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Sinqua Walls Interview: Otherhood

Sinqua Walls and Angela Bassett in Otherhood

Otherhood, which dropped on Netflix last week, showcased three mothers and their attempts to let their kids grow up. One such parent-child bond in the film was Matt and Carol Walker, played by Sinqua Walls and the incomparable Angela Bassett. When faced with disappointment in her son’s career path, Carol must set him on the right path while also respecting his decisions and personhood – a fine line both actors handled admirably. Walls sat down with Screen Rant prior to the movie’s release to share his take on the Walker dynamic, as well his feelings about working with the Queen Mother herself.

I really enjoyed the film. It was a lot of fun and it had me self-reflecting my relationship with my own mother. What was it about Otherhood that had you jump on this project?

Sinqua Walls: Honestly, man, I had an opportunity there. I had a really strong relationship with the casting director, Mary Vernieu, someone who is a champion of mine and believes in me really strongly. Her whole office, they all support me. They sent me the script and said, “Read it. I think it’s something really cool to do.”

It was an opportunity to work with Angela Bassett and Cindy Chupack, who I’m really familiar with as well, because I actually was a fan of Sex and the City. I know a lot of guys don’t say that, but I loved watching that show and saw all the movies as well. So, for me, it was an opportunity to work with people that I think were moving in the way that you want to move to tell a story that you want to tell, and that are at the top of their game. And, most importantly, to work with Angela Bassett was a gift.

I want to talk about that, because you and Angela had great chemistry together. Can talk to me about any advice Angela gave you or anything you may have learned from her?

Sinqua Walls: I can honestly say that I hope that so many young actors like myself, who have an aspiration to have careers in this business – not just moments; we all get those opportunities, if you're fortunate, to have a moment where people become aware of you and know your work, or people like your work and you gained some notoriety from that. But to have a career, you look no further than Angela. I truly mean that.

I hope so many people that have that desire to have a true career have an opportunity to work with her, because I learned two things. Number one: she led by example. She set the precedent every day in terms of rehearsal and preparation. Always going deeper into the character, always going deeper into the relationship, always talking about the backstory. And then also, as a professional, making their scene partners feel comfortable.

You come in and you're working with Angela, you’re like, “Oh, my gosh, this is it. This is the queen; this is this is everything.” And she did a really good job of making everything very grounded and letting you know that we're still in it together. We're still teammates; we're still telling the story. So, it was amazing. She gave me advice, as in actual advice, and then she gave me advice by just leading by example. And I took both.

 I want to talk about the character of Matt. How much like Matt are you?

Sinqua Walls: I think that Matt and I are very similar in that we enjoy being around good people and having a good time. You could see that Matt was in his element at the at the party that he went to, when his mom showed up and kind of ruined his whole plan. I love that environment. But at the end of the day, when you're at home, you're at home. You want to be kind of introverted, don't want a lot of people in your space. I am like that in many ways.

I did not struggle with the level of probably running around the town that Matt did, because I've had some pretty decent relationships to be a part. But we’re similar in the fact that I think we both enjoy a good time.

Can you talk to me about the relationship Matt has with his mom and how he views her showing up?

Sinqua Walls: His mom is everything to him. If you notice from all the other relationship that the other guys had, what I thought was really cool in how Cindy wrote it, when their moms showed up, they were completely off-kilter and there's a little bit of anger. But when Matt’s mom shows up, it’s awkward, because he doesn't want his mom to see how they’re living.

So, the difference is that he's still very, very respectful of his mom and still holds his mom in high regard. He would never want his mom to know that he's living the life that he’s living now, kind of like a playboy out there and all that kind of stuff.

His [relationship to his mom] is one of respect and love. Even in the letter that he writes to his mom, that people come to see when they watch the film, he has so much love for her. But I think he forgot about that and neglected that and kind of got lost in the New York lifestyle. So, for him, it's always love and respect and never wanting to let his mom down.

Patricia Arquette Angela Bassett and Felicity Huffman in Otherhood

I'm not gonna lie to you: that letter scene with the flowers? I was gonna steal that idea from the movie and do that for my mom.

Sinqua Walls: Hey, listen. It’s for you to steal, brother.

I think I just may. So, what traits do Matt and his mom share?

Sinqua Walls: I think they're both hard-working. You see Matt wanted to make something of himself in terms of the ad industry. He's hard-working in doing what he has to do to get there; his mom was hard-working in her diligence to her family, her son, her husband, her friends.

They’re both caring. A lot of what Matt did in terms of wanting to create good content for the magazine was because he cared, as his mom cared. They're both artistic, and it even highlights in the film that he got that from her; his level of artistic talent came from her.

And I think they're very direct and loving. You see that when Carol comes in town, she reminds Matt in a way to open up in love again. Which you end up seeing what happens when he falls in love with someone within the movie. And his mom almost picks this person – similar to a time when my mom tried to pick someone for me. But they're both loving. Carol’s definitely always tied into it, and Matt had to be reminded of it.

There's an awkward moment where Matt is with a girl that he doesn't know is 17 years old. Are there any awkward moments that you had with your mom in real life that helped inform your performance at all? 

Sinqua Walls: The awkward moment, honestly, was my mom trying to pick a girl for me to go to prom with. I actually had a girl that I wanted to go to prom with, and my mom tried to strongarm me that, “You can only go to prom if you go with this girl.”

So, I had to tell my mom, “I'm not going to go to prom at all!” We got into this whole thing. And then it was it was like, “Well, you’re going to miss these dinners!” And then I was like, “Alright, I'll take this girl, mom.” And I just went with her, didn't necessarily have the best time. No disrespect to her, but I didn't necessarily have the best time. That was awkward to me.

There was another time where, my mom used to have a key to my house and she'd always stop by my house unexpectedly. And, similarly to Carol being at home when he brought the young girl home… I never had that particular situation, but there were times where I may have walked in and texted someone, “Hey, why don't you come over and grab a drink?” And I saw my mom actually getting ready to leave the bathroom, and I’m like, “Hey, why don’t I meet you out and we grab a drink?”

Great. That's good.

How does Carol feel about Matt’s job at All Balls?

Sinqua Walls: I think she's proud of him having a job and being self-sufficient. I don't think she understood exactly what it entailed, which you come to see in the film. Number one, the title itself of what the magazine is does not rub her the right way. I think that she has an expectation that his artistic talent is destined for more than “selling sex,” essentially, as she worded it. She wants more for him, and she thinks that he can do more. And she was surprised to find that, even though he's doing well and making money, he's not really living up to the expectation of the man that she feels like she raised.

That's a great answer. We know Max’s frustration when Carol comes to town, but what's Carol's biggest frustration with Matt?

Sinqua Walls: I think it goes to the same question, like her surprise to find out that the magazine is called All Balls. She really just feels like he's not maximizing his potential. I think that was the first moment that Carol has gotten to see that her little baby is now a man, and she's not necessarily proud of the man that she sees. And he feels that. He's not necessarily proud of the man that he‘s showing her.

So she, in her disappointment, motivates him to be better. And his desire to be better for his mom motivates him to get better.

Angela Bassett Felicity Huffman Patricia Arquette Otherhood

Can you talk to me about the collaboration process with Cindy Chupack? Because I thought this was really well-directed. She obviously had a great grasp on the characters. 

Sinqua Walls: So collaborative. The joy that I've had in any project that I've been fortunate enough to work on in this long-short career is when people understand the collaborative process of it and embrace everyone's point of view and perspective. And I can honestly say, as a director and a filmmaker, Cindy allowed all of us actors to feel comfortable. To have thoughts, to have ideas about the voices that we were speaking and the characters that we have portraying.

She always was open; she always was very loving. Obviously, Cindy's written many articles on motherhood, which I think gave her a true ethos to tell the story authentically. And you felt that, because she was nurturing, at least I can speak for the younger guys that she was nurturing to all of us. Then I think, very specifically to all the women, in terms of having a camaraderie as well. I enjoyed it. And I say with no cliché, I would work with Cindy any day of the week.

That's a sign of a good director, learning how to play your players. I'm sure you always learn something new after playing a character, either about yourself or about your life moving forward. What have you learned from Matt after going through this journey of Otherhood?

Sinqua Walls: To cherish the moment. I think that what we got in the beginning of the movie was Matt moving at the speed of light, which sometimes happens when you're living in a city like New York. You're always on the go, you're always on the rails – and you're always just going, going, going and not cherishing or embracing the moment.

When Carol came into his life, it forced him to slow down, slow down and just kind of reflect and take inventory on how he was living. I think, as we saw Matt’s maturation in the film, I used those same tools as I left the process of filming Otherhood. Being grateful, having gratitude, and being appreciative of the moment. Of the opportunity to work with Cindy, the opportunity to be in a movie that people are receiving well, the opportunity to work with Angela and learn so much from it.

The same way that Matt’s evolution in the film was to take inventory and have gratitude, Sinqua’s evolution in life while playing that was to be grateful with every step that I take as well.

What are you hoping that Netflix audiences take away from it?

Sinqua Walls: I hope that everybody on Netflix watches it, number one. There's 150 million plus subscribers, and I hope all 150 million plus watch it. And then also just appreciate the people that are in your life, that are the are the lifers. At the end of the day: you don't choose your family; they're given to you. But they're lifers. Don't neglect those people, whether they're given or chosen. Appreciate the lifers and give life back to them, because those are the people that are going to lift you up when you're down and support you when you're up, as well. So, appreciate the lifers.

Thank you so much for your time, Sinqua. I really enjoyed your performance and the film, as well.

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