10 THINGS – Nia Jervier
10 Things with Nia Jervier
You’ve been acting for a few short years. When did you first catch the acting bug?
I really haven’t been acting for a few short years. Film and TV are quite recent, but performing in theatre has been the highlight of my life since I was 8 years old. I first caught the acting bug when I started attending the City Lights Youth Theatre in New York. I went every Saturday for musical theater and every Wednesday for drama until I graduated from High School. It was a special experience. I did a countless number of musicals and plays there including ‘Once On This Island’, ‘The Apple Tree’ and ’The Music Man’. It was the most magical of places to me. I fell in love with the theater there. It’s where I developed the heart of an artist.
Which actors work provided you with the most inspiration as you navigated your way through the business?
I am obsessed with all things Diahann Carroll! She is my biggest inspiration. Her style. Such grace! She’s the first black woman to win a Tony Award for Best Actress on Broadway, and the first black woman to star in her own weekly primetime television series. She is also a Golden Globe winner and a Best Actress Oscar nominee. I’m encouraged by how she was able pull all of this off in the midst of what was the 60’s and 70’s. She is amazing to me. I can only imagine the obstacles of prejudice and hurdles of racism she had to endure. But she DID it! With all the elegance… and the every bit of poise. I am forever in awe of her. Her career has spanned 60 years and counting. My favorite ladies are the classic ladies. They remind me of my Grandmother; she was sophistication at its best.
You were on the original film, Dear White People. How was your experience like versus the role you’re now playing on the Netflix series?
The best thing for me would simply have to be that I get to play Kelsey, who wasn’t in the movie. Being given the opportunity to play a fully fleshed out role in a greater capacity means the world to me. I am so proud to be a part of such a groundbreaking project. It’s a movement. I love being a part of this show! Saying I’m extremely grateful for this moment would be putting it lightly.
On the Netflix series, you play the role of Kelsey Phillips. What are the good and bad sides of Kelsey’s character?
Oh, Miss “Kelsey” is absolutely out of her mind. She’s sweet but dimwitted. She’s out of touch with the political and racial climate on campus and in our country. A member of the un-woke, if that’s a thing… She’s shocked that racism still exists, and traumatized because it’s alive and well at Winchester. She wants to blaze trails with the others in the revolution on campus. She just doesn’t quite know how. Kelsey doesn’t really fit in, but her heart is golden. She’ll figure it out though… I hope! Her perspective is needed. There are people that actually believe racism doesn’t exist! Her character gives the viewer an opportunity to see how bizarre that perspective is, in a humorous way. She makes the pill a little easier to swallow.
What do you you enjoy most about bringing Kelsey to life on screen?
When performing in film and television, I believe the art is in allowing the camera to come to you. As an actor, it’s expected that you approach the work in a delicate manner, with intimacy. That’s how a connection develops with the audience. Kelsey is so neurotic and extreme, she gave me permission to play in a wider “space” to push the envelope a bit. She can’t exist in a petite place. Her view of the world is on steroids. It will stifle her! I really enjoyed giving myself permission to find her truth and still provide room for the broad comedy I believe she deserves. I relish in every minute that I get to be her.
Some have already seen the show and others have yet to tune in. From your perspective what is Dear White People really about?
It’s “A Different World” for a new generation. Dear White People is an exploration of identity. It’s hilarious, sharp, sexy and cool. Our show is centered around a group of black students at a predominantly white fictional Ivy League university as they navigate social justice issues, sexuality, friendship, race relations, gender identity, colorism and sexual identity. The students come together to confront the administration and demand a safe space on campus for the marginalized groups that continue to go unheard and unseen. Our show illuminates race relations in today’s society and highlights ignorance in people who are unable to identify with perspectives that don’t always align with their own. It encourages them to change their hearts and minds using satire, music, pop culture, and wit as a vehicle for change. The show is a perfect opportunity to educate and uplift people. It will shock their hearts and broaden their perspectives using the magic of humor, which is the best way to speak to someones soul.
You’re in the upcoming film, Step Sisters. What can you share with us about the film, your character and what viewers can expect to see?
Step Sisters is a handful. Get ready to laugh! It’s a lighthearted college comedy. It’s a mash-up of ‘Bring it on’,‘Mean Girls’ and ‘Legally Blond’. The film tackles race relations and sisterhood on a collage campus. I know it sounds heavy, but its delivered on a delicious platter of avant garde humor and Stepping (dance). I play Saundra; she’s a feisty, bourgeois, sometimes bitchy, sorority girl who’s popular and a lot fun!
If you were not working as an actor, what career choice would you make in place of it?
I can’t really imagine not working as an actor but if I had to choose… it would absolutely be interior design. Acting is my purpose, but I have a strong passion for home décor. I have a boutique design company called House of Jervier. Introducing people to the splendor of a creative and unique living space brings joy to my soul. I’m a lover of all things vintage! My house is filled with chachkies from every era. My personal design style is Hollywood Regency. For clients, I do whatever they like. Although, I must admit I am quite heavy handed with suggestions I feel are necessary to upgrading a home and lifestyle. I like to decorate with books! The secret to my design is going high-low. You shouldn’t have to break the bank to live well. A bowl filled with fresh lemons or Granny Smith apples will upgrade and add life to a space. I shop everywhere from the Good Will to the finest of estate sales. I never discriminate. There are marvelous things at Home Goods, IKEA and Target and I also shop at Jonothan Adler, HD Buttercup, and Kelly Werstler for clients. When your home is personalized, curated and clean, you have a foundation to living your best life.
When it comes to fashion, which designers fit your personal sense of style?
I love fashion. I always have runway shows from the Made to Measure network streaming on my TV like living art. No sound needed. In a perfect world of luxury and all things fabulous, I obsess over brands like Balmain, Gucci, and Rodarte. My everyday brands though are TopShop, Zara and H&M. I also love the French brand Maje. I upgrade them a little bit by having things tailored. My Mum raised me to believe that nothing is off the rack. So, I often have darts sewn on the waist of my jeans and EVERY dress I own is tailored no matter where it’s from. There is nothing like tailored clothing! It’s my little style secret.
We look forward to seeing you on Dear White People and Step Sisters. What other projects are you working on for the near future?
Hmmm… I have a few things up my sleeve that I can’t really mention yet. Lets just say; I’ve been on some amazing auditions lately and I’m really excited about what’s to come.
Photos: Courtesy of Marc Cartwright, Caitlin Fisher & Netflix