Even without the superhero costume and looming set pieces of X-Men: Apocalypse around her, Alexandra Shipp is magnetic. She’s curled up on a couch in the apartment where they’ve just finished her photo shoot, leaning slightly toward me, instantly pulling me in. She’s still wearing the dramatic eyeshadow from the shoot, but has thrown on a knit beanie. She’s glam and relaxed all at once, her eyes lighting up from time to time. When she gets excited, which happens often, she busts out a loud, goofy voice that fills the room. 

On her very first day on the set of X-Men, Shipp felt powerful. Her character, a young version of Storm, a mutant with the ability to control the weather, has a shaved head and bright white mohawk and wears a flowing cape. “I get on set, and I look so badass,” she recalls on an unseasonably warm February day in Los Angeles, months after wrapping. On that day she was shooting a scene with Olivia Munn, Psylocke, a fellow mutant with telekinetic abilities. In the scene, Storm and Psylocke are recruiting new followers for the first mutant ever, Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), who wakes up after a thousand years and decides to wipe out humanity. “The energy was always high on set,” Shipp says. “Everyone was geeking out. Everyone was having fun.”

Over the past couple of years, the 24-year-old actress has taken on a diverse body of work. She went from starring in 2014’s Drumline sequel on VH1 to playing Aaliyah in Lifetime’s controversial Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B to playing opposite O'Shea Jackson Jr. in Straight Outta Compton. Now she’s set to make her big-budget action debut, which she says is a “huge leap” for her.

She’s rightfully excited (and a little bit nervous) about the magnitude of Apocalypse, a follow up to X-Men: Days Of Future Past. “I joke about this all the time, but I’m still that chubby girl from Arizona who loves theater and loves singing and loves writing music,” she says. “I’m waiting for people to be like ‘should she really be here? Are you sure you’re in the right place?’”