Love triangles forged in the fires of adolescence is a trope as old as the teen drama series itself. And this holiday season, Jackie Howard (On My Block’s Nikki Rodriguez) is torn between two Walter boys in My Life with the Walter Boys.
The 10-episode series follows Jackie as she moves across the country from dazzling Manhattan to rural Colorado to live with the Walters after a devastating tragedy. When series creator Melanie Halsall first pitched the series to Netflix, she described it as “Dawson’s Creek meets Friday Night Lights,” with homages to Party of Five and My So-Called Life thrown in there for good measure.
The show might take you back to those simpler times when teens spent less time on their phones: Halsall “wanted a show where we got young people outside and talking to each other,” she told Tudum while on the set. And it’s a potent dose of nostalgia in other ways: The series is peopled with YA drama royalty on- and off-screen, as Marc Blucas (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) plays patriarch George Walter and Jason Priestley (Beverly Hills, 90210) directed the last two episodes of Season 1.
Although Blucas would argue that Walter Boys is “a touch sexier than Dawson’s Creek was,” he does consider his dynamic with on-screen wife Katherine (Sarah Rafferty) to be akin to FNL’s Tami and Coach Taylor. And he’s happy to pass the torch on to the next generation of teen idols. “These kids are great with improv, and just being in the moment,” he said. “They’re such good actors, and way better than I was when I started at that age.”
Lasso your way around the brand new trailer for My Life with the Walter Boys above. And below, the cast and crew share a preview of what to expect from the upcoming series that is sure to add a little sparkle to your holiday season.
What happens in My Life with the Walter Boys?
My Life with the Walter Boys is a heartwarming coming-of-age story that follows 15-year-old Manhattanite Jackie after losing her family in a tragic accident. She leaves behind her privileged and proper life in New York and moves to rural Silver Falls, Colorado to be with her guardian –– her mother’s best friend, Katherine, who is raising 10 kids with her husband, George.
While settling into her new, chaotic countryside home, Jackie is determined to stay focused on her dream of getting into Princeton… all while wrapping her head around her feelings for two very different Walter brothers: the reliable and bookish Alex (Ashby Gentry), and the mysterious and troubled Cole (Noah LaLonde). As she tries to navigate her new life, the feelings and tensions she tries to deny threaten to throw everything off course. One question lingers: will she be able to stay true to herself and still find romance?
Is My Life with the Walter Boys based on a book?
Yes! The series is based on the popular WattPad novel by Ali Novak — which she wrote when she was 15, and which has since been turned into a published book. For Halsall, the story is about love and loss, grief, and rebirth. “When I first read it, I could see the potential for a long-running series because it’s got such a big ensemble cast,” she said. “I could also see where the adaptation would work, how you would change it to make it work for TV.”
Novak wrote the original My Life with the Walter Boys story after her father died. Halsall’s father also died young, and though she found the book raw, edgy, and funny, Jackie’s healing journey resonated with her experiences. In adapting the story for the screen, Halsall leaned into an “emotional approach” to the world and its drama.
Who’s in the cast of My Life with the Walter Boys?
Alongside Rodriguez, Gentry, LaLonde, Blucas, and Rafferty, the Walter family includes Connor Stanhope (Danny), Johnny Link (Will), Corey Fogelmanis (Nathan), Dean Petriw (Jordan), Lennix James (Benny), Alix West Lefler (Parker), Isaac Arellanes (Isaac), and Myles Perez (Lee).
The cast also features Zoë Soul (Hayley), Alisha Newton (Erin), Jaylan Evans (Skylar), Ashley Holliday Tavares (Tara), Moheb Jindran (Nikhil), Ellie O’Brien (Grace), Mya Lowe (Kiley), Gabrielle Jacinto (Olivia), Nathaniel Arcand (Mato), and Alex Quijano (Richard).
So who’s in the My Life with the Walter Boys love triangle?
At the center of it is Jackie, a straight A student with whom the similarly Type A Rodriguez identified instinctively. Building on the world of the book, she was excited to show “the layered relationships [with] both Cole and Alex,” she said. “A lot of that comes from what they both bring on-screen, because they’re such great actors.”
She thought of their triangle in comparison to Stefan, Damon, and Elena on The Vampire Diaries. “Alex is more that puppy love, that friendship, that safe [relationship], but you just love them so much,” she said. “But the Cole one is more the passionate one, the one you shouldn’t love.” Rodriguez acknowledged that both types of love have their merit, saying, “I understand Jackie’s dilemma.”
Jackie and Cole, whose dreams of a football scholarship were shattered by an injury, are “going through the same thing,” said Halsall. “Their lives are changing in ways they could never imagine and that’s why they have this connection, really.” Cole is the one she “can’t help herself with.” LaLonde, a serious hockey player all through his youth, said that he can relate to the experience of “waking up that day after it’s gone and going, now what? That feeling of, what am I now?”
Alex and Jackie are alike in different ways — “they’re both intellectual, they both love books, they’re both quiet people,” said Halsall. In the series, Alex is “super intentional about everything he does” when it comes to Jackie, and Gentry was excited to explore how Alex uses his intelligence to communicate his feelings. The Alex of the show also rides horses, Halsall said, which makes him “more of a contender” for city mouse Jackie’s romantic attentions.
It’s not just Jackie who Cole and Alex fight over. “For some reason, these two boys have just had this rivalry their entire lives,” said Halsall. “At the same time, it’s because they both want to be like the other one.”
Are the cast of My Life with the Walter Boys friends in real life?
Undoubtedly. Tudum was on set for the very last week of filming on Season 1 after a six-month shoot, so we witnessed the tight-knit cast bonding in action. Blucas called the experience “a dream job” and commends Halsall for giving the cast a voice in the storytelling. “The cast is great. I was so afraid of teenagers, just holding cell phones up, taking pictures of themselves, with no eye contact. But they’re amazing,” he said. “Sarah and I were on our phones more than them, because we’re constantly checking on our kids and our families.” LaLonde didn’t even bring his phone to set in an effort to stay present.
Gentry would even go so far as to say that being around his cast members “feels physically like you’re interacting with family. It’s the weirdest thing ever.” After the cast filmed an episode set around Thanksgiving, they all went over to Gentry’s house and had their own mini-Thanksgiving. “On Easter,” LaLonde added. Food in general is a major point of bonding for the cast, especially at Cinnaholic in Calgary — “the best cinnamon roll place you will ever go to,” said LaLonde. They loved to play Hot Seat, where they put someone in the “hot seat” and ask thought-provoking questions. “We like to learn about each other, and we all really like each other,” said LaLonde.
Many of the Walter Boys cast celebrated their birthdays during the shoot. For Fogelmanis’ birthday, the cast went on a hike and grabbed dinner. Gentry wanted the “full cowboy experience for his birthday, which I support. Very method,” said Rodriguez. So they went on a four-hour horseback ride in Canmore, right along a ridge with a huge river down below. “I’m not afraid of heights,” she said. But she would admit that she “was like, ‘Oh, my god, is anyone else freaking out or is it just me?’ But it was fine. People do it all the time.”
The day after the wrap party in August 2022, several actors took a road trip to Vancouver, British Columbia and rented a cabin on a lake. They even got a boat. Rodriguez didn’t want to think about returning home. “I’m going to be so sad because we all live in such separate places,” she said. “I’ve spent [six] months with these people and now they’re my closest friends and family.”
Where did they film My Life with the Walter Boys?
That would be in Calgary, Alberta, known as the “Texas of Canada.” As the Walters spend most of their time outdoors, live on a ranch in Colorado, and Alex competes in rodeo, finding a location that captured that Wild West splendor was crucial for Halsall. “Everybody on the crew lives in this kind of Western rodeo world,” she said. “The lovely woman that drives me [to set], Susie, she’s an ex-barrel racer. More than half the crew live on ranches and have ridden in rodeos, which is an amazing thing, because they’ve pointed out where we’ve maybe got things not quite so right and helped make [the show] more authentic. It’s really opened my eyes to this world.”
Alberta often doubles for America’s wild places. When Legends of the Fall was shot in Calgary, Walter Boys’ large animal coordinator John Scott taught Brad Pitt how to ride a horse on that film — and he re-taught him on The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. If you ask anyone on set about Scott, you’ll discover he’s considered a legend. There’s even a movie about him, True West: The John Scott Story. “He’s just an absolute king,” said LaLonde, who Scott helped train along with Rodriguez and Gentry. “You walk around with him and you feel like you’re walking with King Henry V mixed with John Wayne mixed with Pablo Escobar.”
Scott has been trying to “keep the Old West alive and make Western pictures” ever since his rodeo pals asked him to come up North and put some horses and riders together for the New Hollywood hit Little Big Man when it filmed in Calgary in 1969. He started as a riding extra and was promoted to stunt performer before heading to Hollywood when production wrapped. When Prime Cut shot in Calgary in 1972, he met Gene Hackman and became his stunt double for a while. Scott will tell you that a lot of Westerns are filmed in Calgary, seven Academy Award winners included, like Days of Heaven, Unforgiven, Brokeback Mountain, The Revenant, and Shanghai Noon.
Gentry had never ridden a horse before Walter Boys, and Scott and his team of “real cowboy” wranglers Mark Nugent and Bailey Mylan showed him the ropes. “[Gentry] took to it like a duck takes to water,” Scott said. He even invited Gentry to his box at the Calgary Stampede, where he was a marshal leading the parade with his buddy Kevin Costner. (The Stampede is a fair with the world’s largest outdoor rodeo and rides on the side.) “Ashby was really interested in seeing the rodeo and events to learn more about his part and what he should do,” said Scott. Costume designer Adejoke “Addy” Taiwo also took inspiration from the real Stampede for costumes on set for the rodeo, as “everyone plans for weeks what they’re going to wear,” she said, herself included. Most of the 180-plus extras for the rodeo even brought their own Western clothes because “everyone has a Stampede outfit.”
Who’s the creative team behind My Life with the Walter Boys?
Halsall created the series and is the showrunner. She also executive produces alongside Ed Glauser of The Kissing Booth trilogy.
The series’ writers include Halsall, Jordan Ross Schindler, Jonathon Roessler, Tawnya Bhattacharya and Ali Laventhol, Jesikah Suggs, Kelsey Barrey, and Grace Condon.
Jerry Ciccoritti, Nimisha Mukerji, Winnifred Jong, and Priestley directed the 10 episodes. Tudum was on set when Priestley (a Canadian native from Vancouver) was directing the ninth episode, set at Alex’s rodeo competition, and Halsall couldn’t praise him enough. “Because he’s an actor, he just understands where the actors are coming from all the time,” she said. “He’s so respectful and so good with the young actors and great technically and with story.”
While filming Gentry’s rodeo scenes, Priestley would call Rodriguez over to the monitor to join him in cheering on her co-star once he nailed the tricks. Priestley doesn’t consider himself an expert at horse riding, although he did learn how when he filmed Tombstone. “But I just told [Gentry] to relax and have fun because that’s the most important thing and that’s what all true horsemen do,” he said. “Your horse can tell when you’re not confident and in control.”
Priestley’s proudest moment on set was when he got to put a bow on the final episode of the first season and say, “Congratulations, everybody. Season 1 of My Life with the Walter Boys is a wrap.” “It’s not every day as a director you get to do that,” he said. “Hopefully [it’s] the first of many seasons for all the good people who worked so hard on this show.”