“Life Unexpected” is about a 15-year-old foster child named “Lux” who reconnects with her birth parents, “Baze” and “Cate.” Not surprisingly Lux discovers her parents, who were teenagers themselves when she was born, still have a lot of growing up to do.
Fern decides whether Cate or Baze will continue to have joint custody of Lux or if she will go back to foster care. In that way her role fits the stereotypical depiction of social workers as “baby stealers.”
However, in an episode called “Family Therapized,” Fern holds a session with Lux, Cate and Baze that helps the three become honest about their feelings and begin heading down the path of becoming a true family. In that scene, Fern demonstrated the help real social workers provide families in crisis.
Walters was born in Athabasca in Canada’s Alberta province to a Dutch mother and Antiquan father who was a minister in the Anglican Church. She has appeared on the “X-Files,” “Smallville,” the “L-Word” and other television series and movies.
Walters agreed to talk to SocialWorkersSpeak.org about her social worker role on “Life Unexpected.” SocialWorkersSpeak.org is a National Association of Social Workers Web site that gets social workers talking about and influencing how they and issues they care about are portrayed in media. Here’s the interview:
Q: Did you know any real-life social workers before you took the role of Fern?
WALTERS: Before I became an actor I actually obtained a Health Science degree and was a registered nurse in an obstetric hospital that also had a rehab unit for pregnant drug addicts. I have worked with and know a number of amazing social workers!
Q: How did you prepare for the part of “Fern”?
WALTERS: My prep was based on those amazing social workers I have worked with. I also got to know some of the community social workers who liaised with the hospital social workers. They seemed to be tougher, because they had been exposed to so much more within the community, so I wanted my character to reflect that as well.
Q: There are thousands of foster care children in the system, including older ones such as “Lux” who have never been adopted for found a permanent family. Do you think “Life Unexpected” does a good job at educating the public about their plight?
WALTERS: Most of the foster children I have gotten to know are now adults and unfortunately, because I met them in a drug rehab unit, I have seen and heard the worst stories. “Life Unexpected” does an incredible job of showing an example of a foster child’s plight in life. It’s heartbreaking to see but imperative that the uninformed public gets a taste of the reality of many children out there. “Life Unexpected” is the first show to address this and I think Liz Tigelaar, the show’s creator, knew exactly what she was talking about when she wrote this. Awareness instigates change.