The Movie Culture is back with an exclusive Interview with a star on rise Nicole Berger. We recently had a chat, regarding her next movie The Place of No Words, which we also got the chance of reviewing it and it’s something you shouldn’t miss out on.
Some factual information on Nicole Berger reads that she is an American actress, model, and pianist from Palm Beach, Florida and New York City.
Her first acting role was in the comedy Goldberg P.I. starring Jackie Mason. She is best known for portraying the titular character, Clover, in the crime drama of the same name directed by Jon Abrahams and the guardian angel Esmeralda in The Place of No Words. She also starred as Cecily in the indie thriller Runt, opposite Cameron Boyce.
Greetings Ms. Berger, we at The Movie Culture are thrilled to have you. We certainly hope that during times like these you and your family are doing well.
Nicole Berger : Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to speak with you. My family and I have been safe and following public health guidelines during the pandemic.
Q. What better way to start off this interview is by asking you about your new role in The Place of No Words, could you tell us about your character and the film as a whole?
Nicole Berger : The Place of No Words is ‘fantasy-reality cinema,” which expands Webber’s filmmaking style to the fantasy genre through the imagination of his son. The film is an imaginative adventure that explores how we cope with dying and the love, laughter and pain that we can find within it. We are taken between an epic fantasy world with great lakes, mountains, forests, castles, magical creatures called Grumblers and enchanted fairies, juxtaposed and the supposedly “real” world in Los Angeles. Along with being visually breathtaking, there are also whimsical fantastical elements and humor in the story.
The film is the story of a young man who is dying of cancer and how his impending death affects his family, close friends and especially his young son, Bodhi. He asks the question, “where do we go when we die?” This is an unanswerable question, of course, because each person, religion and culture has its own ideas about where we go when we die. The movie is seen and interpreted through the eyes of Webber’s son and switches back and forth between the real world and Bodhi’s vivid imagination. I play the character of Esmeralda, the guardian angel who guides them on their journey toward death — the place of no words — not in a sad or fearful way, but in a way that reminds us all to cherish each moment that we have with the ones we love. We should never forget that we are just visiting here.
The main theme for me is conquering our fear of death by embracing the beauty of being alive through using our imaginations. If we could bring our child-like wonder to the dying process, we may even be able to see the beauty in death.
Q. Along with The Place of No Words, you had 3 films this year (2020). Do you think 2020 is the year for you?
Nicole Berger : 2020 was a big year for me — Clover, Runt and Five Teenagers Walk into a Bar — along with The Place of No Words. However, it was also the year of COVID-19, which impacted everyone, not just those in the entertainment industry. I was cast in major roles in these films. Runt premiered at the Mammoth Film Festival in February just before the pandemic took hold; Clover was released on streaming and VOD just as the pandemic was reaching its first peak. It was also set to open with an 11-city theatrical release along with VOD and streaming and have an in-person opening in Hollywood at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, which would have been an especially exciting start for the film. Five Teenagers Walk into a Bar just premiered at the LA Shorts Film Festival — fully online and streaming, but exciting to have the recognition for the film.
Clover is full of twists and turns that go from very funny to violent. The movie does a great job balancing these two moods and ultimately creating a very entertaining story. Some have called the film a “crimedy” — a cross between a crime story and a comedy. In Clover, I play the movie’s namesake, Clover, who may seem like an innocent-teenage victim immersed in a world of gangsters and crime bosses, but she is a much more complex character. She witnesses her father’s murder and is often referred to as a “mobster-in-training,” but there is more to the story than it first appears.
Runt addresses teen anxiety and violence, but the violence is not portrayed in a glamorous or heroic fashion. It is quite clear to viewers that Cal, the role played by my co-star Cameron Boyce, and Cecily, my role, have gotten themselves into big trouble with potentially serious consequences. A critical question in the film is, do two wrongs make a right? The answer depends on who is asking the question, who is responding and the circumstances. While Cecily is a calming influence on Cal, she still reinforces his need to get even while restraining himself from uncontrolled violence and pay-back with even greater consequences.
Five Teenagers is a short film about a group of high-school friends lost in the desert outside of Los Angeles looking for acceptance and dealing with the uncertainty of love and grief superimposed on teenage insecurity and uncertainty.
The year 2020 certainly has been an important one for me as an actress, but I believe that future projects will be even more impactful. I have been able to work with very experienced and legendary actors, all of whom were very generous to me. Auditions and self-tapes are largely on hold or virtual, festivals have gone virtual and online, filming and production of movies has been postponed to later this year at earliest, movie theaters are still closed, Broadway is dark, concerts are generally cancelled and schools are struggling to stay open. I look forward to the time when we can read scripts and discuss new projects in person with directors and actors as we are accustomed to doing.
Q. The Place of No Words is directed by Mark Webber who himself is an actor. Do you find a stark difference between a traditional Director and an actor/Director?
Nicole Berger : Especially for a young actor like me, having a director who is also an actor is a huge positive. I have been lucky to work on three films with two actor/directors — Jon Abrahams and Mark Webber. Both of them are accomplished actors who pivoted into directing well after performing in their initial films. You can think of them as actor’s directors more than actor/directors. Their biggest advantage is that they understand and appreciate the acting process. In my case, both Jon and Mark worked with me well before the first day of principal photography and talked about the film, the critical pivot points in the script, their views of my character, and built a supportive working relationship between us. They knew how to guide me to the best performance. Being a director gives the actor the opportunity to demonstrate his/her creative talent and express an artistic vision. It also eliminates one major layer in the process of making a film. The lead actor often defines the film, along with the director. Deciding what stays and what goes in the editing process is an essential step to making a movie. Being on set as an actor gives the director far greater insights into what’s important and what’s needed to translate the vision for the film into a coherent and engaging work of art.
Q. Your recent film Clover had you co-starring with Ron Perlman. How was that experience given that he is a veteran of the art of films?
Nicole Berger : Clover is filled with twists and turns that take the audience down unexpected paths, with some moments being very funny and others being quite violent. I played the film’s namesake, Clover. It seemed like I am an innocent teenage victim, a witness to my father’s murder, but quickly you come to see that there is much more to this character. The film balances the various moods and ultimately creates a very entertaining story with captivating characters and a riveting storyline. Observing two long-time master actors, Ron Perlman and Chazz Palminteri, portray essential roles in the film was enlightening and informative to all present. Clover has an incredible cast — everyone was committed to making the film artistically engaging and highly enjoyable to listen to and watch. The film starts and ends with defining scenes of Ron Perlman — cast as Mr. Wiley. During the first scene, Perlman’s sonorous voice holds every viewer motionless and on the edge of their seats; you could hear a pin drop during his opening scene. He was perfectly cast for this film and role. I had a chance to watch and listen to him filming these scenes. I learned so much from listening to each of them on set — how they got ready for their scenes, how they mastered their lines, and how they interacted with the other actors and the director.
Q. In all fairness, as an actress you are just starting out and we have to admit it’s a damn good start. We wanted to know what your approach is going ahead, is it more mainstream or indie? If any, could you elaborate on that?
Nicole Berger : Thank you. I want to pursue my art — acting — no matter for film, TV or stage. Thus far, I have only appeared in indie films, which have a great advantage from a learning perspective. They gave me the chance to get to know the director and other actors very well and close up. I have also had opportunities to be cast for lead roles and to work alongside master actors, as I talked about earlier. Indie films tend to have much more modest budgets forcing actors and directors to deliver outstanding work with less resources, less staff, fewer cameras, and fewer options in post-production. It all rests on the shoulders of the actors to deliver great performances and to have the “right” chemistry among the cast members.
Q. The Place of No Words is gearing up for a release on October 23, 2020 both in theaters and on digital. As a member of the film industry, what are your thoughts on cinemas being overshadowed by the digital platforms especially in times of this pandemic?
Nicole Berger : Being a native New Yorker, I would always look forward to going to the cinema, with the massive movie screen, surround sound speakers, the inside scoop on upcoming film previews, and of course, the wafting aroma of buttery popcorn. Despite the lack of all of these sensory inputs, VOD, streaming and other online viewing platforms are great alternatives. You have the luxury of watching anything you want at any time you want. During these unprecedented and harrowing times, which can often make you feel like you are trapped in a time loop of repeating cycles, it is important to have something to look forward to, whether that be a zoom call with your friends or a virtual lunch date, mine is most certainly having the ability to take advantage of numerous digital platforms and watch iconic features from the comfort of my living room…or anyplace where I can remain safe and without a mask!
Q. While preparing for the interview, we at The Movie Culture wanted to know how Nicole Berger got into acting? What inspired you and how has the journey been so far?
Nicole Berger : Even as a young girl, I always loved music, acting and animals. I started playing the piano when I was 5 years old, which formed the basis for my love of music and the arts. My mother is a classically trained violinist and brought a wonderful sense of music to our family. I secured by first lead role in a movie called All At Once, where I play a young piano prodigy named Grace Clark. The film chronicles the plight of James Maxwell, an up-and-coming artist who accepts guardianship of his best friend’s children after the heinous attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11. This film opened new doors for me, as I was able to audition for more challenging and emotionally demanding roles after I showed that I could handle a more mature role. I believe that this led to my being cast as Cecily in Runt and Clover in the film by the same name. While I am in an academically rigorous high school, I spend my free time pursuing my passion of acting and searching for the next major role in a feature-length film where I can be paired with master actors to “move the needle” in my performance.
Q. Speaking of upcoming actors such as yourself, are there other actors of your generation, that you look up to?
Nicole Berger : I really look up to Lupita Nyong’o as a truly inspirational role model. Nyong’o is an incredibly talented Kenyan-Mexican actress, winning the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her tear-jerking performance in Steve McQueen’s thought provoking and searing portrait of slavery, 12 Years A Slave. Nyong’o also attended Yale School of Drama, where she earned a master’s degree in acting in 2012. Her sincere commitment to both the arts and the importance of a strong education resonate with me tremendously.
Q. To change the tone of the interview, we wanted to know whether there has been a binge watch party at your end during this quarantine? If yes what show do you usually binge watch?
Nicole Berger : In the early days of the pandemic, I searched for a series that I could watch from beginning to end. I soon found myself on Netflix viewing The Assassination of Gianni Versace: An American Crime Story — an inverted narrative of Versace’s life and death as it took place in South Beach and Milan. Darren Criss’ performance of Andrew Cunanan is career-defining and gives viewers a lens into some aspects of contemporary gay life and the thinking of a serial killer. The series was so engaging that I have watched many of the episodes several times. I also watched Outerbanks, a cheesy yet thrilling action-packed teen mystery that transports you out of reality to embark on an adventure of a lifetime.
Q. The Movie Culture is situated in India so we’d like to know whether you are aware of Bollywood? If yes, is there an actor you admire or a film?
Nicole Berger : I have a few friends who are originally from India and some who currently reside there. One of my close friends grew up in New Delhi and has introduced me to the colorful world of Bollywood. I enjoy watching/listening to several music videos and movies, including Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara with Hrithik Roshan and Devdas with Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai. The first Bollywood film that I saw was Slumdog Millionaire with Dev Patel. I admire Aishwarya Rai for the diversity of roles she has played and her ability to bridge acting and modeling. I would love to visit India and learn more about its diverse culture, spiritual connection, stunning festivals, rich heritage and historical gems such as the Taj Mahal.
Q. We hope to see you in many movies and series to come ahead, but is there a Director working today with whom you’d like to work?
Nicole Berger : The film industry has many great directors, but the one I would like to work with is Darren Aronofsky. His focus on emotionally dramatic films like Black Swan attract me to his filmmaking style. This film gave the lead actor, Natalie Portman, the opportunity to excel in both ballet and drama and reach extraordinary levels of both. This film also reinforces the importance of music to acting, which has been supported by Aronofsky.
Q. We want to be respectful to Cameron Boyce and given that you have worked with him on Runt, could you let our readers know how was he as a person?
Nicole Berger : Seeing Cameron on the large screen at the film’s premiere at the Mammoth Film Festival brought back many memories of the months we spent together filming at a high school outside of Los Angeles in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. From the time I first read the Runt script, I knew that this was going to be a dramatic story about the challenges faced by teenagers. I knew Cameron as a Disney-star (as Jessie on TV and as Carlos in the Descendants), but I really got to know him on set, as I saw him transition into a character that required him to be highly serious and pensive. I learned so much from Cameron’s work ethic that I will always carry with me. Had I had been able to say goodbye, I would have thanked him for making me a better actor. Other than shooting hoops occasionally on the court near filming, Cameron was always focused on the film. He embraced me from the first time we met. He made me feel like we had worked together before, even though this was the first time. As the film progressed, an emotional bond between Cal (Cameron’s character) and Cecily (my character) became apparent. By the end of the film, Cecily became the more dominant character, leading the two of us to make good, perhaps not perfect, decisions. I would have shared these personal thoughts with him, if I had a chance; unfortunately, he died of complications of epilepsy before the film was released.
The Movie Culture Synopsis
To the readers who have read this, let us tell you what a humbling experience this was and how generous Nicole Berger is. Hopefully this interview could help new aspiring actors and we were able to give an insight to World of an actor.
Nicole Berger has many projects lined up but her newest film The Place of No Words has it’s initial release on October 23rd, be sure to check it out as it will soon be available on Digital Platforms.