The expression “he marches to the beat of his own drum” doesn’t even begin to cut it for Walker Babington. For the Severna Park native and actor — most recently appearing in the hit Apple TV+ show “Black Bird” — there isn’t a drum loud or eccentric enough to convey how fascinating he is.
I was fortunate to witness one of Babington’s first performances, in the spring of 2003, when he streaked across the old George Roberts Stadium field during the Severna Park High School boys varsity lacrosse state semifinal game. The ball was in play, and two coaches from the opposite team were off-duty state troopers.
“They caught up to me as I tried to scale the back fence, roughed me up pretty good — I'm still naked at this point, mind you, with the entire student body watching — and I got hauled off to jail with a blanket wrapped around me,” Babington recounted.
It was the end of his senior year as a Falcon. Babington not only spent the night in jail, but he couldn’t attend prom or graduation and was suspended for the remainder of the year. If memory serves him right, he took his final exams in a janitor’s closet.
“If I am going to be bloody and in a jail cell, I prefer the blood to be fake and the jail a film set,” Babington said.
Lucky for him, his recent stint as an actor has offered that scenario.
“Black Bird” is an American crime drama. Babington shows up in a pivotal scene in episode three as a nasty character named Falco. It’s his only scene in the show, but it's a bold one. Babington worked one-on-one opposite the show’s lead, Taron Egerton, who won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Elton John in “Rocketman.”
“I'd highly recommend ‘Black Bird,’” Babington said. “It's heavy and dark and violent but beautifully done. The writing is impeccable, the acting and action are top-notch, and the cinematography alone will probably win it some awards.”
That “action” includes Babington’s own stunt. A graduate of the International Stunt School in Seattle, he is occasionally hired solely as a stunt performer or an actor. However, his favorite jobs are ones that use both skill sets, such as the “Black Bird” role.
Toward the end of Babington’s scene in “Black Bird,” his character is beaten up. That 15-second clip, as his character is progressively battered, took about three hours to film. To sell the illusion of reality, the show’s creators filmed the punching part repeatedly. Between takes, they put Babington in a makeup chair and added more and more prosthetic injuries to his face to seamlessly illustrate the progression.
“Through stunt work, I discovered acting, and subsequently found my niche as either an actor who does his own stunts or a stuntman who can deliver lines,” he said.
In addition to the “Black Bird” gig, Babington has held numerous other roles, including appearances in “The Magnificent Seven” film with Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt, being a stuntman for Sam Rockwell in the film “Better Living Through Chemistry” and an episode of “NCIS: New Orleans.”
“I also played a mugger who gets ripped off a moving motorcycle by a crime-fighting luchador in a Disney show called ‘Ultra Violet & Black Scorpion,’ which came out this past summer,” said Babington before quickly adding, “and have now played characters in three different films and stunt-doubled someone in a fourth who have taken bullets to the head.
“I absolutely love being a part of the filmmaking process and performing inside of the ‘movie magic’ machine,” Babington said.
As far as upcoming work, Babington had a small role in the TV adaptation of "Interview With the Vampire," which premiered October 2 on AMC. He also played a real-life photographer in an upcoming Will Smith period piece called "Emancipation." Babington is currently working on an Apple series about the hunt for John Wilkes Booth, in which he plays one of Booth's co-conspirators.
“To connect to the role, I visited Ford’s Theatre in [Washington], D.C. while I was back in Maryland over the summer and invited Mike Kandra, my former Severna Park High School history teacher, with whom I've stayed in touch over the years to join me,” Babington said.
Babington traveled to Los Angeles recently for his role in the Will Smith picture, but most of his work, “Black Bird” included, is around New Orleans, where he currently resides with his wife and 4-year-old daughter.
“We've got a solid film industry down here [in New Orleans], not to mention a pretty amazing art community,” Babington said. “When I'm in between film projects, I keep myself busy in my woodshop/art studio working on artwork.”
One Last Look At Streaking
Safe to say, streaking was one of Babington’s earliest stunts. After all these years, I had to ask, “If you could do it over again, would you still streak?”
“I honestly wouldn't say that the streaking incident was any kind of ‘turning point’ for me; moreover, one point of many along a rather absurd trajectory which, nearly 20 years later, has led me to just about the happiest life I can imagine,” Babington said. “So, although I got into a fair amount of trouble for it, if I could go back, yes I would still make the same decision.”