The Right Thing, and she’s wanted to create a Brooklyn story, which she did. I felt very honored to be a part of that.”

Maya & Her Lover Official Poster

Finding out while filming that they’re both from the borough of Queens was an “icebreaker” that only enhanced their onscreen chemistry, said Love.

“I think what really helped is that Nicole provided a really safe space,” Love gushed. “So we were able to, in a short period of time, become comfortable with one another… I think it was just natural. Nothing was forced and we communicated to one another. There was nothing that we held back.”

Maya & Her Lover is available to purchase now on iTunes, Amazon Prime Video and more. Watch the trailer below:

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