During the warm summer days, we heard about The Summer I Turned Pretty, but winter is here and so now it’s time for now for My Life With The Walter Boys to get all the attention. The new Netflix series is more than a teen drama with a love triangle.
It’s based on the book by Ali Novak, originally published in 2014 on Wattpad when the writer was 15. The story about loss, a new chosen family, and first teenage loves follows 15-year-old Jackie Howard. After losing her parents, she has to trade the skyscrapers of New York for the huge Walter family and the breathtaking landscapes of rural Colorado.
The fight between brothers for a girl’s love is not the only appeal of this coming-of-age show. Taking advantage of the huge cast, the production does a great job of inclusion as well, with diverse representation, including some Latinx performers.
Let’s start with Nikki Rodríguez, who plays the lead character Jackie. She’s an actress with Mexican, Puerto Rican, and German roots raised in Minneapolis. This is her first starring role, but she is easily recognizable thanks to her role in Netflix’s On My Block.
Next up, the Walter brothers’ cousins are played by Myles Pérez (Lee García) with Puerto Rican and Filipino heritage, and Isaac Arellanes (Isaac García) half Latinx, half Native American from the Hopi tribe.
Among the adults, Latinxs are represented by Uncle Richard (Alex Quijano) and high school guidance counselor Tara Jacobs (Ashley Holliday Tavares). These two characters have the potential for another love triangle after sparks fly between them in the last episode. But we’ll have to wait for season two to find out the thoughts of Professor Nikhil Choudry (played by Filipino-Indian actor Moheb Jindran) who almost abandoned Tara to live in England.
These love stories, mainly between Jackie, Cole, and Alex, are the hook that keeps the audience obsessed during the ten episodes — no wonder it was number one on Netflix for several weeks, even attracting the attention of comedian Trevor Noah.
“Thank you to everyone that has taken Where Was I to #2 on Netflix! However, you’re also now responsible for getting me hooked on #1! Teen drama or not. My Life with the Walter Boys is fire. Will Jackie choose Alex or Cole? I need a season 2!!!” says the comedian in an X post days before he dethroned the series with his stand-up special.
“It was a really rich world for me, and it felt authentic, but at the same time very warm. I could see immediately that that would be resonant for an audience,” says showrunner Melanie Halsall. “We delved more into the characters’ backstories and backgrounds and did a lot of work thinking about who they were, where they came from.”
Actor Johnny Link (aka Will Walter, one of the Walter boys) is also advancing the show’s representation. Just like his character, he has been wearing hearing aids since the age of three, due to sensorineural hearing loss in both ears. However, as he has accommodated to a hearing world, most people don’t realize that. The actor who plays the eldest of the Walter brothers advocates for the inclusion of people with hearing impairment in Hollywood and outside of it. One of his goals is to tell “inclusive stories that ignite curiosity and empathy in the individual so that they may find belonging.”
The diversity of characters also includes Skylar Summerhill (Jaylan Evans), a Black Indigenous man, who’s identity is part of the fictional story. “People from my background, we don’t have much political influence. I want to change that,” Skylar says regarding his goal of being a political journalist.
And it isn’t just the casting. My Life With The Walter Boys takes care of its characters’ identities, including gentle nods to our cultures. For Latinxs, that means the use of two Spanish words in a scene between Jackie and Lee. Despite criticism in social media for the awkward pronunciation of todo bien, these characters represent a large percentage of Latinxs in the U.S. who are not fluent in Spanish (and that doesn’t make them any less Latinx).
Perhaps the lesson is not to force Latinx actors to speak Spanish if they don’t feel comfortable. After all, not all members of a community have the same background — and not all stories need to be told from the same perspective.