Netta Walker Previews The New Season Of All American: Homecoming - Exclusive Interview

A new semester has started up at Bringston University, and many changes are in store for both its students and faculty on "All American: Homecoming." Amara is now the school's president. Damon has doubts about leaving the campus he calls home. Simone is struggling to work her way up to the top of the tennis team with Tootie in charge. Keisha is taking her first steps as a dance student, which has been a long time coming since that intense talk with her father.

After finally sharing with him that her passion is on the dance floor and not in the halls of a hospital, Keisha has officially enrolled in Bringston's dance program and is ready to move and groove her way through the semester she never thought she'd have — and the actress who plays her can't wait for the world to see what's in store for Keisha this season.

In an exclusive interview with The List, actress Netta Walker shared what we can expect to see happen between Keisha and Cam over the next few weeks, the plot twist from last season that surprised her the most, and the advice the cast of "All American" gave her way back when she first joined the show's spin-off series.

How the original All American influenced her character Keisha

Were you a big fan of "All American" when you originally auditioned for the spin-off?

My family was. I'd known about it because my brothers were all huge fans of it, because they're football boys. They love football.

We grew up in the South, so we all enjoyed watching it, but I knew of it. I didn't know how big of a show it was until I got the audition, and I started very heavily diving into it. Then I got really overwhelmed, so I stopped looking into it. [Laughs]

The two series' storylines intertwine a bit, but they're also their own stories. Was there any inspiration that you pulled from the original series while building Keisha?

I try not to, personally, fit into the mold of what I think something should be when I audition for it. I try to do what I think would be the most fun as the character. I watched the first two seasons of "All American" after I auditioned, because I was like, "I can't watch it before, or else I'm going to get in my head." Afterward, I was like, "Okay. Cool."

Luckily, I understood the tone whenever I did it, and I didn't overthink that. If I would've watched it beforehand, I probably would've tried to replicate more of Olivia's existence in the show or maybe even tried to copy something that happened with Layla. Those actresses, both Greta [Onieogou] and Sam [Logan], are incredible. It's hard to not watch them and try to take inspiration from them, which is why I'm glad that I waited until after I auditioned to start watching fully.

But no, I tried my best to not do anything that I'd known about the show or play into anything that I thought the show would be about beforehand.

You'd make her your own.

Exactly. That's where the fun is.

Keisha's life is a lot like Netta Walker's

Do you relate to Keisha in any way? Do you feel like you've pulled from any of your own personal experiences while playing her?

I've pulled from quite a few. The first season was a pretty crazy experience as an actor to get to dive into facets of who I am, like with the loss of a parent. It was a big thing that happened to me when I turned 21 when I lost my dad. I didn't feel like I'd seen a lot of stories that were not only empathetic, but showcased positive support behind that grief.

Whenever we got into that in the episode where we have the Kamayan feast for my mom, that was a really emotional day for me, because not only were we exploring my actual heritage as a Filipino — and I got to wear my mom's pendant on the show and use her pictures on the show, which was crazy. But also exploring that grief was a wild, cathartic experience to revisit, especially on this scale with this show.

There's a lot. It almost feels like [showrunner] Nkechi [Okoro Carroll] has been watching me because there's so many elements of Keisha that feel so at home with me. Even this last episode, watching her audition for Dr. Pace ... When I was in college, I went to musical theater school, so I dealt with Fosse-trained dance teachers standing over me, breathing down my neck, telling me that I wasn't good enough, and having to figure out how to overcome that in school. I didn't. I dropped out because I caved under the pressure. I didn't know how to handle that, and I didn't know how to approach that conversation with teachers at the time.

This season, watching that, playing that storyline of Keisha diving into auditioning for this thing that she loves and having to take harsh criticism from people that she admires, because she admires Dr. Pace ... That's going to be the fun part of seeing their relationship unfold throughout the season. You're going to have to see her grapple with someone who doesn't take okay work; she expects absolute perfection every time. That's not exactly how Keisha has been raised to understand the world.

That was really cool. That overlap in life this season was very wild to explore as well ... I feel very lucky.

The advice the original cast gave her upon joining the series

Throughout Season 1, Keisha gives Simone tons of great advice. When you first joined the franchise, did Geffri Maya or any of the other actors from the original series share any wisdom with you about joining such a big show?

That's a good question. On that backdoor pilot, I tried to ask as many questions to the original cast as possible. I asked Daniel [Ezra, who plays Spencer], because he's also a theater-trained actor, and I came from theater. I asked him what the biggest difference of theater and screen were. His point of wisdom was: "It's not smaller. It's just more specific." That was cool to hear. I was like, "That's a cool little technique thing that I didn't know about. Cool. Good to know."

Geffri [Maya, who plays Simone] has been a big sister to me [during] this entire process. Any time I'm having an experience where I'm like, "I don't know what's going on," she's very much there to help me grab the reins and be like, "Girl, you're capable, and you're okay." She's been a consistent point of support for me throughout this process.

I asked Michael Behling [who plays Jordan] how he adjusted moving out here because I came from the — well, I'm from Florida, but I was in Chicago for a while, so I was in the Midwest, and Michael also gets the southern Midwestern value because of where he's from. I was like, "How did you adjust?" He moved out here for "All American," and I moved out here for "Homecoming." I was like, "What was that adjustment like in this world?" He was like, "Keep the people that know you and love you close, and trust that."

I've been doing that. I keep my college friends very close to me. Any of my high school [or] middle school friends that have been out here, I try to see them as much as I can, and trust my relationships with people, which has been such a big help for the move out here.

The experience on the show has been amazing. [I'm] adjusting to being in a new city that has very different values from Chicago. It's been a little hard. Thankfully, because of not only the cast that we get to work with and the points of support there, the people outside of the cast in my life have been wonderful to me too.

How the All American and spin-off sets have a different 'feel'

You were on the Season 5 premiere of "All American." Does being on each of the show's sets feel any different?

"All American," since they're in Season 5, they are a well-oiled machine. They know the in and outs ... You can tell they know the ins and outs of each other as actors as well. The set just flows.

We're on Season 2, so we're still figuring out where we can play and what bits are fun. They have bits that they've established in Season 1. Now we are over here being like, "Okay, we're in Season 2. What fun things can we establish on our own and make this world our own?"

Aside from that, no, [showrunner] Nkechi [Okoro Carroll] has created a very wonderful universe full of people who are kind and supportive and love their jobs. That is special to get to go to work to every day, because we're right on the lot next to each other. Our base camps are literally right next to each other, and we get to see each other in the morning. It's not like we don't get to interact outside of that crossover episode.

Nkechi's created an incredible team on both sets. It feels like one big universe, which is really special.

The moment she never saw coming when she first read it in the script

There have been so many surprising moments over the course of "All American: Homecoming." Was there anything that surprised you the first time you read it in the script that you did not see coming?

The end of Season 1 was surprising — Bringston being bought by a PWI. That was crazy and incredibly topical. There are a few in Season 2 that I've read and been like, "Hold on," and gone back, which I'm very excited for people to see.

But that one was a big one. Whenever we got the script, I was like, "Oh, my God. Wait. Is the school shutting down? Are we going into another season? Will we have a home?"

Not only was it like, "Will the students have a home?" It's like, "Will we have a home?" Because there's always the conversations of renewal. Luckily, people seem to enjoy our show, so we've gotten to come back to it.

Her feelings about fan-favorite relationships

Who do you think is better for Damon: Thea or Simone?

I can't even. I can't, because I know the second that I do, fans will be on me. They are very serious about these ships.

I'm a big fan of the mean girl that has a backstory. Thea is such a fascinating character because she's not mean just to be mean. She has a lot of history in her life that's caused her to be shelled off. Her relationship with Damon is cool because you get to see her come out of her shell and explore what love actually means and how to fall in love.

But then I love the juicy messiness of Damon and Simone. They're so messy. Jordan, the whole fight? It's messy, and I love messy. It's an even split. I like both.

Can you give us a little teaser of what we can expect to see between Keisha and Cam this season?

You can see them supporting each other in their pursuits of their dreams. That level of support is not only with their friends — they're very there for each other.

I'm very excited for people to see that Black love that they get to explore with one another, and what it means to be candid and actually vulnerable after finally going to therapy for Keisha.

What to expect this season on All American: Homecoming

What are you most excited about for people to see in Season 2?

Our world becomes more real than people will expect it to, so I'm excited for people to see that.

Do you know anything about a potential Season 3?

I have no clue. You know what I know, I'm sure. We're still filming Season 2 right now. We're on Episode 8 currently. We're wrapping that one up [this week], so we'll see. We just started airing. Hopefully, we find out soon. We'll all be happy to come back and play with these characters again, so fingers crossed.

Do you know what happens at the end of Season 2 yet? Have you gotten those scripts?

No. Isn't that cool? It's kind of cool.

That's exciting that you get to live it out as your character does. It seems like such a powerful way to dive into a character.

It's cool. It's different, because I'm from theater. I did theater, so I would have three weeks of rehearsal, usually three or four weeks, of one script that's 70 pages long, maybe longer.

Now we're getting scripts every two weeks that are also 60 pages long, and you don't know where the story's going. I get to do like a little mini-play every two weeks whenever we get done with an episode, which is cool. It's been really exciting. I feel like I'm flexing muscles artistically that I never actually knew I had, which is so cool.

What stories are next for Netta Walker

I know you love writing and directing as well — what kind of stories do you like to tell? What are your favorite things that you gravitate towards?

I like things that are real. I like things that are based [on] my actual experiences. The things that I've been writing recently, I'm transitioning from writing things about my own personal life and now trying to find things about my family.

My family's really cool. They're all very multifaceted, very fascinating people who have incredible lives that I'm excited to try and tell stories about, because they're so nuanced and interesting and deserve to be seen. My brothers are incredible, and my parents are really incredible people. I like writing about the people that I admire.

New episodes of "All American: Homecoming" air Monday nights on The CW.

This interview has been edited for clarity.