Darnell Lamont Walker Q & A
1) Who is Darnell Lamont Walker?
A: Oh, that’s always the hardest question because I haven’t quite figured that out yet. I am just a happy guy from Virginia making my way around the world writing, creating, having fun, eating as much as I can, and spreading joy where I can. Yes, today I am a hungry, happy, guy looking forward to the New Year. Most of the time I’m a writer, creator, filmmaker, father, a great friend, and an optimistic person.
2) Was writing your first choice?
A: Absolutely. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was seven after seeing an episode of the Cosby Show when Rudy wrote that story. I was like you know what, that’s exactly what I want to do, but I didn’t know what I wanted to write. So I think in the beginning I was thinking I just want to write. Then it became short stories, plays, poetry, and television and film.
3) What was your first writing job?
A: The first thing I got paid to write was when I was in college and I wrote for a newspaper back home in Charlottesville, VA. A Black newspaper was revived and a mentor of mine was the Editor in Chief. He was like, “Hey do you want to write because we would love to have write your opinions.” I’m like I can get paid to talk about the things I talk about for free?!
It just went from there and that was the first time I was getting paid to actually write. So, at the time I was a Mass Communications major. In my school it was mostly like Journalism and so it worked out. I had been learning about how to write articles, press releases, and things like that already.
Then I changed majors over to Speech Communication, but I kept writing. I knew that writing was going to be the job that I would have. I fell less and less out of love with Journalism though. Like, I loved to read it, but as far as me writing it, I didn’t know if I could keep up with it. I started looking into other opportunities like film and television, and even publishing my own stuff, but that was the first thing I did.
4) What inspires you to keep writing?
A: I don’t know if there’s anything that really inspires me to keep writing. I feel like if I don’t write, I would lose my mind. Things just pop up into my head that I have to get out. It just bothers me so much and so… sometimes it takes years. I have things in my head that have been in there and developing for years. They tell me when they have to come out.
Sometimes I’ll be somewhere, and I’ll see something, someone, a photo online, or anything. It just inspires a story or something that needs to be written. That’s what inspires my stories, but as far as me having to write and me steady going, it’s always about just keeping my sanity.
5) What awards have you won for your projects up to the most recent?
A: Oh gosh… I’ve won Best Drama for a couple of my plays. Won Best Documentary Award at the Film Festival Awards. I’ve been nominated with the show I was with, Anacostia, and we’ve been nominated for several Emmys. I think we were nominated three or four times and they won one for the cast.
On the producing side, I was nominated with the teams I’ve worked with in children’s media. It goes back years but it’s been a lot of smaller ones that I have been awarded for as well. Sometimes, I write things and post about it then forget it, like a lot. DC Black Theater Festival Award for Best Play, Best Drama, Best Short, Best One Act Play. I’m waiting on the Oscar you know, waiting on the Golden Globe, waiting to win the Emmy…
6) How does it feel to write for television shows that literally fueled our childhood?
A: I can’t even explain it. It’s a beautiful thing, like this full circle moment where I get to be the one to write this. I know what it meant to be able to watch these shows, wake up early, want to run home after school, and turn the TV on, and watch. With being able to create it, I know the impact it has on kids and this is why I wanted to write.
When I was seven it was like I wanted to tell these stories and now that I do it, it’s like wow I really did that. I held onto that dream and it was always the goal. You know, like all the friends who say I want to be a doctor. They hold on to that because it makes their family happy.
For me, it was like, I want to be a writer and I held onto it because it’s what I really wanted to do. It feels amazing to be able to create what I do. When I’m around people who don’t know what I do, I overhear people talking about these shows; talking about Steve when he addressed the nation. I mean like, “Oh my gosh, Blues Clues really meant a lot to me and it really changed my life, and now Steve is doing this, and he said this, and it’s the most amazing thing in the world!” Then I’m like, oh I get to work with Steve every day which is totally awesome!
7) What was the work atmosphere like when you were writing for Sesame Street?
A: Before that I hadn’t really considered writing for children. I was in South Africa and someone was like you should apply to this Sesame Street fellowship and I’m like okay, so I applied. I thought I probably won’t get in because as a writer, you apply to so many programs and never get in. The staff there was amazing and bounced ideas off of one another. Every day there was a different experience.
It was awesome hearing people say, “You all wrote my childhood.” Being able to work with those people was I mean, absolutely amazing and I still keep in touch with all of them. Then they send you out into the world and say OK go write for someone. Or write a couple episodes here for us, or whatever and it’s like yeah, let’s make that happen.
8) If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
A: I would be an explorer. If I wasn’t writing I’d be out in the world like I also do, so one of those had to work out and thankfully both of them did. When I was in school, I changed major to Speech COMM’s, and then got my next two degrees in Transformative Leadership and Communication Culture. I focused on how we as humans communicate, and how to build leadership teams.
One of my goals was to travel the world and teach communities and even in the US, how to police themselves, and how to build up true leadership and I partly do it now. I get to just travel the world, talk to people, and find out how the world works. So, sort of Sociology, Anthropology, History and exploration… so yeah it worked out.
9) You ever thought about doing another Sockless Summer?
A: I loved everything about that. I still hate socks, *chuckles*, so I think this summer coming is going to be a Sockless Summer. And with all that’s happened with Covid-19 and everything, it’s like, we need it, and deserve it.
10) What are you currently working on?
A: I’m working on three shows currently. Blue’s Clues season just ended and we’re waiting to see if there’s another season coming. Karma’s World, is out now. I was able to write for two shows with Nickelodeon, two shows with PBS, and a show with Apple TV currently, that I can’t too much mention.
For my own projects, I’m working on a short film about a boy with a disability and the relationship he has with his father who’s trying to protect him from heartbreak. I’m writing another story about a friendship two friends and one friend trying to make something magical happen for his best friend because this is the last day he’ll ever see him. His friend really wants this special gift, and he’s like I will get it for you. It makes you realize how hard it is for people in this area, this South African Township, to raise a dollar to buy something.
Yeah, I’m just working on a lot of things that deal with representation and making sure that more kids see themselves: when we put out Karma, it was like the first time we saw a show about a Black girl with big hair on her own show and you know, we need to create more of this. We need to show kids with disabilities too and other kids of color and we will make it happen.