actress / videographer / jazz singer
Before I start let me acknowledge the obvious: yes, her eyes are that striking in person. But honestly, it's easy to lose sight of them behind the loose mixture of intensity and jovialness beaming off of her like a summer sidewalk. She greeted me on the ground floor, offered to put a record on, and sized me up before carefully reflecting on her life. A few minutes passed, then a laugh came. It was a loud one, like loud enough to billow her mumu. Then we settled in and got down to it.
How does someone even start to do anything in Los Angeles? Is the pursuit of opportunity worth the endless jabs of defeat? The tropes of each city exist partially because they are true, and delving into the awkward marriage between showbiz and art with Nika was more therapeutic for both of us than we initially imagined.
"I'm not knocking on the door of my dreams, I'm begging for a chance to be able to."
On choosing Los Angeles
"When I was 8, my parents put me in the summer musical. We did 'The Little Mermaid,' and I was Ursula. I was a big lead part and loved everything about it. From then on, I remember just begging them (my parents) to take me to L.A.
One time, I made a PowerPoint presentation. (laughs) I googled Angelina Jolie's agent because I knew she started when she was a kid. In the presentation, I showed them, "look I can join this soccer team and we can live in this area and go shopping at this grocery store." I planned a life for us so that they could come too (laughs)."
On what makes a good actor
"I found in life that people don't like to listen, they like to wait to talk. And I think a really good actor makes you listen."
"Oh my God, Steve McQueen who made 'Twelve Years a Slave,' he made these two films called 'Hunger' and 'Shame'.
When 'Shame' came out and I was in the acting program and I hadn't yet started writing and directing. I watched these movies and I was like, "I need to be a filmmaker. That's going to fix everything." Like not fix but I am full of knots and it will help untie them.
These two movies are fucking magic. I've always loved photography, literature, poems, and light. A great film can bring all of those to you at once and those films really do.
'Hunger' has almost no talking and it's about the IRA revolts in Ireland in the 80s. And 'Shame' is about a man with sex addiction, his relationship with his sister and how broken that is; how broken he is. So much of the movie takes place in glass, where you can see it but you can't touch it. And that's so poetic to me. It's about what it is to be an addict, where you can see through your addiction but you can't get out of it."
"I don't have any sentimental feelings about my room as a child or anything like that. That keeps me really light and happy, I think. One of the great things that came out of my parent's [eventual] divorce and moving all the time is that you know you could only have as much stuff as you could keep in a backpack. That was definitely a founding thing of my character and my childhood. I'm glad that I am not so sentimental about a home or something like that."
"I never had a very romantic notion of what it is to be here in L.A. So I didn't think that I would come here and everything I wanted would be handed to me, that I would become a star immediately. But at least, if I tell someone like I'm an actress, a 35mm photographer, a writer and a jazz singer, they allow you to be that. And that's a lovely thing. After being made fun of for so many years for being weird, this place is a dream for me.
And yeah, I mean I struggle with my life and career. I'm not where I want to be and I have a long way to go. There is a big network that I'm going to have to break into and I've got to make concessions of my character to achieve it. There's a lot of dirt in L.A. There's a lot of money and power and commercialism and materialism that I don't subscribe to but, all of that exists because you have these artists here who are trying to make art to influence people and that's my dream."
From Morgan Hill, CA
Lives in Los Angeles, CA