Julian Walker—the brand-new star of coming-of-age film “Blackbird,” directed by Patrik-Ian Polk and also starring Mo’Nique and Isaiah Washington—possesses an astonishing artistry and a voice like an angel. This is the first time out for Julian, who portrays such a convincing role as Randy, a gay teen raised with an overly religious sense. In the film, Randy is unsure of his own sexuality, angry at his estranged father and willingly caring for his depressed mother, who herself is still searching for her lost daughter. The film is groundbreaking and speaks to any audience; however, it should have a special resonance for those parents trying to love their gay children but having a difficult time doing so.
The film is scheduled for theatrical release on April 24, 2015. In the meantime, I was fortunate to be able to speak with Walker, the openly gay artist who is about to graduate from college in May. He was sensitive, polite and warm and possessed a kind of innocence about him—just as Randy, the character in the film, did.
Is that really you singing in that movie?
I hate to say it, but yes.
OMG. I am having a really rough time separating Randy from Julian.
Wow, thank you.
Do you feel that Randy and Julian have a lot of similarities?
I do feel that Randy and Julian have a lot of similarities. Randy’s story was pretty tough. I wouldn’t say that mine was as hard as Randy’s story growing up.
Do you have a favorite scene in the movie?
I would have to say that my favorite scene is the scene between Randy and Marshall. I actually love that story between them, because Randy is afraid, he is scared, and Marshall is so sure of himself. Actually, my favorite scene is when they were in the club dancing with each other. They’re looking at each other, in each other’s eyes. It’s like at that very moment, Randy realizes that this is what love feels like, or this is what it’s like to be loved by someone that you care about. I feel like that probably was one of my favorites.
Yeah, me too. Where did you grow up, Julian?
I grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, but my father was in the military, and my whole family moved around a lot as a child.
Did you have a tough time growing up, being gay?
No. I feel like I had an amazing childhood. I had an amazing support system, which were my parents and my big brother. I have family back in Jackson; they’re loving. I don’t feel like I had a horrible childhood, I just feel like me growing up, knowing that I was gay, I caused a lot of issues on myself. I felt like I could have been a lot more open. When your parents tell you that you can come to them and talk about anything—I feel like that was probably the biggest issue growing up, that I didn’t talk to my parents.
Did you always know you’d be in the entertainment industry when you were growing up?
I always had a dream. I just stood around and watched movies. I just would hope, and I had faith, that it could possibly happen one day. I just never thought anyone would give me the opportunity to do something like this.
How did you get the role of Randy?
It’s actually a funny story. When I transferred to the university that I’m in now, one of my friends sent me a link to the online audition, so I recorded myself, and I emailed the audition to Patrik, not knowing that it was Patrik’s email. He was gracious enough to give me pointers, work with me, and meet with me in the town we shot the film at, where I go to school. He was willing to meet with me. We rehearsed, and probably like a week before we started shooting I found out I got the role.
That’s like a fairytale.
Yeah, it was crazy.
So Isaiah and Mo’Nique are your parents in the movie. If you could choose two celebrities to be your parents in real life, who would you chose?
Honestly, I would choose them. They were amazing, and they still are amazing. They gave me so much advice. They helped me. They were so loving. Actually, I wouldn’t trade anyone in the cast. Everyone was just so amazing.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
In ten years I see myself…well, for sure graduating my undergrad, which will happen in May.
I see myself hopefully making more films, but I would love to be a motivational speaker. Go around to different LGBT youth and promote awareness, talk, you know—be that voice that I wish I could have been when I was growing up.
What message do you hope people get from this film?
I hope that everyone receives the message of love. Not judging others, mind your own business and let people do what they want to do. And, you know, everyone deserves love.
The movie was based on a book that was written 30 years ago. Do you think the gay situation has greatly improved since then?
Yeah, for sure. I feel like during the time that the book was written, of course it wasn’t on television. People didn’t make movies about it. Now there are movies, television series like “Queer As Folk” or amazing television shows like “Empire” and movies like “Blackbird” and other movies out there that help young people understand that they are not alone.
What would you want me to know about you?
I am extremely silly. I am very goofy, and I laugh at everything. I stay home a lot, and I’m trying to break that habit. I’m really down to earth. I’m so crazy, and I’m living in a dream.