Wallis Day On ‘Red Sonja’, MMA Training And Transitioning From Modeling To Acting
“I fell in love with acting because it allows so much freedom and movement in front of a screen, creating a character and backstory and bringing that to life.”
You wouldn’t know it to look at her, but Wallis Day can take a punch.
“I’ve had my teeth knocked out. Yeah, we don’t fuck about in London,” says the blue-eyed blonde with cheekbones sharp enough to slice a knuckle.
“In a moment like that you almost don’t feel it, cause you have so much adrenaline and you’re in the moment. But it’s only afterward. It can even be the next day where you’re like, ‘I’m so sore!’”
Trained in boxing, mixed martial arts and Muay Thai, this face of-an-angel can handle a mean right hook.
“I got to a point with MMA where I wanted to explore Wushu and Muay Thai and all the different realms of it. All of that really fascinated me. And watching it and moving, I understood how I could use it for film,” she says. “The stunt team says, ‘Oh, she can do that. So let’s make it a bit more complicated.’ And it looks better on camera.”
How else do you expect her to pull off the fight scenes and dangerous stunts required for roles like Annisia, the titular character’s wicked half-sister in the new Red Sonja, due out next year. It won’t be the first time she plays the bad girl.
Last year she was the villainous Agent Shin in Infinite, opposite Mark Wahlberg. But most know her as the good girl, Kate Kane on CW’s Batwoman, a role she took over from Ruby Rose in the second season. The showrunners told her to forget everything Rose did, do the research and make the part her own. It worked out pretty well for Wallis, who took to school like a duck to wet cement when she was younger.
“I don’t want to get into trouble for it now. But yeah, y’know, there was a fire incident at school,” she says, having attended 11 of them in 12 years. “School wasn’t for me. It felt like I was trying to be molded into a doctor or a lawyer. There wasn’t room for a creative flow. There were a few instances where I got kicked out”—one of them incendiary.
Born and raised in the Ilford section of London, as a child Wallis woke each morning at five to deliver newspapers. On her rounds, someone would inevitably tell her she looked like a model. So one day when she was 13 years old, she did a Google search and found Models 1, a premiere agency in London.
She took four photos of herself hanging out with friends, circled her face and sent them in a letter to the agency. The next day she returned from school to be confronted by her parents. “Who’s Models 1?” they asked.
After she explained, they said, “They want to see you tomorrow for a test shoot.” “I didn’t know at the time, but my whole world changed in that moment,” she gasps.
Still a minor, Wallis was the youngest model at the agency and required a chaperone on her shoots. “When I was 15, I walked onto a photo shoot and they gave me the outfit to wear. And I came out and I was wearing these nipple tassels,” she recalls.
Luckily her mother was chaperoning and pulled her off the shoot. “I remember at the time I was like, ‘Mom, this is so embarrassing!’ Now, obviously, I understand that.”
Not your average profession for a teen, modeling isolated Wallis from both schoolmates and professional peers. “I was kind of thrown into this life where I would be going off to London and shooting with other models who would then invite me to a Vogue magazine party and sneak me in there and I’d have few drinks,” she laughs at the memory.
“I’d be on the last coach back to my parents’ house at one a.m., roll into bed. And the next day I’d roll into school with these shades on. My hair, still kind of done from the night before, a coffee and Vogue under my arm, just walking into class. Now I look back on it and it feels like a real life Hannah Montana, but in the moment, it seemed so normal.”
Her modeling career financed her studies at the Sylvia Young Theatre School and later the Arts Educational Schools in London.
“I fell in love with acting more because it allows so much freedom and movement in front of a screen, creating a character and backstory and bringing that to life. With modeling, it’s somebody else’s vision, someone else’s creative decisions. Essentially I feel like a mannequin for a brand or client rather than I was creating.”
And that’s what she’s been doing ever since school, creating. Coming from Paramount this fall is Sheroes, in which she stars as one of four friends on vacation in Thailand who find themselves in a fight for their lives.
And then there’s Netflix’s Sex/Life, in which she plays Gigi in season two. The schedule is busy for a number of reasons, but the main one is, “I can’t say no to a good time,” she laughs. “I’m young, I’m having fun and I feel very grateful for everything.”