All-American: Homecoming, spinoff series to The CW’s hit sports drama All American, recently aired the first episodes. Up-and-coming actress Netta Walker plays a large role in the series. She talked with 360 about the role, her life, and her career as an actress. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter, and you can find her biography HERE.
1. What was your upbringing like?
I grew up on Westside in Jacksonville, Florida with 3 older brothers (all 10 years plus older than me). We were military kids—my dad was in the Navy, he met my mom in Manila when they were basically teenagers. My mother moved to the states when she married my dad and brought all of her Cebuan/Tacloban culture with her to Jax. Culture, family, and tradition were wildly important in our house. Our Christmas meals consisted of crab boils, squid adobo, greens, lumpia, baked beans, sometimes chicken feet if we could afford it. We didn’t have much money, so on weekends my mom would set up a booth at the Romona Flea Market and we’d sell whatever she could make. At one point she was hand-making dresses for child pageants and had me walking around Wal-Marts with her while she handed out her business cards. It’s wild because my parents really taught us how to hustle and made sure we knew that culture, practical life skills, and intellect were the only things that couldn’t be taken from us. I attended two historically black schools in the area for both middle and high school. My middle school, James Weldon Johnson, was on an HBCU campus (Edward Waters University) at the time. Every morning we sang Lift Every Voice and Sing, and during PE we watched the University have marching band and majorette practice on the field next to us. My high school, Stanton College Preparatory, was the first school made for black students in Florida. Both were highly competitive academic magnet schools in all-black neighborhoods with black women principles—I got WILDLY lucky. My parents were very serious about my education, and my dad made sure I knew the importance of academics in southern black culture. He was one of the first black students sent to an all-white school in Jacksonville when white folk threw bricks at him for simply pursuing an education. He prepped me for a world that wasn’t guaranteed to be kind to me, he taught me that I’d have to work 3 times as hard to get where I wanted to and that I could never slip up. My mom was on the road to being an Olympic swimmer for the Philippines and was a model in Japan, but when she got pregnant pretty young she took to the life of raising us and making sure we would want for nothing. She taught me that love is what keeps us all connected, and that so long as I lead with love I won’t regret my life. I was raised by fighters.
2. What is your relationship with Chicago, the city you worked and lived in?
Chicago is the city that made me the artist I am today. I can’t praise it enough. I always saw Chicago as the place artists go to get better at their craft, because lord knows we don’t go there to make money or get famous. The love people carry for their craft there is outstanding. I’d tell any young person aspiring to be an actor to go to Chicago and study. Go to Steppenwolf or The Gift and see the greats do the work up close and personal, and then decide if this is the field for you. I’d never felt so compelled to be an artist until I moved there and got to see the work the artists there create. It’s hands down one of my favorite cities in the world and I plan to rep it as mine for the rest of my life.
3. Who are your biggest influences?
My family. My parents showed me that the world wasn’t always going to be kind to me, but in spite of whatever it threw at me that I could still do anything I put my mind to. My dad encouraged me to remember how smart I actually am and to never back down from what’s right. He was the biggest influence in my life hands down. I live every day for him, in hopes of making him proud. My mom taught me how to live in love and solely move in love, she is truly my heart, I’d do anything for her. My brothers are the coolest men I’ve ever met, for real. My brother Eric is 10 years and 2 days older than me, so I’ve been trying to be him since I was 4. I dress like him to this day and watch only the anime he tells me to. My brother Anthony has inspired me by standing in his truth his whole life, I never would’ve learned how to trust and love myself without him. My oldest brother AJ showed me that we can make life whatever we dream of making it. My family has shaped every facet of who I am today and I love them all so deeply for it, as much as they get on my nerves.
4. Why did you decide to become an actress?
I had an incredible high school theater teacher, Shirley Sacks Kirby, who saw potential in me and was the first person to seriously encourage me to pursue a career in acting. She made me feel like I was actually good at something, and I never felt that way before. I was content in fading into the background and leaving my emotions to the side in my everyday life, but in theater, I was allowed to express all my pent-up emotions. She told my mom to put me in dance classes and voice lessons and monologue coachings, she helped me write and submit all of my college theater applications and put together all of my auditions. She shouted words of affirmations at me when I felt insecure and told me that I was special and talented when I felt like I wasn’t ever going to be good enough. She was my theater mom, and I owe my career to her.
5. You’ve been an actor for several years. What has been your favorite role?
My favorite role is always the next role, honestly. I love the challenges of diving into a new person, figuring them out, and falling in love with them—and exploring new characters feels like falling in love. But strictly speaking, Ophelia in Hamlet (at The Gift Theater directed by Monty Cole) may have been the most cathartic and challenging. My father had just passed that summer and playing a woman who loses herself in the grief of her father was really visceral and scary, but that excited me. Monty is also one of my favorite directors to exist, The Gift is my artistic home, and Shakespeare was how I started acting—so that role meant an indescribable amount to me.
6. What is your favorite part about being in All-American: Homecoming?
It feels like I’m participating in history. These stories, it’s an honor. The characters and their relationships feel monumental to me simply because we’re at an HBCU and representing culture.
7. Tell us a little bit about your character on the show?
Keisha is trouble, there’s no doubt about it. She’s a very strong and intelligent woman who isn’t afraid to stand on all ten toes and say “This is who I am, this is what I believe, and I’ll fight you if you have a problem”. She’s a pre-med major with an intense passion for dancing and a deep love for those she allows into her life. She’s the type to give you the shirt off her back—but also tell you how you can get your own shirt so we don’t have to do this again. She hits very close to home. I adore her.
8. On your Instagram, it’s clear you’re a big fan of Japanese anime. What are your favorite shows/movies?
Ah man, there are so many good ones. In terms of classics, Trigun hands down, it gives me hope and serves the retro style and storyline I adore. Inuyasha was my first anime crush, so Yashahime has also been nostalgic and sweet. My big brother Eric introduced me to Demon Slayer because he thought Nezuko reminded him of me so that show holds a lot of sentiment (my brother honestly is the reason I watch anime at all). Of course Attack on Titan and Sword Art Online, they both make me terribly anxious but I can’t stop watching them. The Boondocks isn’t Japanese but it makes me laugh like nothing else, it feels like an intersection of culture for me. Guilty pleasure watch is fully Ouran High Host Club, don’t judge me on that, I’m a romantic!
9. What’s your dream role?
I think my dream role is whatever thing is next. Getting to act is already such a dream, but I’m always dreaming about what story I get to tell next. There isn’t a definitive narrative to the dreams, but I do love playing characters who would never be in the same room together.
10. What’s next for Netta Walker?
We’re gonna see! Hopefully, I can scam my way into some exciting movies or into some provoking plays in New York. I’ve dreamed of being on Broadway for as long as I’ve wanted to an actor, so fingers crossed that happens! I never know what’s next honestly, my career has lowkey felt like a fever dream. But I’m so excited to see what the future holds.