We are in the streets fighting for basic human rights. Artists and activists are not so far apart from each other. You can call yourself an activist or not. But the truth is, artists and activists use their imagination to envision a world that does not yet exist and work towards making the world a better place.
The only thing that is going to change is the acknowledgement of where our culture actually comes from. Fashion, film, music, etc. all comes from a diverse background but has been whitewashed to think only a certain group has viable ideas. It is absolutely necessary for the industry to have all voices in the mix.
Asa part of our series about Inspirational Women In Entertainment , I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Nicole Leier.
Nicole G. Leier is an award-winning actor, producer and director. As an independent producer and director, she has produced award winning films and commercial projects for companies such as Hootsuite and YouTube. As a young actor, she began her career working on the TV series Edgemont Road for CBC. More recently her award-winning film, BLACK CHICKS, produced with acclaimed writer, director and Showrunner, NEIL LABUTE gained her a prestigious Leo award nomination for her work as the lead actor in the film. Her film Henry’s Glasses (Co-Director & Producer) won Best Canadian Short Film by the NFB, Best Picture at The Oregon Disorient International Film Festival and many more.
As an actor, she has worked with some of the best directors in the industry, including ROBERT REDFORD, JAMES CAMERON, JAMES FRANCO and SETH ROGAN. Recently, she wrapped production acting alongside, academy award winning actor, NICOLAS CAGE. These experiences have made her well known for creating authenticity in her projects.
Currently she is developing several projects through her production company, Black Tree Pictures. Nicole is currently producing and directing new films. She has many exciting projects coming up and is a true testament of what hard work can achieve.
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?
My story is not a pretty story. I had an alcoholic father figure and turbulent home life that I am very thankful to have gotten myself out of. I made the very hard choice at a very young age to leave home and make a way for myself. I only just recently found my biological father, who happens to be Tanzanian, and it was such a powerful moment. Finally learning my ancestry was very important. I don’t say this so everyone can feel sorry for me. I share this to encourage people. In the words of Barack Obama, “It doesn’t matter where you start, it matters where you end up.” That is one thing you have complete control over. Knowing where I come from keeps me fueled. Knowing what the worst looks like keeps me moving forward.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I remember the exact moment I officially decided to make this a career. I was in high school and I was in the play “Oliver Twist”. And when we took our final bow, I knew then and there that we had accomplished something special and there was no turning back. This career path chose me, I didn’t choose it. I feel called to tell stories for the people who can’t, stories that make the world a better place, stories that educate, and stories that help people in unique situations see themselves represented.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
There have been monumental strides forward in our industry that we have all experienced in some form or fashion. The #OscarsSoWhite hashtag put a spotlight on the industry’s lack of diversity. The #MeToo movement put a spotlight on Hollywood’s abuse of power. The entertainment industry is finally being held accountable and making a real effort to close the gap on opportunities offered to historically marginalized groups.
The filmmakers of my last movie, A Score to Settle, changed the part from male to female for me and this gives me hope that things are moving in the right direction. I’m also hopeful that we will continue to solidify efforts to make lasting change in our industry and our world.
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?
It was my first big gig. I was a recurring actor on the show “Edgemont Road,” and I was very nervous. When I was younger, I was a bit of an emotional eater and I thought it would help. So, I convinced the director that my character should be eating during the scene, specifically gummy bears. I was so wrong. You can’t say your lines and be connected with the other actors when your mouth is full of candy and you’re chewing nervously. Not to mention eating gummy bears all day, over and over, take after take. It was not fun. Lesson learned: I don’t eat on camera anymore …unless it’s for a commercial. I will eat for money.
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?
This is so true, and I have many people that I’m grateful for, who continue to support me no matter how many crazy ideas I have.
Marc Dube, an amazing writer that I have known since I was a director’s assistant days. One of the things I love about Marc is that he will always keep it real. CSI: Miami (2003–2012), Falling Skies (2014–2015), Beyond (I) (2016–2018), Instinct (2019)
Brendan Uegama, award-winning, world-class cinematographer, known for Child’s Play (2019), Riverdale (2017) and Katy Keene (2020)
Indira Lorick published sci-fi and fantasy author (Five Minutes at Hotel Stormcove, Murder Monday Podcast) is my writing partner and BFF for life. This one HOLDS me together…. she is my ride or die.
I’m also extremely honored to have the continued support of Mr. Neil Labute — In the Company of Men (1997), The Wicker Man (2006), Nurse Betty (2000). Neil was the writer and director of the film, Black Chicks, and I feel like it is the most important piece of art that I have made to date. Neil wrote a wrote a book of plays, Exhibit A, that contained a piece I highly value called Black Girls. I put the play up in Los Angeles until work had me traveling to Vancouver for a new project. As luck would have it, Neil happened to be in Vancouver as well, working on TV Show Van Helsing, and through a mutual connection, I got the opportunity to pitch him on the idea of making it a film and Black Chicks was born.
Just to name a few…….
You have been blessed with great success in a career path that many have attempted, but eventually gave up on. In fact, perhaps most people who tried to follow a career path like yours did not succeed. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path but know that their dreams might be dashed?
Failure is not exclusive to artists. Everyone, no matter their industry, has to overcome hurdles in some way. We as actors are told to always have a plan B to fall back on. I always said I would never have a plan B because if I did, I would probably take it. This is a long game. Don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s. There is no such thing as an overnight success. Set your sights on your dreams, work smarter, work harder and always keep going. Never give up! As artists we can never give up. The world needs us more than ever right now.
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” ―Nelson Mandela
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m working on some really exciting projects! I have a feature film in pre-production that I am acting in and directing. I am very happy to say we have a star-studded cast on board, including David Cubitt, who I am very happy to be working with again.
I have a sci-fi tv series in development with my writing partner, Indira Lorick, following a journalist’s investigation into a string of deaths at a psych ward. Indira and I also have a second feature film in the works that I hope will show a new perspective on human trafficking.
There are a few other projects that I am involved with, but I can’t say much about them at the moment.
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?
I could give you a million reasons why diversity is important, but I think we need to think about the fact that we even have to have this conversation. We are in the streets fighting for basic human rights.
Artist and activists are not so far apart from each other.
You can call yourself an activist or not. But the truth is, artists and activists use their imagination to envision a world that does not yet exist and work towards making the world a better place.
The only thing that is going to change is the acknowledgement of where our culture actually comes from. Fashion, film, music, etc all comes from a diverse background but has been whitewashed to think only a certain group has viable ideas. It is absolutely necessary for the industry to have all voices in the mix.
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? Kindly share a story or an example for each.
I always take the time to make my own coffee in the morning and self-reflect. It’s the perfect time to think about life and mediate on how I want to move forward and the moves I want to make. It was not always like this, and at times it not easy to sit still, but I find it’s very important to calm my mind andset my goals for the day in a positive mindset.
I take voice class every week. I want to make sure my voice is rooted in truth and grounded when speaking on set, while acting, and in meetings. Music has long been a considered soothing and healing practice. Studies have shown people who take private piano or voice lessons develop higher IQ’s and I feel it helps with mycreativity and artistic awareness.
I also try to work out every day and I feel like this is a huge part of self-care. I love to lift weights.
Weight training requires an intense level of focus and helps my confidence. I know that weight lifting is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea but what training with weights has done for my body and both my physical and mental strength is awesome, and I honestly don’t think it will be long until I stand alongside the rest of The Avengers — or that’s how I feel after I’ve absolutely smashed a training session.
You can check out my IG @kissmyincomimgabs for more on my fitness work.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
‘’Everybody is going to have an opinion on you; not everyone is going to like you. You can’t live your life based on other people’s opinions of you or let that change what you do or how you feel about yourself, because then you’re not living.’’
• Rumer Willis
I never let others hold me back. This quote reminds me that sometimes we have the help of family and friends and sometimes we have to do things all on our own. I love this quote and it has helped me in times remember that I have to stand on my own two feet and to continue to be brave with my ideas even if people don’t like me.
The fact is, we all want to be liked, but it is good to know that not everyone will like you and that you have to be ready in life for this. We must follow our passions and let art flow without anything or anyone stopping us. We must be brave.
You are a person of enormous 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? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I have had this idea for a long time. It’s the Movement of TOUGH CONVERSATIONS. Getting people from opposing sides and ideals to sit down and talk it out.
I believe in having those hard conversations to work towards dismantling racism. We need to draw the line at other people thinkingthat they are better than others because of their background or race.
I really want people to understand that what I am talking about isn’t conscious. It’s deeper rooted than that.
The work is digging in and looking at how you treat all people — your staff, your customers, your clients, actors and crew, etc. What policies are in place, whether written policies or unofficial policies, that show us that certain groups don’t matter here? We need to change the systems in place that were built to keep marginalized groups from succeeding.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Oh man!!! Ok, well, I have always been told to shoot for the moon and if you fall short, you’ll still be a star, so I have so many people I would LOVE to talk to. Michael Bay, Ava DuVernay, Oprah, Spike Lee. BUT if I had to go with just one it’s going to have to be Ava DuVernay. The way she uses her filmmaking to tell stories that help educate the world is something I hope to do in my own work.
She is also the first Black woman to sit on the Academy’s Board of Governors. This is a HUGE win.
She is a director, producer, writer, marketer AND film distributor, her film, Middle of Nowhere (2012), won the Best Director Prize at the 2012 Sundance film festival, making her the first African American woman to receive the award. Honestly, she is my hero.
I would work for her for free, get her coffee, and pick up her dry cleaning just to learn from her.
Seriously, if there is a job opening, let me know. I have a car and will work my ass off with a smile for you, Ava.
How can our readers follow you online?
Instagram — @nicolegleier
Twitter — @NicoleGLeier
Facebook — nicolegleier — https://www.facebook.com/NicoleG.Leier
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
Thank you and the team. This was a well thought out interview and I am very thankful for your time and the opportunity to use my voice. Please don’t forget to tell Ava I am ready to go to work.