Actor. Playwright. Singer/songwriter. Poet. Valyn Lyric Turner is a multi-talented individual who has always gravitated toward artistic and creative expression through performing arts — she began acting in theater productions at the age of 7 and staged her own variety shows at her home as a child. 

As poet of the month for a class of first-graders at a school in California, Turner participated in a Q&A video chat with the students, and she recalls them asking how she knew how to express herself. 

“It’s just what I kind of feel like I’m made to do. It’s not something I ever decided to do,” the 22-year-old said. “Since I’ve experienced emotions and since I’ve been hurt by the world or inspired by the world, I’ve always channeled it into some artistic expression.” 

Portrait by Patrick Marcigliano

A 2019 graduate of Lanier High School, Turner attended Boston University, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in theatre arts and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish in 2023. 

While most of her acting work has been on a theater stage, Turner added a role in a feature-length film to her resume — she plays Amy in the Lifetime Movie Network film “My Acting Coach Nightmare.” The storyline follows a mother, Lisa, whose teenage daughter signs up for acting classes recommended by her friend Amy. As Sienna’s classes progress, Lisa becomes suspicious of the acting coach, Max. When Sienna becomes Max’s favorite student, Amy expresses her own concerns about the coach. Sienna becomes more distant and defensive of the extra time she spends with Max, which leads Sienna — and her mother — into a dangerous situation.

“It’s based on a million true stories,” Turner said of the film. “I think it’s good for people to watch and know that (grooming in the entertainment industry) does happen, still, and ask ourselves, ‘How can we protect young, professional students with stars in their eyes and how can we direct them to the right kind of leadership and guidance?’”  

Following a theater showcase for graduating seniors at Boston University in mid-May last year, Turner signed with the Andrew Wilson Agency based in New England. Her first audition with the talent agency was for the Lifetime Movie Network feature. Filming for “My Acting Coach Nightmare” was completed in June 2023, and Turner spent four days on location in Rhode Island filming for the role of Amy. She said the film production company, Verdi Productions, which is based in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, is a company that really supports the cast members working on its projects. 

“It was a really great entrance into the movie scene,” she said. “For my first feature-length film, it was nice to have that sort of net below me to catch me, this really tight community.” 

Valyn Lyric Turner performs the role of Dottie in a scene from the play “Diaspora!” with New Repertory Theatre in Boston. Photo by
Ken Yotsukura.

Going from stage to screen was a process for Turner. 

“I remember thinking on the first day, I got really frustrated by the end of it, thinking it wasn’t for me,” she said, explaining that she felt trapped by the camera as it limits the space to move, express and react, whereas actors on the theater stage are encouraged to take up space. 

“That was really challenging for me,” she said, “and I didn’t know how to redirect that physical energy.” 

Turner contacted her movement professor, Yo-el Cassell, from Boston University. 

“He helped me rethink the whole process of it,” she said. “I came back the next day and tried the new approach.” 

Turner said she doesn’t believe acting on stage is the same as acting on screen — same toolbox but with different tools, she said.  

“I was really interested in the sort of translation of theater acting to on-screen acting and how that sort of lived in my body,” Turner said. “Different actors and acting teachers have different philosophies about this. 

“To the people who think it’s the exact same, I beg to differ,” she laughed. “It’s the same in essence, but you do have to edit things in terms of scale.” 

Turner’s next project is a play — “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” a comedy by Christopher Durang — with the professional, nonprofit theater company Gloucester Stage based in the town of Gloucester in Massachusetts. The show opens June 2. 

Whether she’s performing on a theater stage or in front of a camera, Turner said acting is about connections — “Whether that’s through choreography or music, or even just the dialogue, staying in sync and being present with all these other people, that sort of interaction breathes connection.” 

Turner is also passionate about education and connecting with students — when she’s between plays and projects, she works as a substitute teacher for a public school system in Brookline, Massachusetts, primarily filling in for Spanish teachers. 

The last time Turner was back home in the Sugar Hill area, Lanier High School teacher Collin Jones invited her to speak with student leaders about the selection process for the Lanier Student Leadership Team. Turner was part of that team while at Lanier, as well as the county-wide Gwinnett Student Leadership Team. 

“I love doing stuff like that and pouring back into that community because Lanier built me and helped me through much of my life,” Turner said. 

Turner will share her talent and knowledge this summer at Boston University, where she will serve as assistant director of the university’s summer theatre institute, a four-week, pre-college intensive for high school students in July. This is the third consecutive year Turner has taught acting for the program. 

Turner is the daughter of Venita and Fred Turner of Buford. 

“My Acting Coach Nightmare” is available for rent on Amazon Prime Video. Click here for more information. 

Turner has requested that her Instagram handle be shared to allow youth interested in acting and performing arts to contact her. Follow Turner on Instagram @valynlyricturner and reach out to her through the platform.

FEATURED PHOTO: Valyn Lyric Turner films a scene for the Lifetime Movie Network film “My Acting Coach Nightmare.” The thriller is Turner’s first feature-length film. Special photo. 

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Deanna Allen has served as editor of the North Gwinnett Voice since June 2021. Effective communication and creative design are her passions.

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