Piece of Her: Breaking Through
Talia Jackson, 19-year-old actress and musician, is the epitome of perseverance. After 11 frustrating years in the industry, she’s finally made her breakthrough as the star of Netflix’s Family Reunion, and she’s not looking back.
At just 7 years old, she moved to California with her mother and brother, fellow actor Armani Jackson, to pursue a career in entertainment. However, it was challenging for the mixed-race Jackson to find her place in the industry. “Back then, it was only ever the white lead or the Black lead, you didn’t really see any mixed-race leads or diversity,” she says. Because of her lighter complexion, she found herself boxed into primarily auditioning for roles of side characters or those without familial storylines. “I obviously couldn’t play Caucasian roles, and they just didn’t think I looked dark enough, or ethnic enough to play African-American roles, so I just kind of sat and waited,” she recalls.
Waiting for the right role took a huge toll on her bright spirit, and she even came close to saying goodbye to acting for good. When she was ready to throw in the towel, her family stepped in to help reinvigorate her passion and remind her of her dreams. “My mom was always very supportive, and she really wouldn’t allow me to drop out of it,” she adds. “I have her and really my whole family to thank for that.” Luckily for Jackson, when it rains, it pours. Her audition drought ended with nabbing roles in Family Reunion and ABC’s Station 19 in the same month.
Her rapid ascent didn’t come without a new set of obstacles, though. As Jade McKellan in Family Reunion, Jackson plays the role of a teenage girl trying to find her place in the world – not far off from the role she plays in her own life. She then received swift backlash from audiences for being “too white” to play Jade, the daughter of a Black family. “It was hard for me because I was having to defend myself and who I am, and people were still not having it,” she says. “In reality, this is how biracial people look.”
While facing a wave of criticism, fortunately, an outpouring of love and support came from fans, co-stars, and family alike. Jackson boldly transformed the social-media debate into a learning opportunity for Family Reunion viewers. Standing up for herself, she realized she had a unique passion: to be a role model for kids and fans just like her. “All I wanted as a kid was to see someone who represented me on television, and I’m so glad that I now get to be that for the next generation,” she shares. “I hope that they see me and feel less alone.”
In addition to being a strong exemplar for the younger generation, she also uses her social-media platform to advocate for social justice and equality. Sharing her own stories of racism and commenting on the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd earlier this year, Jackson urges the youth to stand up for what they believe in. And she knows they can do it. Moreover, after a global health crisis, environmental disasters, nationwide social unrest, and rampant misinformation on subjects like the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, the road to recovery for our world and our nation will be a long one; radical reforms are required for us to forge ahead. “I think my generation can have all the power. We have, together, a very strong voice. I think as long as we continue to stand together, we are capable of everything,” she affirms.
Writer: Summer Myatt
Photographer & Videographer: Haldane Morris
Editor: Eiko Watanabe
Special thanks to EPK Media (@myepk & @epkmedia - epkmedia.com)