College student and inexperienced actor Julian Walker turns in a terrific lead performance in Patrik-Ian Polk's Blackbird as Randy Rousseau, a young and devout Christian coming to terms with his homosexuality. This thoughtful yet sexy drama by the creator of Noah's Arc will screen in Long Beach, California on Saturday, September 13th as part of the 2014 QFilm Festival. Walker recently chatted with Reverend via e-mail about his film debut.
CC: Congrats on your great work in Blackbird! What was the experience making it like for you?
JW: Hey, thank you so much. Making this film was one of the best experiences of my life. Working with such a talented cast and crew on my first film ever made the days go so smoothly.
CC: Were you familiar with Larry Duplechan's novel on which the film is based or did you read it during your preparation? If so, how does the movie differ from the novel, in your opinion?
JW: I wasn't familiar with the novel before filming. Once I found out about it I quickly wanted to learn more information about Randy and his friends so I went to find it. In the book, the time frame (the 1970's) is much different and it takes place in California (the movie is set in Mississippi). I'm happy Patrik brought the story to the south with a modern time period.
CC: I understand you auditioned online for the part of Randy. Tell me about the audition and casting process.
JW: Yes, I did audition online and I didn't really know how it do it so Patrik and I agreed that it wasn't the best audition video out there (laughs). One of my friends informed me about the part and emailed me the link to send the video to. My best friend and I sat down on my Mac and recorded myself doing the lines. Luckily, after Patrik saw my video he gave me pointers and what I should do differently. Thankfully, he gave me a chance!
CC: What was your reaction when you learned you got the part?
JW: I found out I got the role maybe four or five days before filming began. Patrik gave me a script and told me to constantly study it all day, everyday, a week before finding out. I was speechless, nervous and in shock. I thought I was just going to be this little rookie on set and everyone was going to say "Who is this kid?", but it wasn't that way at all.
CC: In what ways is the character of Randy similar to you, and in what ways are you different?
JW: I related to Randy on so many levels. We've all had that one high school crush who we thought was the "love of our life." Also, being a gay young man I understand the denial and the cost of not facing the truth. I'm happy that my mother isn't as strict as Randy's mom and my father wasn't as absent as Randy's father.
CC: Were you afraid or intimidated at all while playing some of the more intimate or revealing scenes in the film?
JW: Yes! Patrik told me from the beginning what was going to take place and his vision. I was thinking "OMG, everyone's going to see me doing stuff," (laughs). So, I didn't think about it until I absolutely needed to.
CC: What was it like working with Academy Award winner Mo'Nique and Isaiah Washington (who play Randy's parents)?
JW: Mo'Nique and Isaiah were so amazing. Wow! I was so afraid to meet them but they welcomed me with open arms. They were so loving and willing to give me any advice I was curious about. I love them so much and am so thankful for not only them but everyone on set. They were all so talented.
CC: Were you familiar with Noah's Arc or Patrik-Ian Polk's other work before Blackbird? What have you learned from him about acting and/or directing?
JW: I was a very big fan of Noah's Arc. Me and my close friend stayed up all night watching both seasons. I wasn't as familiar with Patrik but I knew what he's done in the past. He's taught me so much about this acting world, especially what to look out for and how to make a proper audition video. He's such a great mentor and friend. I thank God he has placed Patrik in my life not just for this role but the encouragement, love and drive he has given me. He believed in me more than I believed in myself at times.
CC: Are you working on something new? What are your long-term goals?
JW: Currently, I'm finishing my last year of college so I'm beyond excited about that. I also have some engagements coming up soon so I'm excited for what's to come.
Interview by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.