Meet the Cast and Characters—Toya Turner as Christina, King of Sweden

Toya-Turner copy

Role models: My mother, Angela Bassett & Serena Williams.

Toya Turner is a Jamaican-American, who grew up in Houston, Texas. She trained at the British American Drama Academy at Oxford University. Stage credits include: SUNSET BABY (Timeline), THE RAID (Jackalope) and FOR HER AS A PIANO (Pegasus). TV/Film credits: AMERICA (Lifetime), CHICAGO FIRE (NBC) and EMPIRE (FOX). Up Next: Tracy in new series THE CHICAGO PROJECT (Showtime) and the Hero Mom in Comcast XFinity’s “Layover” Print Ad. Visit www.IAmToya.com for more!

What was your reaction when first reading Christina?
“This is mine!” And I had that reaction because I don’t think I’ve ever auditioned for a person like this before in my entire career. And I wanted it! Christina went against everything that a woman should’ve been in that time. I fell in love with that.

What do you hope the audience takes away from the production?
Tosha, our brilliant director, made a beautiful statement. And that is “…fighting against presupposed expectations, particularly in regard to gender.” I think there are so many labels and expectations in what a woman or man should be. And that shit can just be tiresome. If a man wants to be submissive, nurturing and gentle, then that’s his right. If a woman wants to be hard, strong, a warrior, then go ahead and kick ass mama! All that to say “Do you, boo!!! Do you!” 

What is the process of working on Christina like for you?
It has been very therapeutic and emotional. When I was asked to audition there were so many things going on in my life that was mirroring what Christina was going through. While in rehearsals I have been forced to deal with all of that. I have been able to come to terms with who Toya is as a woman, people’s perception of me, what my purpose is in this world etc. This has been very challenging but I know it was the best thing for me. There have been rehearsals where I’m balling on the floor during a scene, and its because I needed to do that as much as Christina did.

Why Theatre?
This play is a perfect example as to why. I get to be a Queen. A Swedish Queen. Also the relationships I’ve built in the theatre community. It truly is a 2nd family

 Why acting?
It’s exciting. It’s something new everyday. Today I’m a Swedish Queen. Tomorrow I’m a debutante from New Orleans in the 1800s. Next week I’m Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet. There is never a moment of “UGH, not this shit again”. Even the rejection has its own excitement.

What do you do when you’re not acting?
Let my family and friends tell it, that’s all I do. When I do get a chance to relax I love spending it with them. I especially love to go rollerskating with my mom and little brother. I also try to join my grandmother at bingo as much as I can.  My main goal once this production is closed is to travel. Right now I’m planning a family trip to Jamaica.

What is the best production you’ve seen? 
There’s two. The first, Eclipsed (Northlight). It was my first stage production that I ever saw outside of high school plays.  I saw these 5 beautiful black women who were fearless, enchanting and strong. And then I was like there’s no man in this show. Not a single one. I love it!!! I love the idea of that. The second, Charm (Northlight/Steppenwolf Garage). I never saw anything like it before. The characters, the subject matter. It was exciting and fresh. After the show there was a gentleman from high school crying and the man I was with went over and hugged him. They started talking about the play and why it was important to that young man. That’s when I knew: This is what theater is about. I have to be apart of this movement. 

You’ve got ten bucks: What do you buy at supermarket?
$3 bottle of wine from Whole foods. (It’s good and probably the cheapest thing you’ll get from there.) A slice of strawberry cheesecake, some chocolate (any size, any brand). Lets see that’s about $9. Oh and however much broccoli I can get with a dollar. To ease the guilt a little. 

When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A lawyer, Troy from “Brooklyn” (A Spike Lee Joint) and Tina Turner.  

What’s on your current playlist?
Beyonce’s “Formation” of course. Rihanna’s “Work”, Kendrick Lamar’s everything! I have some classical for when I study my lines and research my roles. I will break out my musicals when I’m sad: “Little Mermaid”, “DreamGirls”, “Bye Bye Birdie”, “Grease” etc. Fela Kuti’s “Zombie” and ‘Mr. Follow, Follow.’ Nina Simone is my world right now. I have so much stuff in rotation but those are my faves.


For more information about Christina, King of Sweden, check out the previous posts “Who the Hell is Christina?” and “Christina—Not Just a Symbol“!


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