Danielle Nicolet has had a diverse career that has included roles in both movies and TV shows, including work on “The Starter Wife,” “CSI,” “Brothers,” “Heartland,” “3rd Rock from the Sun” and “Stargate SG-1.”
Tonight at 9 p.m. EST, Danielle Nicolet will star as Tess De La Vega in the movie “Red Faction: Origins” on the SyFy Network. The movie is based on the popular “Red Faction” video game series, which started in 2001. The movie takes place following game No. 3 (2009’s “Red Faction: Guerilla”) and before the next game, “Red Faction: Armageddon.” In addition to Nicolet, “Red Faction: Origins” stars Brian J. Smith as Jake Mason and Robert Patrick as Alec Mason.
I had a chance to speak with Nicolet this weekend about her latest movie, working with an Oscar-winner on a different movie and other aspects of her career so far.
It’s Just Movies: How did you get involved in “Red Faction: Origins”?
Danielle Nicolet: Through sheer blind luck and blessing. I’ve worked with the casting director of the movie on a couple of other projects, and Michael Nankin (the director) and I have been trying to work together for a very long time. When I received the script, I didn’t get three pages in before I was on the phone with my agent and I said, “I don’t care what we have to do, I’m playing this role.”
IJM: Are you a video game fan?
DN: I am. Yeah. I hadn’t played [“Red Faction”] prior to doing the movie, though. I thought that I should and then I thought better of it. I didn’t want to have a picture in my head. My character’s whole M.O. is that she’s a fish out of water. She doesn’t leave the office, she doesn’t get out from behind a computer screen, and she ends up having this epic adventure with the hero. I decided that I didn’t want to familiarize myself with life outside of the Red Faction offices until we started shooting. So it was kind of fun to do the movie and then explore the games.
IJM: What relation would you say “Red Faction: Origin” has to the games? Do you need to have played the games to watch it? Or does having played the games enhance your viewing of the movie?
DN: No, you do not need to have played the game to watch it and yes, it really enhances the gaming experience. Andrew Kreisberg, who wrote the script, and Michael Nankin and the network executives worked really hard to make sure we were making a good standalone movie. Even if you’ve never heard the words “Red Faction” before, you can sit down with this movie and you’re watching a terrific film. You don’t need the back story to be 100 percent involved. If you’ve never heard of the game, it’s still a good story, period. The characters are well-rounded and you don’t need to know their history. But if you’re a big fan of the game, what the movie does is fill in the gaps between “Red Faction: Guerrilla” and “Red Faction: Armageddon,” which comes out next week. It rounds out your gaming experience. The bad guy in “Armageddon,” his use is in this movie. As a gamer myself — I’ve voiced characters on a few video games and I play them myself and have for a long time — I like to know a bit about the back story. You feel like you know a secret when you’re playing the game. You know what caused all of this.
IJM: You have done both TV and movies. Do you have a preference?
DN: It’s a tough call. I mean, I grew up on TV and have done so much of it that it’s kind of my first love. My career kind of always feels like TV is my relationship and movies are the thing that I occasionally get to cheat and go to. It’s just such a different experience. Movies are so temporary and fast and you are on location with a whole bunch of new people and you really immerse yourself in a character for a really short time. But in a TV series, you have all this time to develop a character and really embody who they’re going to be and explore them from week to week. So they both really have upsides, but I think TV is sort of my forte.
IJM: When you get recognized out on the street, what would you say it’s most often for?
DN: Oh, gosh. It really depends on which town I’m in or what fan I’m bumping into. I would say “The Starter Wife” is something I certainly get noticed a lot for. And I get noticed by a particular group of sci-fi fans for “Stargate.” I was in one episode and I get recognized for it quite a lot. My character is a girl — or, actually, a robot — named Reese who created and unleashed the replicators and the replicators are the beings that were destroying the universe. So I did the one episode, but there were a lot of off-shoots from my episode. People have some very strong feelings about the character that I played.
IJM: Nothing for “3rd Rock from the Sun”? (Nicolet appeared in 43 episodes of the show.)
DN: The funny thing about getting recognized for “3rd Rock” — and I laugh all the time with my best friend David DeLuise, who was on the show with me and we played best friends on the show — is that we never get recognized for “3rd Rock” specifically, it’s just that everybody thinks they went to college with me. So every time I’m in a bar or a restaurant, and somebody walks up to me — and this happens a lot — they’ll say, “You look so familiar to me. What school did you go to? I think we went to college together.” I always know that’s a “3rd Rock” fan.
IJM: What made you want to be an actor?
DN: Gosh, I don’t know. I just know I always did. From the time I was really little, I used to stay up at night and watch old TV shows and old movies all night long. Insomnia is a bit of a genetic condition in my family. I would watch those old movies and old TV shows and I was just obsessed from the youngest age. That’s all I ever wanted to do. And I’m really fortunate in that I’ve never done anything else for a job. Which is fortunate, because I have no other skill sets.
IJM: So you couldn’t be a waitress?
DN: No! I’m the biggest klutz. The last thing anybody needs is me bringing a plate to their table. I would spill soup on everybody.
IJM: Do you have your next acting assignment lined up?
DN:I don’t. Right now, we’re in a little bit of a holding pattern. We’re all anxiously waiting to hear what’s going to happen with “Red Faction” — if we’ll go forward and do more. I think that the network is going to see how many people watch and what the fans’ reaction is. If the fans like it, there’s a good possibility we’ll go forward and it will become a full series. Or, at the very least, we’ll make more movies. In the meantime, I wrote a script myself and I’m in the process of getting it produced and that’s keeping me really busy.
IJM: Is this the first thing that you’ve written?
DN: Yeah. It’s a comedy about two crazy girls.
IJM: Playing in a full sci-fi series would introduce you to a new audience, right?
DN: I think so. “Ticking Clock,” which is a movie that I did this past year, is also science fiction. So this year has been the year of science fiction for me and I’m an enormous sci-fi fan myself, so I would enjoy being on a sci-fi show because the audience is me. I’m a person who watches sci-fi shows and the SyFy network and enjoys going to Comic Con and I think it would be really fun to be on the other side of it.
IJM: As a sci-fi fan, what other shows or movies would you compare “Red Faction: Origins” to?
DN: I think that “Battlestar Galactica” is a decent comparison. It’s not a comparison in the story, but in the tone and the style. Michael Nankin, who directed our movie, directed many episodes of “Battlestar Galactica.” And Bear McCreary, who did the music for “Battlestar,” did the music for our movie. So there is a very similar tonality to it and a seriousness to it that I think could be put on par with “Battestar.”
In “Ticking Clock,” you got to play the wife of Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding Jr. What was that experience like for you?
DN: It was really intimidating for the first couple of days, because it’s so impressive to work with someone who you can ask where they keep their Oscar. It’s amazing. But he’s so relaxed and he’s such a consummate actor. On the first day on set, we had a super, super emotional scene in the movie where we’re separated and I’m telling him that I don’t want to get back together with him because he’s drinking too much and her’s being a bad influence on our son. It’s very emotional and I had just met him that morning. He was so giving. He wasn’t like, “I’m a big Oscar-winner and you need to figure this out on your own.” We walked over to a corner of the set and sat down like a couple of kids in acting school and ran our lines and worked out what we wanted to do. From that moment, I knew I was going to have a great time with him. He’s lovely and he’s warm and he’s protective.
IJM: Do you ever go on IMDb boards or Wikipedia to see what people are saying about you or to make sure the information is accurate. For instance, it says that you did a voice for “Tom Clancy’s HAWX 2,” but it notes that citation is needed. Is that credit accurate?
DN: Yeah, it is! I played the girl pilot. But as far as looking myself up, I learned a long time ago to not Google myself and not go on the Internet and look at message boards. No matter what — whether you’re Tom Cruise or you’re me — if you hear thousands of “you’re awesomes,” you’re going to hold onto that one comment that says “you’re terrible.” There’s always going to be some meanie on the Internet who wants to say something bad and I know better than to go looking for it, because all it’s going to do is make me feel lousy. I didn’t get in this business to get famous. I got into it because acting is what I love to do. It brings me great joy and I hope it brings great joy to the people I do it for.
So, to wrap up, is there a question that you have never been asked before in an interview that you wish some one would ask?
DN: Oh, wow. I wish somebody would ask me what my favorite horror movie is, because nobody ever thinks I love horror movies.
Let’s do that. What’s your favorite horror movie?
DN: “Halloween.” The original, not the Rob Zombie one. I watched it 110 times when I was a kid. Most little girls want to grow up to win an Oscar, but my secret dream is to star in a horror movie. I would do anything to be the lead of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Somehow, it hasn’t happened for me yet. But maybe if we’re putting it out there, it can happen. I mean, come one, nobody wants to kill me and cover me with blood?
Make sure to watch Nicolet in “Red Faction: Origins” tonight (May 4) at 9 p.m. EST on the SyFy Network.
And, in the meantime, check out Nicolet’s episode of Stargate SG-1″ below, courtesy of HULU.
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