Thomas Ian Nicholas Talks About "Living Among Us" to Samera Entertainment
Q & A
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SF: What are your thoughts on your characters personality? Strengths? Weaknesses?
TN: The character of Mike is very different from myself in real life. Brian A. Metcalf wanted me to embody a very abrasive type of person. One that would be willing to put him and his crew in harms way just to get the story. It's his own ego of wanting to capture the truth that puts their lives in danger. He's also a person who doesn't believe anyone until he can prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt.
SF: What do you admire about your character?
TN: I admire is fearless attitude and the fact that he doesn't care about other peoples feelings when it comes to doing his job.
SF: What was the most challenging aspect of the film?
TN: Since the film had a found footage type of style, it meant that we spent a lot of time doing rehearsals and then only shooting a scene a half dozen times. Mainly from one handheld camera angle. Very different from the normal structure of shooting a film with a master shot and all sorts of coverage. Which really gives you a chance to fine tune your performance while shooting. On this set we needed to fine tune everything in the rehearsal and make sure that we were 100% committed to the scene for the entire take. No chance for clean up in editing. I also know that Brian strived to make sure that the camera wasn't too shaky, since we are a professional doc crew in the film. So the found footage style makes it feel close and intense but all while maintaining a high production value.
SF: How was it working with the rest of the cast?
TN: We had such an amazing cast of actors. Everyone brought years of experience to the set. I had to be on my "A" game to stay on point along side John Heard and William Sadler. Which was a challenge since I was not only acting in the film but producing it with Brian A. Metcalf as well.
SF: How was it working with director Brian Metcalf ?
TN: Brian is very talented with a clear vision of what he wants. We've developed a short hand of communication over the last 10 years of working together on four feature films. I think that we've become a strong team and I strive to deliver the performance that he's happy with for all the characters that he lets me bring to life.
SF: How did you land the role for Mike in "Living Among Us" and did you have to do anything unique to show that you would be perfect for the role?
TN: Brian and I have worked together on various projects over the last decade and he's definitely seen the more serious sides of my personality. Even though I'm known as the nice guy, Brian wanted me to focus on the aspects of myself that were not so nice. Brian envisioned a Michael Moore type of documentarian that is very direct in his approach. He knew that I had it in me.
SF: Any behind-the-scenes anecdotes that you can share?
TN: I remember the day that we were scheduled to shoot with John Heard. I had worked with him 28 years before on a film entitled "Radio Flyer" - not that I expected him to remember me from when I was 9 years old. In any case, his call time came and went... and John hadn't arrived. The 2nd AD had been trying to reach him but it was going straight to voicemail. We got his agent on the phone and to make a long story short, it turns out that they had told him the wrong start date for the shoot. John calls us, very apologetic and says he'll be there as soon as he can. It was the interview scene in the film, so to save time we filmed the coverage of my character first and right as we get the lights and camera set for his side of the scene, he arrives on set. He must have gone through the wardrobe, hair and make up in about 10 minutes flat. He apologizes again for being late, sits down and absolutely nails the first take. I couldn't believe how composed he became when the camera was rolling. Brian and I looked at each other with the inner thought of - "John can be late to set whenever he wants if he's gonna keep nailing the scenes like that." Of course, John was on time for the rest of the film. He did keep delivering a great performance though.
SF: Where was "Living Among Us" filmed?
TN: We filmed around Los Angeles in about 6 different locations. 2 sound studios, 2 houses, a park and driving shots around Hollywood. It's always nice when I get to work in the city I live in and stay with my family. Going on location can be fun but I always miss my wife and 2 kids.
SF: Any personal ambitions yet unattained? Directing? Writing?
TN: At this point, I've delved into all the areas that I enjoy - acting, producing, writing, directing - I just want to keep on doing more of all of it. I have a number of projects in various stages of development and they are all on the horizon.
SF: Are there any new projects you’re working on that you can talk about?
TN: Brian and I have another project in post production called "Strange Ones" where I play the main antagonist, which I think is a first for me. We are also developing a Neo-Noir crime drama. I will be stretching my abilities to the farthest degree from myself for that role. It's my intention to not play the same type of character in each project that Brian and I work together to create. Since Brian is writing the story and we have the same goal in mind, it's been fun so far and I'm very much looking forward to our future projects.
SF: How do you prepare for a movie that you'll be acting in?
TN: I always do my homework and preparation for each character that I bring to life. There are only 3 variables. Whether I'm creating the backstory of the character with the director, by myself or if I'm researching facts because I'm portraying a real life person. i.e Walt Disney, Abbie Hoffman, Martin Scorsese, Frank Sinatra Jr, etc.
SF: How do you prepare so that you'll bring the right amount of realism and emotion to a scene?
TN: My process and technique has evolved over the last 3 decades, but one simple constant remains. When the camera is rolling and I'm in the scene... I simply believe what I'm saying, doing and thinking. As I say that, I realize that makes it sound very simple when it's not simple at all. It's just to say, that when I've done all the prep work for a character, that there is that final flip of the switch and that is to fully commit to the moment.
From Left: Thomas Ian Nicholas, Jordan Hinson, Andrew Keegan, Hunter Gomez, Esme Bianco and John Heard
SF: How do you stay in the moment?
TN: 80% of my work on camera is spent listening and watching what the other characters are doing and saying. Each take, I notice something new and that keeps each take fresh for me. Finding something fresh or new is what I require to stay in the moment. Even just the act of looking for something new, keeps me in the moment.
SF: What determines your interest in a role?
TN: I find that what's in-between the lines is where every character lives. It's the underlying layers that drive each character to make their own unique decisions that I find interesting. I also look for how the character affects the story and is affected by the story. I like surprises, twists and turns. I also like them to be flawed.
SF: What do you look for in a director?
TN: I have been in the industry for most of my life and I always enjoy working with anyone who is passionate about what they do, what they want and how to achieve it. There really is no one thing that I look for in a director other than working with one who cares as much about telling a good story as I do.