Julian Walker may be the new kid on the block, but he’s proven himself as the lead in Patrik Ian Polk’s latest film, “Blackbird”. The Mississippi native, who will be graduating from college this Friday, had plans on being editor of a Fashion Magazine, until he auditioned for the role in this controversial film, about a boy who is coming to grips with manhood, life and his sexuality in rural Mississippi. Alongside Oscar winning actress Mo’Nique and acclaimed actor Isaiah Washington, Walker shines as ‘Randy’. Heed had the opportunity to catch up with Julian during his first trip to New York City and we had plenty to talk about, from his not so impressive audition, to working with Mo’Nique, and why he feels this film is so important. Check out the interview and be sure to catch Julian Walker in “Blackbird” in select theaters.
Mike Sanford: How are you Julian?
Julian Walker: I’m good, how about you?
MS: I’m good! It’s a beautiful day in New York. It’s good to be talking with you! I know you are the star of Patrik Ian Polk’s latest film Blackbird. So tell me how that came about! This is your first role correct?
JW: Yeah, my very first role!
MS: So, tell me a little bit about how you ended up landing the role?
JW: Well, I auditioned for the film online! One of my good friends told me about it and I recorded myself doing the audition and it wasn’t the best audition in the world. But, luckily Patrik emailed me back and gave me pointers on what I could do to fix it. So, me and him went back and forth for a couple of weeks and then he came to town, which is Hattiesburg, Mississippi and that’s where he’s from and that’s where I go to school. He was there scouting locations, and we met face to face and it kind of went from there.
MS: So, what were you doing before this role?
JW: I’m a student, I’m still in school!
MS: You’re still in school?
JW: Yeah, I graduate May 8th! (Laughs)
MS: Where are you going to school?
JW: The University of Southern Mississippi.
MS: Okay! What’s your major?
JW: Theater with a minor in Media Production.
MS: Nice! How is it being from Mississippi? Do you find it more challenging to do what you like to do in Mississippi?
JW: No, honestly I feel like a lot of people have this perception of what they think Mississippi is and probably a lot of stuff in the media makes it seem a certain way, but the major cities in Mississippi are like any other major cities. There aren’t as many tall buildings, but there are still people with the same aspirations that want to be fashion designers, actors and singers. It’s a lot slower, but it’s still the same to me.
MS: So, how was it working with people like Mo’Nique and Isaiah Washington in your first film?
JW: My experience in general was amazing! But, leading up to it I was very nervous because it was my first role! Leading up to it Mo’Nique was definitely really welcoming and really helped me out!
MS: What about working with Isaiah?
JW: The same! Both of them were so kind and down to earth.
MS: So, in terms of the movie, how important do you think this film is? I know it’s a bit controversial.
JW: I think it’s really important. I feel like a lot of people are getting stuck on it’s a ‘black gay film’, but it’s not just that because Blackbird deals with issues of teen pregnancy, suicide and children growing up in a home where their parents are separated. My character, Randy’s, sister was kidnapped. There is so much going on in this film that I think if you go see it, you’ll walk away with something and have a different outlook on it.
MS: How was it working with Patrik?
JW: Working with Patrik was a lot different than how I thought it would be. I feel like he did a lot more than he should have done. In the case where a director or producer are trying to find talent, I don’t think they’ll reach back out to them and say, “It was okay, redo it!” My video was horrible, I hope it never gets out [Laughs]! But I was thinking he could have just looked over it and found somebody else, but he’s been leading and guiding me and helping me make the right decisions.
MS: Do you prefer theater over film?
JW: No! The only reason why I’m a theater major is because when I was filming “Blackbird” I was a Broadcast Journalism major with a minor in Fashion Merchandising because I wanted to be a fashion magazine editor. I didn’t change my major until after I filmed “Blackbird”. Patrik came with me to my department and we talked to the advisor and I changed my major. I definitely prefer television and film, but theater is fun! I would love to do it somebody!
MS: What are some of your short term goals?
JW: Well, my short term goals are to graduate and I’d like to move.
MS: Where do you want to move?
JW: I believe I want to be around the Atlanta area, to try and stay connected there. One of my long term goals is to move from Atlanta to LA or New York and probably a super long term goal is to do theater. I would love to do a musical.
MS: Are people at your school treating you different because you’re in this film?
JW: No, and it’s crazy because I never talk about it! I feel like I’m living a double life sometimes because when I’m at school, all I make myself worry about is school and studying because I’m horrible at juggling things. The people back home are extremely supportive!
MS: Were there points when you felt overwhelmed?
JW: Definitely! Okay this was my day. I would go to class in the morning, probably from 9 to 11 and then I would immediately go to the production house and start shooting. That would last really late sometimes and let’s just say at 12am, I’m heading back to my apartment and I would have to study and do homework, get prepared for school the next morning and do the same thing over and over.
MS: What keeps you grounded?
JW: My friends and family because they don’t act different and they have support behind it. My friends are so crazy that they don’t talk about it, they more so joke about it! They make it really easy for me!
MS: Since you’ve been in New York what have been some of your highlight moments?
JW: I went to Times Square! That was amazing! I’ve seen like a lot of theaters of shows that I’ve heard about! I met Hunter Hayes. All of the interviews were amazing! I went to a screening of “Happyish” with Patrik. That’s his new Showtime television show and I saw Julia Stiles there, but I was too scared to speak to her [Laughs]!
MS: What do you take heed to?
JW: Staying grounded and having fun with what I’m doing. A lot of people get into the business and lose who they are as an individual. I just want to make sure that I stay grounded and continue to do what I love to do and I don’t want to get lost doing it.
Be sure to catch “Blackbird” in select theaters!
Stay connected to Julian Walker:
Twitter – @thtguyjulian
Instagram – @julian.walker
All Photos © 2015 Tayo Ola for Heed Media