Mandy Crew USA

I Am Frankie actress Nicole Alyse Nelson shares her journey to success and her plans for the future

Best known as her lead role in Nickelodeon's hit series I Am Frankie, Nicole Alyse Nelson talks about her experiences so far, from starting out as a production assistant for The Goldbergs and In-Between to becoming the new fresh face of the entertainment industry.

28th November 2018
/ By Steph Long

Nicole Alyse Nelson BRETTERICKSON

Please introduce yourself and tell us how you got into acting and film?
I’ve always had a passion for storytelling. I started doing theatre when I was in middle school. I really got into TV and film when I started creating my own YouTube content and that was when I learned how to swap an audience for a lens.

It wasn’t until I came to Los Angeles for an internship and some on-set production assistant work that I realised that acting was more than just a childhood hobby. It was my true passion and desire. That was when I made the shift to become a professional actor.

Now you’re starring in I Am Frankie as Dayton Reyes. How did that show come about? How did you get involved in the production?
I actually stumbled upon my character’s breakdown online. The network was doing a huge continent-wide talent search purely for minors, so the opportunity was opened up to the public. I felt really strongly about this project and the character Dayton Reyes - so I took her character description and the little bit that I knew about the show and wrote, shot, edited and starred in a short film that I made in 24 hours. All to get me in that room - It was pretty crazy!

Part of my resumé was a message saying, “attached is a clip of the character that I think you’re looking for.” Sure enough, I got in the room. I don’t know if it was just because of that, but I think it definitely helped - I didn’t want to take any chances.

It was about a three-month casting process, from the first in-person audition to me actually booking the show. I went in person three times, with gradually more people watching me in the room. For the final testing round, I was flown out to Miami where our sound stage is located.

Amazing! That’s a really different take on an audition tape. With your background in creating content, is that something you like to bring to all of your auditions?
Yeah, I would say so. There’s not a lot of opportunity to do that. Often people who go on auditions know someone or they have representation.

Coming to LA from Texas and not knowing anyone, I felt like I had to work triply hard to prove myself because I had nobody but me vouching for me.

It was really fun though, I loved being able to put something together. I had no footage of this character so I have to make something! It was the only logical thing to do. It’s a different way to go about casting but I’m really glad that I did it.

Once you were shooting, what was a typical day like?
Extremely busy! We shoot, on a typical day, about 14-18 pages, so the day flies really fast -  multi-cam comedy style. It’s a hybrid of a show but it’s usually multi-cam when we’re inside the studio. I work twelve hours a day. We try to keep it to five days a week but we work several Saturdays just trying to get everything in.

It’s a really rigorous shooting schedule. It takes three and a half months to do 22 episodes - which is extremely quick.

When I first got into the show, I realised very quickly that while people prepare to book the role, nobody really prepares you for when you book the role. So there was this moment where I had all this content – 700 pages! I didn’t even know how to begin to break it down or prioritise what I learnt. It was a little overwhelming but you figure it out really quickly.

To go back to the YouTube content creation that you did. Shooting and editing your own content is a challenging thing for any person. What inspired you to start doing that?
I actually started doing YouTube before it was cool! Back when it really opened up, I watched Fred and Nigahiga videos and IJustine. They were the pioneers back when it first opened up and I was captivated by their way of doing everything on their own. They were like little shows but no one was in charge! They were doing it for free and that was mind-blowing.

I started uploading YouTube videos of me playing the guitar and videos of me doing magic tricks. That was just me shooting a still shot and uploading the file.

After doing that so many times, I just got bored but also intrigued with what else was out there and that was when I got an editing system. I taught myself everything: How do you put one clip back-to-back with another clip and make it flow seamlessly? It was trial and error. I loved editing. I loved sitting in front of a computer.

I had all these funny little 12-year-old ideas for little skits - I would just make it happen.

What else have you got coming up, apart from the new series? Are you interested in editing projects in the future, as well as acting?
I miss editing so much! The only issue I have with it is that it is extremely time-consuming and extremely anti-social. You just sit in a dark room for hours and hours and hours. I’ve become so much better – I used to be really shy but I’m more of a people-person now.

I am passionate about so many different parts of filmmaking. I could see myself directing one day and having a hand in editing. Being the sole editor is maybe too much for me. I want to be with people a bit more.

What advice would you give to young aspiring actors?
The biggest piece of advice – fall in love with the work that it takes to nail a scene. Act as often as you can, even if that means downloading some random lines from the internet and reading them out aloud alone in your room. Try to stay in acting class as much as possible. Observe those around you, bearing in mind that those you come into contact with have something they can teach you.

Also, don’t expect to book every character you audition for. All you can do is put your best work out there and walk away confidently. It’s so important not to dwell on yesterday’s opportunities. Stay true to yourself and remember – what’s meant to be, will be.