Netta Walker

Starring in the spinoff of ALL AMERICAN, ALL AMERICAN: HOMECOMING, Netta Walker spoke with us at Bello about her experience playing pon both sets and who she is as an actress and individual. Excited to be part of a show that has touched so many hearts, the talented actress has learned a lot about herself through her character. Centered around Black excellence, the show portrays different characters from different backgrounds and how they come together in many ways. We can’t wait to see what comes next for Netta Walker .

What was it like going from ALL AMERICAN to ALL AMERICAN: HOMECOMING? 

So wild. All American is an incredible mothership of a show, I still can’t believe I got spend so much time with the OG cast on our pilot. Playing over there was lowkey very freeing, though admittedly I was really nervous. It felt like I was getting to test the waters a bit on how I wanted Keisha to move and exist in this universe of already established and loved characters. This fanbase is no joke! I was really nervous about getting it right, and still am. Our amazing show runner, Nkechi Okoro Carroll, and our writers room made the transition from Beverly Hills to Atlanta seamless. Getting to create our own world over at Bringston has been one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve ever had.

Share with us your experience on set and what you learned about yourself. 

Before booking Homecoming I was a Chicago theater girl through and through, so this is the most time I’ve ever spent on a set. Let alone on a set in Hollywood! This is all so new to me, it’s been insane. I’d only done little roles in TV/Film things here and there, but never shot for months at a time like this. The transition was a test of stamina and endurance, both physically and mentally. Luckily, working with this wonderful cast has made that journey so much fun. Playing Keisha specifically has taught me how to address my own short comings and past mistakes with a much kinder eye. Our life paths have been eerily similar, so playing her has been very therapeutic and yet intimidating. She’s really held a mirror up to me and made me learn to love myself, even in all of my mistakes.  I’ve learned a lot about who I am from playing her and am eternally grateful I’m able to get to know her so well.

What are some themes fans of the OG series will be seeing again in the spinoff? What is very different about it?

The show is giving drama, just like the OG, so expect that for sure. Black excellence will ALWAYS be a theme in this universe, and you’ll be seeing a whole hell of a lot throughout Homecoming. NK has created a universe where black people continue to be intelligent, empowered, heard, supported, multifaceted and ultimately allowed to be human. The biggest difference would be that we’re at an HBCU in the south, where black culture is king. The HBCU experience is very much a character of it’s own on our show, along with black excellence. There’s no space for anything short of excellence, and that pressure creates a different world of experiences for the characters at Bringston.

Favorite part of the show? And of your character on it?

I love that we’re seeing that blackness isn’t a monolith. You’ll be seeing such a wide range of the black experience and solely the black experience. Each of these characters are so different and come from widely different backgrounds, but you get to watch them come together and build these wonderful and complex relationships.

As a woman who falls into the bi/pansexual sexuality spectrum, I personally love that Keisha is queer. Growing up trying to figure out how to express my sexuality was a really scary thing to feel confident about, but to Keisha loving whoever she loves isn’t taboo and she’s willing to fight anyone who says otherwise. It’s amazing getting to be in a show where all of the other characters are supportive and treat her no differently. It’s also amazing that she has a best friend as open and expressive as Nathaniel. I wish I could’ve seen characters as confident and open as the two of them when I was 14, so getting to live in this world as Keisha has been a dream come true.

Describe to us a time you felt nervous and how you overcame it. 

I used to get nauseatingly nervous about auditioning. It took a lot of practice and falling on my face to learn that I needed to trust myself and my choices, and I still fall on my face OFTEN. Recently I’ve been trying to allow myself to say yes to whoever I think the character is, trying to allow myself to explore whatever little quirks or attributes I may find interesting or fun to play. It’s easy to doubt your own choices as an actor and to only think about what other people want you to do. Worrying about opinions of casting directors and directors and networks and artistic directors is an easy trap to fall into for me, which is what historically has riled up my nerves most. So I try to tell myself when auditioning to just play the character the way I feel like I’m having the most fun artistically, which has really helped settle my nerves. It takes the stress away from getting people to like what I’m doing, and instead forces me to have fun and focus on artistic fulfillment instead. I can thank the Chicago theater scene for teaching me that thought process.

In what ways have your previous roles furthered your love for acting? Have you ever felt like quitting at times?

Starting out in the Chicago theater scene really taught me how important ensemble and artistry is. I truly could write a love letter to Chicago for showing me how much I really adore being an actor. I would do a play for 2 months and get paid a $100 stipend, but it never mattered because I got to create. I got to play and learn about who I could be as an artist and not really care about the outcome or others opinions on it. There were so many moments when I was working 2 restaurant jobs, an unpaid theater gig, and couldn’t afford rent. Those were the moments I really thought about quitting and getting a desk job just for the stability, but that never felt right. Even if I was exhausted and had 20 bucks in my name, getting the chance to step into a character made that struggle worth it. No matter the circumstances, acting has been the largest source of joy in my life and I feel so lucky to have fallen in love with it. Growing into myself as a theater school drop out in the Windy City taught me what the height of that love feels like.

Growing up, what was your favorite activity to unwind/get away from the stresses of life? 

Most of the things I enjoy doing are pretty nerdy or I got made fun of for when I was younger. I grew up watching a lot of anime in my downtime, I’ve probably seen Trigun and Yu Yu Hakusho all the way through 40 times. I’m a bit of a homebody when I’m not working, I do a lot of journaling and yoga and talking to homies back in Chicago and my family back in Jacksonville. I also love musicals, watching Sunday In The Park with George and listening to old Broadway cast recordings really centers me oddly.

As a female in the industry, do you feel like there is progress? Explain. 

I think that all the progress that has been made in this industry has been made at the hands of women. Because of the black and brown femmes before me paving the way and changing the game, I can play characters like Keisha. Women like Halle Berry, Viola Davis, Shonda Rimes, Michaela Coel, Angela Basset, Sandra Oh, Issa Rae, Lucy Lu, Zendaya – they’ve already put in so much leg work and have revolutionized the way women exist in entertainment. When I was 10 I never thought I’d see a Queer Black and Filipino young woman messily discovering herself on TV, let alone did I ever think I’d get to play her. Representation matters! You can tell that the industry is fully realizing that now.

What comes next?

Hopefully movies and plays! I’ve dreamed of being on Broadway since I was 14, and more recently have loved exploring independent film. Every actor wants to do blockbuster films of course, but I’d love to produce movies with the homies back in Chi. I also love writing, so learning the land of producing my own work is on the list of things I hope to do. And putting some of the play’s I’ve written on their feet! But who knows, I’m just excited to keep exploring and learning about myself as an artist.

Photography Sarah Krick @sarahkrickphotography
Makeup Paul Blanch @paulyblanch
Hair Preston Wada @prestonwada
Styling Monty Jackson @mrmontyjackson
Interview Alexandra Bonnet @alexbonnetwrites

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