Nikki Rodriguez

Nikki Rodriguez conquers the love triangle trope in Netflix’s new teen drama My Life With the Walter Boys.

The ‘love triangle’ is a trope so beloved but can be difficult to authentically capture. Nikki Rodriguez is faced with this challenge as she stars in Netflix’s newest hit show, My Life with the Walter Boys which premiered back in December of 2023. The 10-episode coming-of-age teen drama follows Jackie Howard, a 15-year-old who relocates to rural Colorado to live with the Walter Family after a tragic accident involving her family leaves her orphaned. In this relocation comes independence, self-reflection and lots of boys (two to be exact). 

Rodriguez initially counted herself out of this role, not thinking she was right for it. However, the response from the show says otherwise. Instantly becoming a worldwide hit, My Life with the Walter Boys, was Netflix’s number-one show for over a month after its release. Not only did Nikki crush her role as Jackie–the show has gained a prominent fanbase and reignited the spark from the fans of its original fanbase from the 2014 Wattpad novel by Ali Novak by the same name.

1883 Magazine speaks with Nikki Rodriguez about her approach to the role, the challenges faced and the reception the show has received thus far.

Firstly, I want to congratulate you on the success of the show. It was the number-one show on Netflix for over a month, and the second season got picked up relatively early for a TV show. I just wondered how you have been finding the reception that the show has gotten, globally.

I mean, it’s crazy, it’s so exciting and actually, it’s something I really can’t wrap my head around. I hear these things, everyone says, “Oh the show is doing so well still! People LOVE it.” And I am hearing it, I do hear it, but it’s a little bit hard to believe it all. When we were making the show, we thought that we had something really special, that’s always the hope, but you never know how something is going to be perceived so there’s always this anxious lull before it’s released into the world. It’s been amazing. I’m so grateful. People have been very kind, I couldn’t imagine a better experience than this. So, I’m really happy, it’s fun.

It’s so lovely that the momentum has continued over the last few weeks, it must be very surreal for you as an actor.

Yeah, I mean that’s exactly the word for it. It’s so surreal. I’m happy people are still discovering it because, after the initial release week, you don’t know how long people will be discovering it for. But right now, it’s amazing and super, super exciting.

Ali Novak wrote the story when she was 15 years old, which is the age of your character, Jackie. The writing lends itself to a real young adult, teen-centric narrative, it is a great coming-of-age piece. What was it about the project that initially interested you? 

I just loved the script when I read it for the first time! I actually wasn’t familiar with the book but as soon as I got the audition, I rented it from the library. I really loved the book and I loved the TV script so I was really excited to audition for it. I say this all the time, but I totally counted myself out of the role. l just didn’t think that I was right for it. Which I think we do as actors because it’s hard auditioning all the time, so if you can kind of like protect yourself from it a little bit, it makes it a little easier. So I did that, I was like, “Well this is super cool and I’m just gonna have fun with it.” I just really love how Jackie is. She’s really strong and independent and she experiences this unimaginable tragedy and she continues to wake up and choose herself every day and to keep on going. She actually could give up and I don’t think that anybody could fault her for that, but she just chooses to find the light on the other side every single day. I don’t see that a lot in a lot of young female characters, so I was really, really drawn to her tenacity and resilience.

I think that’s a really good way to put it. That leads me to my next question because something that I liked about the first episode was that we meet her as the life-changing event is happening to her, we haven’t had a few episodes to get to know her first. Your portrayal of grief draws the audience into Jackie immediately. How was it for you to play a character who immediately loses everything?

It was a real challenge, to be honest. Particularly because we shot so out of order. We ended up starting in the middle of the season because we shot in Calgary, Canada. So, the weather affected our shooting schedule. It was snowing in April, so to follow with the school year, we had to start in the middle of the season, and we jumped around. By the time we got to episodes one and two, we were already four episodes in. It was quite a challenge for me because of how Jackie is experiencing everything in that first year. She is dealing with this whole tragedy and she’s also moving to a new town with this new family and then she’s getting wrapped up in a love triangle! It was hard to lean into one instance or the other because there were so many things happening and we were shooting out of order. I really did my best to make sure that it was coherent and that you could follow some sort of arc.

I wanted to show the numbness of what that would be like to lose your whole family. Jackie is not the type of person who would just fall apart and let everything just crumble and destroy her. She may come off a little bit stoic and like she’s not affected but I think that’s just a defence mechanism for her because she’s just trying to make it to another day. The way she deals with things is that she kind of blocks it out a little bit and all of these other emotions start to fill that void of what she’s lost and that’s ultimately how she gets mixed up in this love triangle with two other boys. Who knows, maybe later on you’ll see how it all does come out and affect her, because she has pushed it down for so long. But I think that’s a human way to experience things and that was my hope and intention for her.

I agree, it’s a very human portrayal. She really does go through such a journey in those 10 episodes. Obviously, in the season finale, we see her going to New York. What did you feel about her decision to go?

When I read it for the first time I was actually shocked because it seemed like Jackie finally found her footing in Colorado, so I was like, “No way,” but, you know, it could be perceived in two different ways; feel like she kind of made a mess of things and decided to run away from her problems or she decided that she was going to choose herself and it wasn’t about either boy and she was going to go back to New York. I can relate to both perceptions, but I’m going to choose that she chose herself and she’s going to New York and that it’s not always about a boy! 

I really like that take, something that has been dominating everything I see about the show on social media is the love triangle. As a viewer, I kind of hate love triangles, I want to see more about a character than her existing in either one of these relationships. It always becomes about the love triangle and not the character and her agency over herself. What are your feelings about the triangle? 

I guess I did expect it to be honest. It was important to me that the love triangle was strong because I know that’s a huge part of the book and a huge part of the show. I mean, I agree with what you said, at the end of the day, I’m always going to be team Jackie and so I don’t think we should gloss over the fact that Jackie’s a very strong, independent woman and she doesn’t choose to be in this love triangle, it just happens to her. I wanted to be strong and truthful for both Alex and Cole because they are so great, and they’re also so different and I wanted them to be very layered, and I wanted people to love both sides. I wanted people to love Alex because he’s so sweet and sensitive and romantic–who doesn’t love that?

Then I wanted people to love Cole because he’s like, that bad boy that you shouldn’t love but you do anyways. Also, he is really sensitive deep down, but you have to tear down all these walls. It was important to me that I did the love triangle justice, or at least attempted to. One of the things I would do is make playlists for both Cole and Alex. One I had for Alex was “Golden” by Harry Styles, I think it really encapsulates him and the relationship. And a song I had for Cole was “Halley’s Comet” by Billie Eilish. I feel like that helped. So I’m glad people are split, I think that’s the fun of it. 

I think what the three of you have done with creating such different chemistry was wonderful to watch as a viewer

Thank you. I’m grateful to hear you say that. I think that’s honestly a testament to the casting team. We all get along very, very well and we all really, really love each other and we’re very close friends. It was honestly just like best best-case scenario, I couldn’t have imagined anything better. Sometimes, I see comments that are like, ‘She doesn’t have any chemistry with either one’ And I’m like, Well, did you just watch one episode? 

I’m actually very shocked to hear that because I’ve seen so many comments where people are saying they actually don’t mind who Jackie is ‘with’ because you all work so well together.

That was my exact intention. So I’m really glad to hear you say that. Thank you.

 The show has had a fantastic reception and has been picked up for a second season, what would you personally like to see for Jackie in season two? 

I’m always going to be team Jackie, so I want to see her continue to follow her dreams and get into Princeton and you know, whatever happens between the boys, happens between the boys. She obviously did make a kind of mess, so I am interested to see how her relationships have changed with Cole and Alex and how she even comes back to Colorado. I don’t know what that looks like. I thought about it for a while, but you know, as an actor, you’re kind of the last to know what’s going to happen so I don’t think about it too in-depth, so I’m just open and I’m excited to see what happens. I cannot wait!

My Life With The Walter Boys is streaming now on Netflix

Interview Amelia Walker
Photography Jesse Volk

You don't have permission to register