Courtney Nichole: “Keep making deposits”

I truly believe my career as a teacher, trying to instill a belief in my students that they can live their dreams, helped me realize that I still had some dreams that I needed to put action to. So, I retired early and have been going after my dream of being “a star” ever since! As […]

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I truly believe my career as a teacher, trying to instill a belief in my students that they can live their dreams, helped me realize that I still had some dreams that I needed to put action to. So, I retired early and have been going after my dream of being “a star” ever since!

As a part of our series about Inspirational Women In Hollywood, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Courtney Nichole.

Chicago native Courtney Nichole is a multi-faceted actress that can be seen starring as series regular, Leah, in Tyler Perry’s new comedy series, “Assisted Living” premiering this September on BET. In the series, Leah is the supportive wife of Jeremy, a patriarch of a young family who decides to move to the backwoods of Georgia to help his crazy grandfather after he has purchased a run-down home for the elderly. Courtney’s career also includes roles in the Amazon Prime show, Not for Nothin’ as the vivacious talent rep, Alicia, as well as Lifetime’s Sinister Surrogate and the Fullscreen produced show, H8ters. Other credits include the Emmy award-winning Proctor & Gamble Commercial The Talk, TV drama series, S.W.A.T, and Snowfall. A theater actress at heart, Courtney starred in a production of August Wilson’s Fences, as well as starred in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play No Place to be Somebody, produced by Tina Knowles Lawson & Richard Lawson at The WACO Theater Center.

Courtney was bit by the acting bug early on, starring in her first play at 11-years old and taking ballet classes throughout her childhood. In high school, she kept her love for performing and her creative side alive through her extra-curricular activities including concert choir & fashion club. However, post-high school, Courtney made room for another passion of hers, education. Her love for kids and teaching lead her to pursue and ultimately earn her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with a minor in English language arts. Although she began teaching after graduation she still gravitated towards the stage and found herself getting involved with all the school’s student lead productions. Courtney would always encourage her students to live their dreams and in her late twenties, after some serious soul searching, she decided that she was ready to live her own. She resigned from education and since then, has leaned into her acting career fulltime. Courtney and her loving husband, Jamald Gardner, share a beautiful son together. In her spare time, she is devoted to charitable functions in support of causes close to her heart, including social justice and body positivity. She also loves to hit the golf course & cook for her friends & family… she’s known to make a mean chicken pot pie!

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Thanks for having me. I grew up on the south side of Chicago and I come from a blended family; before there was really even a name for it. My mom was a stay-at-home mom, my gramps lived with us and both my dad and stepdad were in my life. Any chance I get, I like to remind my stepdad, Danny, about the time he smeared my lipstick across my face on prom night. I know right, let me try to help him out. I was all set to attend my junior prom at Kenwood Academy. I remember coming down the back steps, being super excited seeing my then boyfriend and my parents. In one swift wipe, I was one embarrassed teen. My daddy Danny claims he was merely having a hard time looking at his “baby” all grown up, but honey… I was so done with him that I ran back up the stairs to fix my makeup, crying. My mom may have had a few words with him, I don’t really know she never did that in front of me; but everything worked out in the end, of course. In moments like those I would question if having two dads was that great of a blessing, but I know it is! As a parent myself now, I kind of understand where he was coming from. It was prom night though, but I forgive the old man. He’s going to get me for that one.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

You know, when I was younger, I used to tell my mom that I wanted to be a star! So, to feed the creative in me, she let me model, take ballet, choir, karate, and would enroll me in the programs at ETA Theatre in Chicago, which allowed me to try Katherine Dunham Dance, introduced me to the piano — and the best part for me was getting to perform on stage, I was smitten and bitten. After college, I followed another passion of mine, teaching! My 8th grade teacher, Ms. Dylester Palm, sparked that interest in me, being such a great role model herself. I truly believe my career as a teacher, trying to instill a belief in my students that they can live their dreams, helped me realize that I still had some dreams that I needed to put action to. So, I retired early and have been going after my dream of being “a star” ever since!

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Ha! Meeting my 2nd husband. Let me say that starting out in this field I wanted to be careful about dating guys “in the industry”. I never wanted anyone to be able to say that I sleep my way to the top. I wanted to get there on the strength of my work ethics and talents, so I never really considered dating a fellow actor. Interestingly enough, I met my friend, and now husband working on a play that we were both cast in years ago. I tried running from him for a little while, told myself no this can’t be… until one day I said, “Yes”! I don’t think he pulled any strings and called Mr. Tyler Perry on my behalf. LOL Just kidding, but what husband wouldn’t. Shout out to my forever boo, Jamald Gardner.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Hmmm, this is a good one. I mistakenly learned how valuable bobby pins are to keep a wig in place one night while playing Rose in a production of August Wilson’s Fences. You know the part when they get into the big fight and Rose claps back by telling Troy that she’s been standing right there with him? Okay great, well, in the midst of me telling him that it didn’t take “No eighteen years to find out the soil was hard and rocky”…my wig flies off! Even now, I shake my head and laugh replaying that moment in my head. I didn’t have time to be embarrassed. I picked that wig up so fast and made it a prop; kind of like a mama talking with a dishtowel in her hand. That’s the thing about theater…it’s live, baby. You have to roll with the punches, be water.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

OMG, so many people have played a part in helping me get to where I am today. Two of my favorite people are Bobby and Renee Peoples. We’ve loss, won, and celebrated over the years and I love them dearly. Bobby and Renee own TPN, which is a production team that has given so many actors their “first lines”, including me. As a matter of fact, I became eligible for the union after working on one of their projects. Our relationship now expands beyond those “first lines” of course, I now consider them family. I’m forever grateful for them; they have sown into my life, my dreams, and my family. Keep them on your watch list

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

Keep making deposits. The ROI, return on investment, into yourself is unmatched. Don’t ever stop putting action to your dreams! They’re yours, God gave them to YOU for a reason. We recently lost Chadwick Boseman, so in his honor I’d like to quote him, “If you are willing to take the harder way, the more complicated one, the one with more failures at first than successes, the one that has ultimately proven to have more meaning, more victory, more glory then you will not regret it”.

What drives you to get up every day and work in TV and Film? What change do you want to see in the industry going forward?

I want to see people that look like me. Representation matters. So, shout out to my full-figured women, my women over 25 that are carving out their purpose, and to every person whose dream has been deferred… it’s your season, it’s booking season! This year has been so interesting. I believe some of the changes I’d like to see happen are actually on the lips of many during this season… representation, in any area you can think of.

You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?

I’m currently starring in Tyler Perry’s new hit show on BET, Assisted Living. The show also stars David & Tamela Mann, J. Anthony Brown, Na’im Lynn, and two of my favorite teenagers Alex Henderson and Tayler Buck. You can catch it on Wednesday nights right after the return of House of Payne. Where do I see myself heading from here? The sky is the limit… from the schoolhouse to a household name.

We are very interested in looking at diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture and our youth growing up today?

Again, I’m a firm believer that representation matters. Diversity is important because for one, we live in America; the melting pot of the world. That should be represented on television and film, on the radio, behind the scenes, everywhere. It’s also important because we ALL have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, right? Well, I believe for that theory to be true opportunities have to be available for BIPOC. We have to continue to revisit conversations on equity; which is the bottom line for me.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. Everyone isn’t happy for you… and that’s okay. I can pretty much guarantee that they are dealing with their own stuff, but remember, be water. Don’t let them steal your joy or knock you off your square, stay razor focused.

2. Invest in yourself, your craft… a few ways to do that are to get good headshots, work on compiling your footage for a reel, massage valuable relationships and take classes/professional development.

3. Morals and boundaries are vital to any relationship, even your relationship with your dream… find a healthy balance that doesn’t govern your art.

4. Celebrate the small wins too… don’t just celebrate when you “book the gig”, celebrate getting in the room, writing sessions, monologue slams, callbacks, all of it. There are people that aren’t getting those opportunities. Gratitude.

5. Toughen up that skin… no self-sabotaging, go after your dreams with no brakes and let any rejections be fuel to help propel you to the next level.

Can you share with our readers any self-care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.

Self-care is so essential. To start, I go with things that I love like being outdoors and near the water. I lived in Atlanta for 13 years and though they have a man-made beach, that’s one of the things I love most about LA… they have all the beaches! I love to let the sun, sand, and water kiss my skin; the combination is a natural exfoliant. A few years ago, I took up golf to help my body, mind and heart thrive. My husband and I did most of our courting on the golf course so hitting the green is special and soothing to me. The scenery is beautiful, the air is fresh, and I love the occasional spotting of a deer, turkey, rabbit or squirrel. Now, those squirrels will climb on your golf cart and go after your snacks so be careful. Listening to audio books has become another one of my great escapes. Before ‘Rona came knocking, I spent a lot of time in my car running around and they made great time fillers. Lastly, as of late I have found meditation & yoga to be quite helpful with centering my body and my thoughts.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Always go higher. I was working on this song with a pianist years ago when she stopped me and said, “Always go higher. You’d rather be sharp than flat”. Boom! Honey, I’ve been using the first part of what she said to me ever since. I mean, it’s similar to the “cut the cloth too long” analogy, right? Well, it became my answer to regular, day-to-day life questions, and what’s key is how it always seems to apply. Always go higher.

You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

If I could inspire a movement it would be Black Lives Matter and the complete dismantling of white supremacy. Now, I believe there are many lanes within the movement like: mental health, housing, community building, economic justice, mass incarceration, justice in policing, and as a former educator, I feel my lane is education! We need all hands-on deck. It’s time for a “Civil Rights” upgrade… 2020 style. In the words of a real one, Nipsy Hustle, the marathon continues. Oh, fill out the Census and vote.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

Well, I’m just going to go ahead and dream BIG! I would love to have lunch with Oprah! She gave my hometown of Chicago so many beautiful years of television with her talk show; she gives us content via her cable channel, OWN, and she founded a school for girls in Africa. Ms. Oprah Winfrey is always dropping golden nuggets and I’m ready to absorb!

Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?

I’m absolutely on social media, we have to be these days. I remember being shy about even getting a Facebook page and look at us know. On Twitter, Instagram and Facebook my handle is @TheReelCourtney. My YouTube profile handle is @MsCourtneyNichole

This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

Thank you for the representation! Much continued success to you and yours as well!

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