“I cried all day today,” says Tiffany Boone, calling from Australia, where she’s shooting her newest project, Nine Perfect Strangers, a limited series based on Liane Moriarty’s 2018 novel of the same name. “I texted another Black woman who works on set and told her, ‘Look, I’m a mess and I might start crying during hair and makeup. There’s no escaping it.’”
The “it” she’s referring to is the same “it” that’s been affecting all of us—the global pandemic, the interminable cycle of social and political unrest, and the general uncertainty about, well, everything. The Baltimore-born actress might be half a world away, in a country whose lockdown efforts have been successful enough that she can take anxiety-free trips to a nearby beach—“I’m the only person who wears a mask in town, and people look at me like I’m insane,” she says with a nervous laugh—but it’s hard to escape the news from back home. “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a bit of guilt because I’m not there going through it, but I still feel all the sorrow and confusion and anger.”
Back in February, when the 33-year-old was filming The Midnight Sky—a post-apocalyptic space film directed by and starring George Clooney that debuts December 23 on Netflix—all seemed right with the world. She auditioned for the project a few days after wrapping the Amazon series Hunters, having memorized the lines on a plane from New York to L.A. She found out she landed the role of Maya, the astronaut responsible for keeping a spaceship functioning on its return trip to a nearly destroyed Earth, on the second day of filming Little Fires Everywhere for Hulu. “The moment she started talking, I knew she was right,” Clooney says. “She has such an elegant quality as an actress, and a vulnerability that breaks your heart. She’s someone I’ll be watching as time goes by to take this business by storm.”
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Considering her current trajectory, it’s hard to believe that just a few years ago, Boone was worried she might be blacklisted in Hollywood. After experiencing inappropriate behavior on a set, she quit a gig that was close to her heart. “I was in an unhealthy work environment, and I thought if I said something, it was possible I could never work again,” Boone says. “But I did it anyway, because my mental health is more important. It took a long time for me to forgive myself for not leaving sooner.”
Raised by a single mother (her father died when she was three), Boone grew up the oldest of three sisters. She recalls with fondness a childhood of riding bikes with cousins and cookouts featuring her mom’s famous macaroni and cheese. “On the weekends, my mother would be in a robe, cooking and cleaning and playing Frankie Beverly and Maze or Anita Baker,” she says. But Boone knew early on that Baltimore was only a pit stop. She left the nest at 18 to study acting at California Institute of the Arts.
After a few years honing her skills, Boone became a series regular on Fox’s crime thriller The Following in 2014. A later role in Little Fires Everywhere, in which she played the younger version of Kerry Washington’s Mia, proved to be her breakout. “It pushed me in ways I hadn’t been pushed before, and it opened up a lot of great opportunities for me,” she says—including the Hulu series she’s filming now in Australia. In Nine Perfect Strangers, Boone plays Delilah, an employee of a wellness retreat. Nicole Kidman plays her boss. “We did a scene yesterday where she really moved me,” Kidman says of Boone. “I was humbled by her openness and willingness to explore all aspects of the scene.” Boone says her character is “very zen, but she has this little fire in her.”
This article appears in the December 2020 issue of ELLE.
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