Locally based actress Sarah Nicklin has always had her sights set on becoming a star. Through hard work, perseverance, and dedication, she’s gone from small plays at her high school in Connecticut, to starring in dozens of indie films as well as attaining parts in big budget films. She shared with us some of her favorite (and least favorite) experiences of life as a New England actor.
HEC: How did you become an actor?
I’ve wanted to be an actor since middle school when I first became obsessed with Jonathan Taylor Thomas and decided that the best way to meet him would be to become an actor. I did a bunch of school plays and then once I graduated high school, I started looking for films. I was living in CT at the time, but got cast as the lead in a short film north of Boston called La Bolsa, which was my first introduction to film. I then went to Emerson College, and figuring that there has to be more films to find in Boston, started looking around for local projects. I did a few student films, then a few short independent films before getting my “first real movie role” as the lead in Splatter Disco (which stars Kens Foree, Lynn Lowry, Debbie Rochan, and Trent Haaga). After that I basically auditioned for anything else I could find everywhere from Maine to New Jersey.
HEC: What are the best/worst parts of your job?
The best parts are meeting so many great people, the chance to play and explore with being someone else, and seeing the final product. I can’t imagine living a “normal” life where all you do is go to work, go home, maybe go out to a bar, and that’s really the only people you get to meet. Being an actor, every production is a whole new group of people, and you all automatically have something in common already. Of course you get along better with some more than others, but I’ve had very few experience where I’ve met someone I didn’t like – and everyone always has such great stories to share!
I also love being able to play with being someone else – thinking how they would think, acting how they would act. It’s like a permanent make-believe game from when you’re little. I’m pretty shy in real life, so it give me the opportunity to go beyond myself and try out other personality traits with it still being “safe”.
And then of course seeing the final product is always one of the highlights. Unlike stage, in film there is so much more that it outside the control of the actor. There are so many different pieces and people that come together to make a film work. You can be made to have a good or bad performance simply by the choice of the editor. Film is such a collaboration, and I love seeing how each piece makes up the whole.
The worst parts would be some of the travel time – driving 5 hours in a car one way just to get to an audition or to a set is no fun, but it does give you time to go over your lines! The other big negative is when you get stuck on a set where the crew doesn’t really know what they’re doing – everyone is sitting around wasting time and you know that the end product isn’t going to be good. But you of course can’t back out since you’ve already committed, so you just have to soldier through and finish it.
HEC: Most memorable experience thus far?
I have so many great memories, it’s hard to just pick a few…
One would be on Splatter Disco when I was 20 and there was a somewhat “naughty” scene between one of the other actors and myself, so, to loosen us up, the director bought us shots of tequila even though I was underage.
Another would be on the set of Nun of That when we were running out of time to get one final shot and we had just shot the big fight scene of the movie, so to keep continuity I would need to at least have some sort of marks on my face from getting hit. We didn’t have time to get out the makeup kit and do an effect, so the director turned to me and said, “Do you trust me?”, and I immediately knew what he had in mind from a story he had told me about shooting The Exorcist, and I said “yes, do it.” So he somewhat gently slapped me to get my cheek red, but he was too nice about it and it wasn’t enough, so he did it again, a little harder this time, and still it wasn’t enough for the shot. Then from across the room comes the producer and wham! Hard slap across the face – face was red and ready to go!
A bit of a “nicer” memory would be on the set of Missing William – I had a very small day-player part in a scene with Brandon Routh and Courtney Ford, and I was so nervous even for this small part because it was my first speaking role in a “big movie.” The thing that made me relax was that I noticed that Brandon Routh wore a hearing aid in one of his ears. I know that’s just a random little thing, but for whatever reason seeing that even Superman isn’t perfect and is a “real person” made me feel much more comfortable being in the scene with them.
And then also on the webseries I’ve been working on -” The Salinger Spies” – this set has been a blast every day I’ve been on it, but especially the days we did all the fight scenes and rehearsals. Getting flung and flipped around – reminds me of the days when I was little and did gymnastics. I love opportunities to be physical and use your whole body to its full extent and not just your face or voice.
HEC: Any advice for fellow actors?
Don’t go SAG too early. I think this is a BIG mistake that many actors fall into, especially in New England. They get their waivers doing extra work and then jump into SAG as soon as they can thinking that now they’re “real” actors and that they’ll be able to get parts in the studio films that come through here. 99.99% of the time, this is not the case. More often than not what happens is the only work they can get is background work. Most of the roles for the studio films, even the small ones, are cast out of NY and LA, and the only actors they are hiring locally are extras. So then you end up with a resume full of extra work, but little to no speaking roles because most of the local indie’s don’t cast SAG actors because they can’t afford them. And then you’re pretty much stuck since you don’t have the experience to land a speaking role, but you can’t get the experience because the indies won’t hire SAG. I think a far better thing is to wait as long as you possibly can before joining SAG- until you are forced to – that way you can build up your resume with speaking roles in legitimate indie films and have a reel that will show off what you can do.
My husband and I recently had parts in an LA based webseries that shot here in Rhode Island and one of the things that the production company was impressed with was the size of our resumes. According to them, even many actors in LA don’t have the experience we do simply because it’s hard to get speaking roles when you’re a “no-name” and SAG- so you need to have them before you join to prove that you can do them once you are. I’ve been SAG eligible for about 3 years now and in that time I’ve had speaking roles in around 50 films – of course a lot of those films are crap and will never see the light of day, but there are a lot of them that are also really good, and they have given me good material for a reel and the invaluable gift of experience. I think one of the hardest thing in this industry is to get people to take you seriously, and one of the best ways to do that is to have a big resume that proves you are dedicated to doing this.
HEC: What do you like best about working in New England in the entertainment industry?
The close community. Everyone knows everyone here, which is really nice. Word travels fast if there is a production happening or if there is one falling apart, so that you then know who to stay away from in the future. Its great going to auditions and running into 5 familiar, smiling faces. Or working on a set where you run into the same crew members again and again. It’s almost like having a really big extended family – you see each other every now and then, but when you do, its like you just saw them yesterday – there are no awkward moments, you have lots to talk about and stories to share and you get along great. Then once it’s done, you go your separate ways until the next time your paths cross.