Netflix's new series Warrior Nun pulls no punches. Based on the comic book series Warrior Nun Areala by Ben Dunn, the series follows a young woman, Ava (Alba Baptista) who wakes up in a morgue with an unexpected new lease on life -- and a divine artifact embedded in her back that makes her part of the ancient Order of the Cruciform Sword who, along with her fellow Warrior Sisters, is tasked with fighting demons as well as powerful forces from both heaven and hell who wish to control her.
A key figure in Ava's story is Shotgun Mary, the most badass of the Warrior Sisters who is something of a vigilante in her own right. Brought to life by Toya Turner, Shotgun Mary is one of Warrior Nun's most fascinating and engaging characters. From her use of guns as a weapon of choice (hence the Shotgun Mary name) to her motorcycle, and some truly epic fight scenes, Turner's Shotgun Mary is a true force to be reckoned with. ComicBook.com recently had a chance to chat with Turner all about the incredible character, how she prepared for this soon-to-be-iconic role, and the importance of representation and diversity in entertainment.
Read on for our chat with Turner below.
ComicBook.com: What drew you to this amazing role?
Toya Turner: I mean, well first the name. The name is iconic. Shotgun Mary, I've never heard anything like it. And to be honest, when I read the pilot script of it, I actually cried on one part and I was like, "Oh my God, where's that coming from?" It kind of just touched me, and especially with the scripts that I was getting at the time, I had the strongest reaction of Warrior Nun, so I was happy when my manager sent it over to me. I connected with it on a deep level that I ever had before an audition, if that makes sense.
It was just something I was just attracted to the script from the get go. Even the way I handled it in the process, I was like, "Wow, there's really no stress here. I'm having a good time on this." Yeah. It was really great.prevnext
Tell us a little bit about Shotgun Mary, because she's such a badass with no filter.
Yeah. She's this rebellious, rebellious woman who will learn your rules just so she can break the sh-t out of them. Like someone described her really good. I had read it on Twitter and I loved it so much. They were like, "She's the cool cousin that you want to show up to the cookout." And then she ends up coming the last 30 minutes. She comes, she parties and then she bounces. Perfect.prevnext
She is incredible. And one of the things about her that's really cool is she's, in some respects, defined by her guns, which is like, here she's this crazy badass, she's got these she's epic with her weapons, she's got no filter. Was there any specific kind of training you had to undergo to be able to wield all that?
Yes. Yes. Well, as far as weapons training come, my dad is a retired cop, so I've been to the range a few times. But as soon as I got off the plane, they threw me into this warehouse, and we just started training for a minimum of four hours a day. And one of the things they had told me was they had different versions of my shotgun and they would get lighter or softer as they went on. But majority of the shots that they wanted to do, I would have to hold the real one.
Oh my goodness. And it's just because they wanted to shoot upside the barrel and get these really cool shots. So it was just a lot of holding up the shotgun, holding it up in periods of time.
And some of those are fairly heavy, detailed weapons.
They were very heavy. Very, very heavy. It was like the shake test. I needed you to hold this up and not shake. Yeah. They were kicking my ass a little bit, but my arms appreciated it for sure.
I bet there's some definition there from that at this point.
Oh yeah. Shotgun Mary has helped me a lot with my physique for sure. I don't know if I was just really lazy or what, but she definitely woke me up for sure.prevnext
Well, and speaking of the physical elements, there's the guns, there's the motorcycle, but she's also not just a physical character. She's also got quite a bit of personality as well. And there are points in watching the show, it feels less like I'm watching a show and seeing a character, but instead Shotgun Mary kind of just becomes a real person coming at me through the TV. Was it difficult getting to that point with the character? Or was there a moment where you felt like, "Oh no, I am Shotgun Mary. This is how it is."
Yes. Of course I wish that I could lie and say that I'm just this big, badass from the first day, you know what I mean? But I think she really started to soar and fly probably around episode five. I don't know what it was, but she was just doing her own thing instead of me being like, "These are the beats I need to hit." She just started becoming her own woman.
But I definitely tried to make it a point, especially with the creator, I wanted to sit down with him and make sure we talked about these beats where she's vulnerable, where she's the opposite of a warrior. She's strong in these parts, when does she show the vulnerability? Even in the fights, I was like, "There has to be some points where she loses." You know what I mean? She's not a robot or anything. I tried to make her as human and fill of heart as possible. So, I'm glad that you got it. Thank you. You're really nice.prevnext
Absolutely. I'm watching her and I'm like, "She's just so real."
Yeah. I love that Jet Wilkinson, she directed the first two episodes and she was the person that was in with me when I did the casting, when I did the audition. And she just really loved... How do I say this? She really loved that I was from Chicago. She really loved my speech and my voice. She wanted me to be as authentically me as possible with that, and I really appreciate that. Because sometimes people, they say they can't understand me when I speak because would speak too fast, or maybe the way our words hit in Chicago with a certain slang or whatever, the Southern twang, she just embraced it, really, for me. And that made it all worthwhile, you know?prevnext
One of the things I adore about Warrior Nun is that this is also a very female-led show. And that is extremely rare, not only just in comic book-based entertainment, but also action and sci fi projects as well. What has it been like being part of something that, in a lot of ways, feels so much like it's part of that shift in entertainment?
I'm getting teary eyed just thinking about it. I just feel like it's a part of history. I know when I saw Charlie's Angels or Kill Bill, I was like, "Oh my God!" It just changed my life. I was like, "Oh, I want to do this. I'm going to be in action films." And the fact that this is happening and the villains are women. You know what I mean?
Good! The fact that they changed, Jillian Salvius was originally written as a man. We like to see it. We love to see it. Yes. I just feel like I'm a part of history, man. I'm very grateful.prevnext
It's so amazing, too, because there's not much out there in that space for women and girls. And granted, I'm not necessarily going to show a small child Warrior Nun, but I think there's going to come a point where young women are going to see this and be like, "Oh yeah, I can do this. I can be a badass, too. This is a story for me."
Yeah. I can remember the ladies, I think it was our first fight scene that we had shot all together. And we were just like, "Oh my God, the little baby! The little baby's looking at it." We were so excited. We were like, "We can do some cosplay." Just to see some little Shotgun Marys, some little Black and Brown babies walking around. Oh, I can't take it.
Yeah, man. I'm just like that. That would just be beautiful. The response that I'm getting, especially from young women, and just seeing how they appreciate the role. They appreciate the show. I'm grateful that I'm a part of this movement and I look forward to the future of it, you know?prevnext
And something else about Warrior Nun, in addition to it being female led and female driven, it's also incredibly diverse, and it doesn't shy away from putting those diverse characters in the position of prominence. We see that with Shotgun Mary. How important is it for audiences to see this? And why do you feel like right now is the right time for Warrior Nun and specifically Shotgun Mary?
Representation is very, very important. I think the time is now, and it's important just because we need to get to a point where this is the norm. So it's not like, "Oh my God, we're celebrating it like we love to see it." It's what we see all the time. There's stories being told from different voices and everyone is represented. You know what I mean?
I just hate to see the fact that I remember there was a time when black women was like, "I'm tired of playing a prostitute. I'm tired of playing crack addicts." You know what I mean? I'm proud that there's something different going on. It's very important because we still have to celebrate it so much because it's not the norm. And I think that's why it's important. Because I look forward to the day when it is the norm.
Like the young girls coming up, young women, they're able to look at something more where they're strong and they're leading narratives, where they're complex and they're not one note, or they're not the damsel in distress, or they're not an accessory of some man's story. You know what I mean?prevnext
And also, I think Warrior Nun is a huge step towards that day where I'll talk to you about some other project in the future and I'm not talking about how great is it that this is all women and diverse. We're just going to talk about how great it is and just in general. And I think the show takes a big step forward towards that, in a really tangible and exciting way.
Yes, yes. And it is really great. What I see in normal stories, there may be one, maybe two, especially when it comes to something that's action packed. There may be that one girl who's a part of the game, or maybe two, maybe, but to show up on set and to have 80% of the starring cast be women, and then have the episodes, three of the five directors were women? It's just something really special. It's just some something really, really special and deserved.prevnext
Something else that's really interesting about Warrior Nun, there's a lot of different thematic intersections to the story. You've got faith, you've got religion, spirituality, you've got the actual church itself, and it's all wrapped up in this crazy sci fi-fantasy element as well. Was there anything about this unique and complicated aspect of the show that drew you into it?
Other than it being a woman driven-led story, I appreciated the conversation it was having on the church. From a girl who went to Catholic school, Christian school and Lutheran school. Yeah. I went to them all. So, that was an interesting perspective for me. I was like, "Okay, what are they going to touch on this? And then you Google the comics.
I was like, "Okay. All right." Yeah, I think that drew me to it. And I must say, I really love the Bible verses having these little bit of clues as the title for the episodes. And me and my brothers were sitting there watching it, pulling out the Bible, looking it up. I've never seen a show have us do that.
You know, I haven't actually done that yet. I should probably go back and do that.
Yeah. My brothers just pulled out the Bible, my grandmother's Bible. Come on! Let's go. Yeah, it was just really family fun. But I love the freedom that it talks about, too, with Ava's character. That was really special to me at the time, too, since I was trying to figure out how to find my own voice and exercise my own freedom as well. It feels great.prevnext
What was your favorite scene to film while making Warrior Nun?
Oh, I really liked the intro scene, where the warriors coming at the beginning was Shannon [Sister Shannon Masters (Melina Matthews)]. I think that was our first day shooting as a group and a lot of things happened organically at that shoot that is what ended up happening. Like her getting really emotional. I don't know why, but for some reason that day, all of these feelings came pouring into me. And one, it might be because we were shooting together and everyone was on set and it was the costume. It was special that day. That day was really special.
And also Shannon was heavy on the knees. Not that she was heavy, but to carry her. I was like, "Oh my God. It was just so many things getting thrown at us but we had such a good time.0comments
Warrior Nun is now streaming on Netflix.
Note: this interview has been lightly edited for clarity.prev