Its 5:51 pm
Welcome to 8 Questions with……
Last month I got a call from my PR guru Steve,he asked me if I had ever heard of our next guest,Jennifer Nash and I think I surprised him when I said “Oh hell yes,I know of her. She only was in one of the most beloved and famous “Star Trek” episodes ever. When I say “Star Trek”,I mean the entire Star Trek universe. The episode was “The Inner Light” and it was featured on Star Trek: The Next Generation’s fifth season and the episode won an Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation in 1993.
But that wasn’t the only show I knew Jennifer from,I also saw her turn in a superb performance in a little seen Western show called “The Lazarus Man” that the cheetah and I reviewed on here. Back when these shows aired,Jennifer’s star was rising and then it just vanished – when she and I talked,I asked Jennifer what had happened. Simply put,Hollywood happened….years before the lights were turned on the predators like Harvey Weinstein who could destroy a career with a phone call if an actor dare to say “No”.
Jennifer’s career,while derailed unjustly,never stopped and just like a phoenix,she has risen from the ashes and ready to start the next phase of her career and to bring her passion project,”HIDE” to the masses. She is proof that you can’t keep a strong woman down and that inner light has always shined in Jennifer. That said,I’m pretty eager to ask Jennifer Nash her 8 Questions…….
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your current project.
My name is Jennifer Nash and after being an actress for most of my life, I feel it’s my turn to tell the stories. My current project is HIDE, a sci-fi, time travel series that touches upon social justice issues from the past, present and future. The pilot episode has won 2 festivals thus far – the Austin Revolution Film Festival for Best Television Screenplay and the same award for the RED International Screenplay Contest as well as being an official selection (so far) at the Rome Prisma International Film Festival and the Las Vegas International Film Festival.
HIDE boasts a diverse cast that will always be at least half female, a structure similar to ‘Game of Thrones’ in which characters and their stories weave together in intricate an unexpected way as the audience is lead through clues as to why and how the time travel is occurring.
While you were born in South Africa,you were raised in Texas. What was it like growing up in the Nash household? How did your parents adjust to the cultural change?
I was born in South Africa to American parents. They went there for adventure, but didn’t stay long. Apartheid was in full swing at that time and my parents couldn’t take the inequality all around them, so they brought me back to Texas.
Texas was still pretty racist in the early 70’s, but my parents were not. With the help of my amazing Grandmother, they put all 6 kids into a small, Catholic School in Austin, TX called (appropriately) St. Austin’s. St. Austin’s was racially and economically diverse – equal parts guitar-playing hippy teachers and forward thinking Nuns in habits.
How did you get into acting? Was it something you always wanted to do?
I was an avid reader as a kid. I got straight A’s and only got into trouble when I refused to turn the light off at 10 pm or midnight in my little attic bedroom because I was reading all night. My father understood me so well, he came up for a unique punishment for me. He’d give me things to read, knowing my imagination was so intense I would soak anything up and take it to heart. My favorite example was one time when I was 11 years old, he felt that I was ungrateful for something and he gave me The Metamorphosis by Kafka to read. Of course my little brain gobbled it up and the lesson WORKED. Plus I’m pretty grossed out by roaches to this day.
The most influential author of all, though, was Shakespeare. My dad turned me on to Shakespeare at such an early age and I was in love.
So, when I was in 5th grade – I wrote, produced, starred in and directed my first play. It was a musical fantasy about 2 runaway orphans and it was a HUGE success! Ha ha – meaning a huge success within our tiny Catholic school. I got bit hard by the acting bug and never looked back.
Where did you get your formal training at? What are the five strongest lessons you learned while in school?
My same, beloved Grandmother – Mary Nash – saw my potential when I was quite young. Thanks to her I was able to start training at The Dallas Theater Center, The National Theatre of Great Britain and Interlochen Arts Academy all when I was still a teenager. From there I went to the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, and straight into working – Broadway, The Dallas Theater Center and on to the City of Angels for years of lovely television and film work.
The strongest lessons I learned in all that training might surprise you. My Grandmother pulled some strings to get me into an audition for the National Theatre summer program in Santa Fe when I was only 15. I was 10 years younger than any other student – it was meant to be a grad school program. I auditioned for Simon Callow and a few other great actors that created that program, and after the auditions – at our opening reception, Simon came up to me and said, “My dear girl. I championed you to get in. The others felt you were too young. But do you know what I said?” I shook my head, “No”. I was a little in shock to even be speaking to this INCREDIBLE actor.Simon’s voice boomed, “I said, she has a bloody good sense of humor. She’ll be alright!”
That may be my very strongest lesson of ALL the great things I’ve learned from some of the best teachers in the world. This business can be SO tough. A bloody good sense of humor is essential to make it through!
What are the three biggest differences/challenges to doing a Broadway play and a film/TV show? Which do you perfer as an actress?
People often ask about the differences between stage acting and film or TV acting. The thing is – there isn’t THAT much difference in my opinion. On stage one must be louder and more clear in one’s speech. But I do not submit to the “bigger acting” ideas that I believe are antiquated and only MIGHT apply for a farce – in which case actors may serve themselves well with “ bigger acting” on the screen as well as stage.
I teach and coach quite a bit and when I get students who have been taught that they must be “bigger” on stage it usually translates to overacting.
I LOVE both forms of acting. I love the energy of having a live audience with theatre – and I love the challenge of making a live play fresh every night throughout a long run and growing with fellow actors over a period of time. But I also love film and television acting. I love the nuances an actor can bring to a role with film or television.
When you booked your roles on Star Trek: The Next Generation,was there any inkling that your episode “The Inner Light” would become one of the most beloved in ALL the Star Trek universe? Do you get recognized for your role today?
It was such a delight to work with Sir Patrick Stewart in Next Gen’s ‘Inner Light’. I don’t think any of us could have anticipated how much audiences would love that episode. Well, maybe the writers knew. Every once in awhile someone will stare at me real hard and say – “You were on Star Trek! Don’t tell me… Next Gen. Meribor!”
In fact, that’s exactly how I sealed the deal with my last rental house in Pittsburgh. The landlord wanted to sell rather than rent, but once he recognized me from Next Gen he literally said, “You can do whatever you want. You’re Meribor!”
So… that was funny!
You were a rising star and your career was humming along until 1997 and then it seemed you vanished,what happened?
Sometimes people ask me why I “stopped acting” in about 2000. I didn’t stop exactly. I certainly didn’t want to stop. Things were going really well. But I had a “me too” moment that was very, very damaging. So, things started to change. My agency changed. I did more voice over work and commercials. Then I had a change of heart about doing commercials.I didn’t want to sell things I didn’t believe were good for people. So, I changed course. I started doing every job I could get behind the camera. To learn how to do it. And writing. And producing.
There are stories I feel are important to tell and my mission these days is to tell them.
Tell us about your new project “HIDE” which has been described as a science-fiction Underground Railroad tale. Where did you come up with the idea?
Which brings me back to HIDE. I came up with the idea when I was living in Pittsburgh for work on Mindhunter. I became fascinated with the history of the Underground Railroad there and the current state of that place.
I thought it was such an interesting triangle of what Pennsylvania was as a colony, what rural and suburban Pennsylvania is like now, and also the continuing culture of the Amish there.
HIDE is a result of my passion to do anything I can to bridge divides and wounds that feel so deep and real right now in this country. There are plenty of people who are trying to stoke those divides for their political or monetary gain right now – I want to be on the opposite side. I want to tell stories that make people think and feel. To think of what it might be like to walk in someone else’s shoes – if even for a moment. All of the Star Trek series have been stories that look at social justice issues and I am inspired by them in that way.
You have co-written a new graphic novel of “HIDE” with a writer named Jeremiah Schiek,how did the two of you meet and what it was like co-creating together? Will the graphic novel be available for the public soon?
The path of HIDE getting made is not a normal path, I don’t think. For instance, I had the idea of a graphic novel about a year ago, but it’s not until all six episodes of Season 1 have been written and rewritten that I’ve found an artist to collaborate with on the graphic novel. So, in this case – the series was written first and only NOW am I collaborating with a fantastic artist called Jeremiah Schiek on the graphic novel. I didn’t search out an artist – he dropped out of the sky like a gift. Completely random – OR …completely meant to be.
Can you walk through us what the “pitch” process is like? What have you learned about the process?
As far as the traditional “pitch process” goes – I have very limited experience in this realm. I’ve pitched a few Networks some reality shows with an X – producing partner of mine, but that’s it. I’m learning as I go. So if anyone has help for me on that end – I’ll take it! I ask everyone for help. Do you know a literary agent? Do you know anyone who wants to invest in a series? Do you know anyone at a hungry production company?
Right now I’m feeling like this series may come together in the most unexpected ways. There are three talented actors that may want to invest in the project right now. An AMAZING composer that’s on board to do the soundtrack. Christian Jacob – look him up. And I’m also feeling like this series will be groundbreaking in another way. When I started to listen to Christian’s music with the HIDE soundtrack in mind, I had a revelation.
SO much music in film and television is very derivative. Predictable. Christian is a gosh darn brilliant ARTIST. Of course as the creator I have ideas about how I want the series to look, etc. But what if this series was more collaborative than any series ever made? What if we do it that way? Just get a group of undeniable talent together and let it be MORE collaberative. Meaning, more trust in the artistic visions of the composer, the DP, etc…
I’m telling you – this series is going to have space for some MAD creativity. Even more in future seasons. it’s going to be SO MUCH FUN TO MAKE!!!!
You have become a casting director,how did that happen for you? Does being a experienced actress help or hinder you when you’re selecting actor for roles?
Do you perfer to see live auditions versus ones sent via computerIf you got a chance to cast “HIDE”,who would you pick and why?
I have had the pleasure of doing a bit of casting work in the last few years, and I can tell you that HIDE will not be cast in the normal ways, either. I don’t care one bit about name recognition. I am after fantastic actors that can really stretch. Because the characters I’ve written will require it. I’ve done nationwide searches for “undiscovered talent” for directors like David Fincher, watched hundreds – maybe thousands – of self tapes in the last few years. Of course I like ‘in person’ auditions the best, because then you can work with actors in the moment – but we may do a nationwide search for some of the roles in HIDE. It’s SUCH a diverse cast – ages 11 to 80 with all shapes, sizes, colors etc.I can’t WAIT to cast this !!
Being a mother of four,how do you balance your personal life and your professional one? What are some of hardest challenges you face?
As far as being a single mother and juggling things, I’ve been very, very lucky. I got enough work to support us but not so much work that I was away from my children too much. Now they are all grown up. My youngest son is in college at UC Santa Cruz and I hope I can get all four of them to contribute to HIDE when the time comes. I’m hoping my daughter, Sophie will design and create special art department pieces like the Faerie House in episode 1 for instance. They are SO supportive. I am a VERY fortunate mother.
The cheetah and I are flying in to watch direct your pilot episode of “HIDE” but we are a day early and now you are playing tour guide,what are we doing?
So, if you and the Cheetah fly out for a celebratory screening of the pilot and have some extra time – I will have TOO many fun things to suggest! I LOVE Los Angeles. I really do!
I’ll send you to the Annenburg Beach Club for lunch right on the sand of the Pacific Ocean, or up to Geoffrey’s in Malibu if you want a fancy Ocean View dinner. I’ll send you to Olvera Street for a taste of old LA and Mexico, to China town for Dim Sum brunch or one of the many great breweries we have here now if that’s your thing. UCB and The Groundlings are must do’s if you like comedy! Not expensive and you’ll laugh SO hard! The Dresden is great to see Marty and Elaine and feel like you’re in an SNL skit meets the Rat Pack era. Figaro Bistro has fresh baguettes every day, gorgeous French pastries, the best happy hour drinks and aps in LA and you’ll feel like you’re in Paris.
The Griffith Park Observatory, The Hollywood Bowl, Movies at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in the Summer or Day of the Dead coming up are AMAZING FUN! Hikes? We have the best! Ski? Drive an hour and a half. Wine? Take your pick these days – up to Solvang, Santa Barbara area, down to Temecula (hot air balloon while you’re at it) – sorry, but so many awesome things about LA to brag about it’s a little overwhelming. You’d better just follow me on Facebook, or HIDE on Facebook and let me know when you’re coming to town! Wish you were here – and I mean it! …..
I like to thank Jennifer for her time and candidness in doing this interview. I know answering some of these questions were difficult and I do respect her for sharing her experiences.
“HIDE” sounds like a a most interesting and original premise and I am looking forward to both the novel and the series when it lands. It will be so nice to see a fresh story rather then endless cookiecutter sequels and bloated special effect “events” with no heart or soul.
There are many ways to keep up with what Jennifer is up too:
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