FIGHT­ING SPIRIT

South Side na­tive Toya Turner re­fuses to shy away from so­cial jus­tice is­sues as she en­joys her first se­ries-reg­u­lar role on Net­flix’ ‘War­rior Nun’

Chicago Sun-Times - - ENTERTAINM­ENT - BY EVAN F. MOORE, STAFF RE­PORTER emoore@sun­times.com | @evanF­moore

Chicago ac­tress Toya Turner’s star power seems to be trend­ing toward a bright fu­ture.

Even af­ter get­ting the nod as a se­ries reg­u­lar — the first in her act­ing ca­reer — in the Net­flix se­ries “War­rior Nun,” she hasn’t taken her fo­cus off what she views as be­ing top of mind: putting a spot­light on gun vi­o­lence and po­lice killings.

“What mat­ters most to me right now is ALL Black Lives Mat­ter, de­fund the po­lice and in­vest back into Black com­mu­ni­ties and jus­tice for Bre­onna Tay­lor,” said Turner.

“War­rior Nun,” a comic book adap­ta­tion that de­buts Thurs­day on Net­flix, is about a young woman (Alba Bap­tista) who in­her­its su­per­pow­ers as the cho­sen “Halo-Bearer” for a se­cret sect of de­mon-hunt­ing nuns. Each episode is named af­ter a Bi­ble pas­sage that fits the sub­ject mat­ter.

“I don’t think that I’ve seen any comic book do that,” said Turner. “I think it’s cool that they re­ally do play with the dy­nam­ics of the church and the dy­nam­ics of peo­ple’s be­liefs. So I think it’s re­ally edgy and it’s dif­fer­ent and re­ally cool.”

Turner, who grew up by 103rd Street and Martin Luther King Drive in the Rose­moor neigh­bor­hood on the South Side, plays Shot­gun Mary, a nun who has her own thoughts on how jus­tice ought to be served.

“Just read­ing this script and fall­ing in love with it and this au­di­tion ex­pe­ri­ence for me, it was just re­ally dif­fer­ent,” said Turner. “I don’t know what it was. I just con­nected with it [the role] so well. … This is ev­ery­thing that I’ve al­ways dreamed of and been work­ing to­wards. But to be here is still crazy.

“I like that she goes rogue and off on her own. She has her own law, her own rules. And I re­ally liked that she’s a rebel and, you know, she is like a black sheep of the fam­ily that they have. But I like that she has her own stan­dards and her own rules, and she says she just goes for it. She’s more about the sis­ter­hood and the fam­ily than the church; I thought that was re­ally cool when I read it.”

Turner, the daugh­ter of a nurse and a re­tired Chicago po­lice of­fi­cer, has thoughts on the num­ber of po­lice killings and the un­rest in their af­ter­math. And as a for­mer stu­dent at the Se­cond City im­prov hub in Chicago, she’s been watch­ing the fall­out re­gard­ing its co-owner and ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer An­drew Alexan­der, who stepped down amid ac­cu­sa­tions of in­sti­tu­tional racism.

“I mean, I don’t know where [Se­cond City lead­ers] have been,” said Turner, a Thorn­ridge High School grad­u­ate. “I don’t know where they’ve been hid­ing, you know, but for them to just be find­ing out their racism is still go­ing on; I call b---s--- on that. I don’t think there’s any­thing that I can say about what’s go­ing on in the world that hasn’t al­ready been said. But I just think it’s dis­gust­ing.

“And it hurts me and I iden­tify closely and ev­ery time I turn on In­sta­gram, there’s an­other death and it’s tragic and it breaks my heart.”

Be­fore Turner left Chicago for Cal­i­for­nia, she only had bit roles in the lo­cally based se­ries “Easy,” “Chicago Med,” “Chicago Fire” and ‘Em­pire.” She no­ticed that she was get­ting calls for spe­cific roles.

“It would be a mom; that’s it. Or be­ing a mom whose kid gets shot, which is a very im­por­tant story to tell be­cause it is. The same story, the same au­di­tion all the time. She’s a mom; what else is she? What else does she do?’’

She made a choice that changed her ca­reer tra­jec­tory. “I de­cided to move to L.A., or at least go to L.A. and see how it was out there and de­cided that I liked it and I was go­ing to stay,” said Turner. “… I got to au­di­tion for [‘War­rior Nun’]. It’s just crazy the fact that mak­ing that leap of faith, as they say, and it was just the best thing for me and the best thing for my ca­reer.’’

And de­spite leav­ing Chicago to fur­ther her ca­reer, Turner misses the city and its peo­ple.

“I miss the peo­ple; we have this cer­tain vibe,” said Turner. “I don’t even know if I can ex­plain it but it’s just, I miss my fam­ily. I ex­tremely miss them and then I just miss the peo­ple. The food, too.”

NET­FLIX

Toya Turner plays Shot­gun Mary on “War­rior Nun’’ and says she loves that her char­ac­ter ‘‘has her own law, her own rules.’’

Toya Turner

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