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Nick Stevenson

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The chances are, you haven’t heard of Nick Stevenson. But that’s not to say you wouldn’t have heard him. In both his native Australia and new home of the Big Apple, he’s been in a stack of commercials, a number of stage shows and had minor roles in a few films. Now, he’s getting his break in a new indie flick “Isn’t It Delicious?”, starring Tony Award-winning Alice Ripley in her first film role since wrapping up the successful rock musical “Next to Normal”.

Moviehole had an chat with Nick the day after filming wrapped up.

So Nick, tell us a bit of the background of the film?

“Isn’t It Delicious?” begins with death and ends with death (I know, sounds rather morbid. It’s not). It explores family relations and the struggle to reconnect at the most inopportune of times, like in a strip joint and a funeral.  The matriarch of the family (Kathleen Chalfant) knows she hasn’t been there for her children and wants to make amends before she leaves this world.  She has recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer.  She’s not afraid of dying, she is afraid of dying without the love of her family.

The story was written by Kathy Kiley- and it is loosely based on her upbringing and family experiences in the Fairfield area – a black comedy about a loving, but dysfunctional Catholic, upper-middle-class family. I actually think they are quite normal because who doesn’t have problems?  Religion plays a part in it, but is just a means to hold the family together.  Alcohol is one of the best actors in the film.  It not only brings the family together, but it also drives them apart.  Drugs and depression are also involved. Yep, just a typical modern-day family.

How did you come to be involved?

I got involved by way of luck.  The director Michael Patrick Kelly found me on the net after he noticed that I had worked with someone he knew. Initially, I was called in to read for ‘Teddy the pot-smoking Buddhist,’ but never connected with the character (no idea why – perhaps he was a little too timid for me). They brought me back to read for ‘Bobby,’ but the writer and producers thought I was too young for the part.  Fortunately, Michael took a chance and fought for me.  I nailed the audition and had amazing chemistry with my onscreen girlfriend.  In the end, they wrote ‘Bobby’ younger, and did the same with his siblings. I’m incredibly grateful to Michael for going with his gut. There’s a lot of risk in this industry and I like people who take a chance.

Where does your character fit in?

Bobby is a mess. He tries to hold the family together by throwing his money around. If there’s a problem, just ask Bobby. Nothing a few dollar bills can’t fix. He has good intentions, but the Wall Street image has got the best of him. He loves all things material and thinks the best way to a woman’s heart is through the nose (cocaine). He enjoys fast cars, a trophy girlfriend and a lavish apartment.

And how did you enjoy playing him?

I love him. The difference between playing someone with a lot of flaws as opposed to someone with none at all is that they are rich with experience. There’s more to draw from. I guess it’s like playing the bad guy. As bad as they can be, there needs to be a deeper reason why you love them.

Your co-star Alice Ripley has won a Tony Award for her work in rock musical “Next to Normal”- and her on-screen mother Kathleen Chalfant is also a Tony nominee- what was it like working with two actresses of that calibre?  And then of course there’s Keir Dullea, from “2001: A Space Odyssey”?

Working with Kathleen, Alice, Keir and Mia has been gob-smackingly wonderful. It’s a great lesson for younger actors to observe how to behave on set. You must bring your A-game every day. They have a full gamete of experience and are all so incredibly humble. There’s no feeling of pretentiousness, no superstars on set. Everyone must turn up, know their lines, be grateful and cut. Who wants their own trailer when you have the chance to share stories with these amazing actors?

How have you enjoyed the filming process, considering it’s got an “ultra-low” budget (less than $200,000)?

Being involved with a smaller budget film has its pros and cons. I actually prefer a smaller budget because you have a time constraint.  There is a pressure to perform and perform well in a shorter time. When you do your home work, have a stellar cast, a director who knows what he wants and a crew that works their little bums off, you know you’re in good shape. There is no time to get caught in the hoopla!

You’ve been in America for more than a decade now- how have you found the process of building a career outside Australia?

It’s been tough. I struggled with visa issues for many years, so there was a lot of going back and forth.  If you aren’t legal, then you can’t film.  I have done my fair share of theatre to stay in the game and it helps.  I’ve been at it here for almost 12 years and I’m finally starting to see a pay off.  These days you need to be able to do it all though – you need to be an actor and a comedian who can write, direct, sing, dance, spin a pizza and ride a unicycle. Competition is tough!!

How do you hold onto your Australian roots- both professionally and personally?

I hold tight to my Aussie roots because it is who I am through and through. I have a handful of good Australian friends in NY that help keep me sane. It’s nice to have people to watch the rugby with at 6am in some bar. I also have a core group of besties in Australia that are quick to cut me down if I sound remotely American (aka John Wayne).

What’s your dream gig?

A dream gig would be in a Western (insert John Wayne joke here). I’d love to do a Western in Australia. I’d be a very happy man.

What advice would you have for other actors wanting to make the big leap and crack into the Unites States?

My advice to other actors coming here is…don’t give up! Get your visa sorted before you start out on this journey because it becomes a major burden and can sometimes get in the way. Have your dialect down pat, otherwise the casting agents will look for it and you will miss out on the part. Go into any American audition as an American. If they ask where you are from, have a back-up plan. Ask yourself if you’re in it for the love or the fame and if it is worth it, because either way it’s going to be a long road.

What else are you currently working on and what have you got in the pipeline?

Right now I’m working on completing my screenplay Greyhound.  It’s an Easy Rider meets Five Easy Pieces. I’m also doing stand-up in a lot of New York’s hottest comedy clubs. It keeps the brain flexy and enables me to tell my stories.  Just last Friday, I shot a State Farm commercial.  It was taking a piss out of the All State commercials, and I was cast as the ‘Mayhem’ character.  Hopefully soon, people nationwide will be seeing my mug during commercial breaks.

And then there was a commercial with Jerry Seinfeld- how was that?

It was a dream come true to work with Jerry Seinfeld.  He was an absolute professional and since I’ve been doing a lot of stand-up comedy these days, I had an easy intro. We spent the day getting buckets of water thrown on us. I refer to it as ‘getting wet with Jerry.’ He kicks that. We both got our start at The Comic strip, although I’ll probably finish at The Comic Strip too.  Unless one of the networks is ready to air Stevenson??  Not the same ring as Seinfeld??

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About Hugh Humphreys

Moviehole's Sydney based news editor and interviewer. Works for the Austereo network.
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