Switching It Up with Nicole Urbanek

Austrian actress Nicole Urbanek may have grown up in another country but her roles have received a great deal of attention in a place which considers itself to be the center of film and television; namely America. The US acting community has many times found a strong appreciation for actresses from Europe and Nicole appears to be the most recent in this lineage. It’s likely that her peers and audiences see the passion that she kindles for her numerous roles and this is the reason for these accolades. The actress herself confesses, “Acting is more than just learning your lines and delivering them on stage. There is so much more work behind it. It’s a versatile, passionate, and multi-layered profession that requires commitment and a deep connection. It’s amazing when you’re able to make the audience feel something, whether it’s happiness, sadness, compassion, fear, etc.”

In the film Diminuendo, Nicole plays a young woman who has enrolled in a creative writing class as a way of dealing with a relationship breakup. Her character gets much more than expected when the action of the film offers as many twists as an M. C. Escher painting. Repeated encounters with a mute actress in the class leave her (and the audience) wondering when she is asleep or awake, who can and can’t talk, and where reality and fantasy draw their borders. Diminuendo received nominations from the Miami Independent Film Festival, the Austin Spotlight Film Festival, and won the bronze award at LA Shorts Awards.

Certain types of roles receive accolades but rarely awards, meaning that the actors who accept them do them predominantly because of their constant search of inhabiting different characters. Nicole’s portrayal of Isabelle, the mentally stunted daughter in the film Dr. Parents, placed her in the midst of exemplary company. As with John Malkovich’s portrayal in Of Mice and Men as Lennie Small (Malkovich nominated for 2 Oscars, Best Actor in a Supporting Role for 1993’s In the Line of Fire and Best Actor in a Supporting Role for 1984’s Places in the Heart, but this was not one of them) and Leonardo DiCaprio as Arnie Grape in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (the film was nominated but Leo was not, however he did receive the Best Actor Oscar for The Revenant in 2015), Urbanek received immense public praise for her work in Dr. Parents but was denied awards…so far. The plot itself is the ethical dilemma of two doctors who adopt a mentally handicapped woman with the intention of using her heart to save their fatally ill son. Nicole’s presentation of Isabelle is the emotional centerpiece of the film and the pivot point for the entire action of the story. Underplaying the attention she has received for her conviction in the role, Urbanek remarks, “I’m aware of some of the great performances I’ve seen by actors playing mentally handicapped people but I didn’t focus on this or aim my research on this. Instead, I saw Isabelle as simply thinking like a much younger person. I let my intuition and instinct tell me how to find the character and how to make it truthful. I tried not to overthink too much to keep some sort of simplicity and pureness to her. I watched a couple of interviews with kids to see more specifically how they think and how honest and blunt they can be.”

Urbanek appears in Hector John Guerra’s music video for “Mirror Touch — Memories” in a nod to ten time Grammy winner Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” and Fallout Boy’s “Dance, Dance” (MuchMusic Video Award-People’s Choice: Favorite International Group) which takes place at a prom. This particular video is a nineties prom and displays Nicole flexing her “bad girl” acting muscles as an unpopular loner, thus adding yet another diverse character to her arsenal. While these roles are extremely varied, it’s all part of the same process for the actress as she states, “The most important thing is to be truthful and be in the moment. The story in my opinion is always the most pivotal thing. An actor is only one part of the bigger picture. If you don’t have a dialogue to act with then you have to put more focus on your body language and facial expression so it’s still clear what you’re trying to say. But even if you have to exaggerate your performance a bit, it still has to come from a place of truth.”