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