Greensboro native and “My Life with the Walter Boys” actor Jaylan Evans remembers going to see plays and musicals at Elon University throughout high school. As he was applying to music theatre programs across the country, Evans said he continued to find himself drawn to Elon.

“I feel like Elon chose me and I chose Elon,” Evans said. “It was like we danced and met in the middle.”

Jaylan Evans ’20 and Nikki Rodriguez in episode three, “The Cole Effect,” of the Netflix romantic drama series “My Life with the Walter Boys.” Evans and Rodriguez play Skylar and Jackie, respectively. Photo courtesy of Jaylan Evans.

Evans graduated from Elon in 2020, amid a global pandemic, and moved to New York a year later. He had two roles under his belt by then, one as a guest star in an episode of “Power Book III: Raising Kanan” and the other as a voice actor in a Netflix animated children’s show.

“Spirit Rangers” was Evans’ first project with Netflix and first job post-grad. This series allowed him to embrace his Native American identity on screen — even if it was mainly through a cartoon condor, one of several characters he voiced.

The show came out in 2022 and had an all-Native writer’s room and a largely Native cast, according to Netflix. Evans himself is a member of Haliwa-Saponi tribe, which is native to the North East piedmont region of North Carolina. He said growing up it was rare for him to see Native American representation on screen.

“We have come a long way in representation in the last five to 10 years, a long way,” Evans said. “To be a part of the movement is really special and I’ll forever cherish it.” 

In 2021, Evans leaned into the “hustle and grind energy” of New York. He worked at a men’s clothing store during the week, catered on weekends and originated a role in the punk rock musical “Punk Rock Girl.”

In 2021, Jaylan Evans '20 originated a role in the punk rock musical "Punk Rock Girl" by Joe Iconis — who is known for music from "Be More Chill." The musical premiered on Jan. 22, 2022. Photo courtesy of Jaylan Evans.

Evans had honed his rock singing at Elon, both through his classes and performing in “American Idiot” his sophomore year. The musical, based on the Green Day album of the same name, was one of three main stage shows Evans was in during his time at Elon.

“I got a very specialized niche training from this hidden gem school in the south, close to my home,” Evans said. “I mean, it just sounds bizarre, the way it all worked out so magically.”

During Winter Term his junior year, Evans played Papa Ge in “Once on This Island.” It was the first show Evans was in where every cast member was a person of color. He said the energy in rehearsals and on stage was special and something he’s continued to cherish.

“Elon looked out for its people of color. Even though when I first got there there weren’t many of us. … The program knew to embrace us,” Evans said. “I didn’t have to feel like I had to hide my culture, my background, my identity.”

In January 2019, Jaylan Evans' '20 played Papa Ge, the demon of death, in "Once on This Island." It was one of three Elon Performing Arts' main stage shows Evans participated in. Photo courtesy of Elon University Communications.

Evans brought this same energy and desire to embrace his multiracial identity when he was cast in Netflix’s “My Life with the Walter Boys” in 2022.

A young adult romantic drama series, “My Life with the Walter Boys” follows a teenage Manhattanite named Jackie who finds herself living with nine boys in a small, rural Colorado town. Cue: love triangle.

In Colorado, Skylar — Evans’ character — quickly becomes Jackie’s close friend and has his own Walter boy romance.

“Skylar is ambitious and driven and grounded and confident — all of the qualities I thought I was in high school,” Evans said.

In the book the series is based on, Skylar is Native American, but Evans said he didn’t want to shy away from his Blackness for the role. He said he worked with showrunner Melanie Halsall who changed the role to be both Black and Native, encouraging Evans to embrace his intersectionality in the role.

“To be that for little Black and brown boys is so special,” Evans said.

Jaylan Evans '20 in episode five, "Thanksgiving," of "My Life with the Walter Boys." In the episode, Evans' character Skylar helps run an event to honor the National Day of Mourning. Photo courtesy of Jaylan Evans.

Evans said one of his favorite scenes in the show to film was in episode two, “Live a Little,” when Jackie and Skylar have a heart-to-heart about their dreams for the future. Skylar opens up about his dream to be a political journalist and tells Jackie, “People from my background, we don’t have much political influence. I want to change that.”

Despite pursuing a different career, Evans said he hopes to use his work as an actor to inspire change.

“We may not be on the same path but Skylar and I are heading in the same direction,” Evans said.

“My Life with the Walter Boys” was released Dec. 7, 2023, quickly rose to No. 1 on Netflix’s “Global English Top 10 TV” list and a renewal for season two was announced less than two weeks later.

When the show came out, Evans said he found himself tagged in comments and sent messages by fans who loved the show and were grateful to see his character’s LGBTQ+ and multiracial identities on screen.

“It’s not this major thing that’s going to change the world. It’s not a huge spectacle,” Evans said. “We’re not ‘Stranger Things,’ we’re Walter Boys. … And that’s okay. The simplicity is beautiful, and I just hope people feel good and feel loved.”

Through his work in the four years since graduating from Elon, Evans said he found himself with the resources to give back to the school as a donor.

“I was only able to go to Elon because of scholarships and people helping me, so it’s such a blessing and so full circle to be able to do that now,” Evans said.

He said some of his favorite memories from Elon were the annual “Grand Night” and “Elon Cares” cabarets and the communities he found on campus.

“I’ll never forget being on campus and just feeling so alive and surrounded by creatives,” Evans said.