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Inspirational Women In Hollywood: How The Expanse Star, Nadine Nicole Is Helping To Shake Up The Entertainment Industry

… I believe the focal theme of The Expanse is about hope. It illustrates future racial integration and presents the dire consequences of social caste systems in a world that stretches the solar system and beyond. Literally, big picture thinking. There are no black and white answers to right or wrong. Each character is fighting his/her own battle and each faction for their own tribe. Hopefully, along the way, we can band together to create more equality and harmony for all of life.

As a part of our series about Inspirational Women In Hollywood, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing The Expanse star, Nadine Nicole.

Nadine is a Filipina-German Actress, portraying Clarissa Mao on Amazon Prime’s The Expanse, which received critical acclaim for its scientific accuracy, winning a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. Nadine is also the founder of true-connection.org to inspire social empathy and leadership in our communities, and advocates for spaceforhumanity.org to make the overview effect accessible for diverse racial, economic, and disciplinary backgrounds.

Prior to that, Nadine taught theater to developmentally disabled adults at Mi-STAR and served as CEO of Helping Others Worldwide, creating a healing arts program for orphaned youth in Sierra Leone.

Nadine later founded True Connection and — in collaboration with professionals in the SEL community — helped develop its curriculum of mindfulness, character development, and goal setting with healing arts and emotional intelligence. True Connection has assisted hundreds of kids in low-income areas within Los Angeles, Compton and Watts, and currently offers SEL Training for students and educators.

As an actress, Nadine moved the hearts of many in her award-winning role as Julia in Lonely Planet, earning her Best Actress from LIFF Awards (Laughlin International Film Festival), alongside Best Film Awards and honorable mentions from Soho, Newport Beach, and Palm Springs International Festivals. She embraced memorable roles as Amy on NBC’s The Village, Casey on Hulu’s comedy Casual, Gwen Randall on CBS’s The Young & Restless, and starred in poignant indie features, Paradise Broken and So Long, Lonesome.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Nadine! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up snowboarding and snowmobiling with my family, boating and wakeboarding in the summers. We made up the sport -mortal combat tubing- where we would pull two tubes off the back of the boat and try to knock each other off. As a kid, I was very much in my head and extremely shy up until my early teens, at which point I became quite the rebellious, wild child. I struggled with post traumatic stress disorder and anxiety from adverse childhood experiences.

Yet, I was still a high achiever as an honor student, student council president, and played on multiple varsity teams, including basketball, softball and volleyball. I absolutely loved sports, music, dancing, drawing, painting, martial arts, kickboxing, wrestling, bonfires and apparently, speeding tickets.

My parents instilled the belief in me that I could be and do whatever I dreamed. They’ve always supported me 110% and for that I am eternally grateful.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

Being considered exotic in a predominantly white bubble, my mother started me in commercial print when I was six years young. In high school, I worked under Ford Models in Chicago, then moved to NYC to study Fine Arts at Fordham University and Audio Engineering at SAE Institute. I worked on commercials, which eventually opened me up to TV roles. It was a long, natural progression, but I hadn’t fallen in love with acting until I had the opportunity to develop interesting characters and tell important stories. It took a long time to get here, but it’s such a rewarding, cathartic craft. It asks us to empathize with all facets of human emotion and behavior. I love it.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

One evening I met a few friends to witness the Perseids meteor shower and see who could count the most shooting stars. The highlight was my girlfriend, Alex, who is also a Director, laying next to me wishing, “that we could make a beautiful film, in a far-away country, a really good one. Let’s travel and make movies! Please! We must.”

Two years later we were in Barcelona shooting a short film called Lonely Planet. Every single professional who contributed, did it because of their genuine passion for the art of storytelling and cinematography. To this day we still credit that night of wishing on a shooting star as our inciting incident (plus hard work and diligence). It’s one of our favorite pieces that we’ve ever made and always will be.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

During college, I was in a progressive rock band singing and playing bass and decided to chop my long hair off into a faux hawk for fun. What I didn’t think about was my job as a host for games and sports on Nickelodeon at that time. The network called me in, sat me in front of a dozen or more executives and talked about my butch-looking haircut, deciding whether to fire me or try and fix it. I was humiliated and felt really awful that I didn’t consider the consequences or my responsibilities to the contract. I decided not to roll the dice on burning bridges after that.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

As I mentioned previously, I experienced some emotional trauma as a child and Cliff Ishigaki, who was a Vietnam Veteran and a psychosynthesis psychologist, was the first person to make me feel seen and understood with my PTSD. I wasn’t fully aware of my complex traumatic symptoms until my twenties, when Cliff helped me become aware of underlying causes and extent of my fight or flight responses and panic attacks.

I went on to read all of Peter Levine’s books, including Waking The Tiger and do all the research I could on healing the nervous system and trauma body. I spent a decade studying various practices and modalities, but it was crucial to have that first adult help me physiologically understand my deeper wounds and walk me onto the path of healing and wholeness. He is by far one of the wisest and kindest souls I’ve ever met. He is why I believe it’s so important to provide kids with the opportunity to learn tools and techniques that raise their emotional and social intelligence.

In your recent role in The Expanse, you play a mass murderer, bent on revenge, who turned her life around to become a true hero. Can you articulate some of the main empowering lessons that The Expanse series can teach our society today?

The Expanse really is a cutting edge masterpiece within the world of science fiction. It paints a plethora of empowering messages including: how humanity grapples with fundamental change, strong & independent women, the constants of human nature and socio-political power struggles, and that we can cause more separation and suffering by dehumanizing others or look to a common mission to unite planetary civilizations.

I believe the focal theme is about hope. It illustrates future racial integration and presents the dire consequences of social caste systems in a world that stretches the solar system and beyond. Literally, big picture thinking. There are no black and white answers to right or wrong. Each character is fighting his/her own battle and each faction for their own tribe. Hopefully, along the way, we can band together to create more equality and harmony for all of life.

Can you share some lessons you think your character Clarissa can teach our society today?

My character Clarissa Mao (aka “Peaches”) starts off her journey seeking revenge for wrongs that she thinks were committed against her family, and she ends up later seeking out forgiveness for some horrible acts that she committed along the way. At one point or another in life, each of us is going to seek forgiveness and a second chance. The parts of us that may be really broken and never fully healed, can be used as catapults into transformation, purpose, and new beginnings with the right tribe, revived hope and self actualization. Just like Peaches.

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

Producing great stories with talented visionaries is truly an honor and a gift, but you have to learn to live with failure and reframe your relationship with it. Brushing off rejection is a huge part of the job and takes years to get used to. Even then, we will still face disappointments and heartbreak, as with any meaningful dream worth pursuing. I would say, practice non attachment to outcomes while working hard to maintain a fulfilling work/life balance regardless of the ups and downs.

What drives you to get up every day and work in TV and Film? What change do you want to see in the industry going forward?

It’d be wonderful to see more feel-good stories. I’ve watched Schitt’s Creek all the way through multiple times. It’s so rare to see comedy of this pure heart. I feel like we could use more of it. Meaningful stories, eye opening documentaries, and socially relevant concepts, like that of The Expanse, move us to contemplate ways in which to evolve. I always love seeing ground-breaking female driven stories like Queen’s Gambit and emotionally intelligent male characters such as Ted Lasso. Challenging stereotypes and increasing diversity shifts cultural norms toward inclusivity and open-mindedness.

You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?

The Expanse television series has reached completion, but I’m crossing my fingers that the last three books get adapted in some way. I’m really excited for what’s to come next and aspire to step outside my comfort zone again, widening my range and surprising people. I’m thrilled to be playing Patty, a botanist, in a Japanese anime film Exception, a mystery thriller coming out on Netflix. Stay tuned to hear about some other fun projects in the works that I cannot talk about just yet.

Another thing I’m really excited about is a custom jewelry line called Ce Soeur that my mother and I are designing and launching this summer. Our goal is to help empower and promote women in business, tell their stories and support organizations benefiting women and girls in poverty. This new venture and creating more resilient, mindful humans through True Connection, are passions that bring fulfillment and purpose to my life alongside a career in acting.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Aim for mastery. I once had a Casting Director scream at me in pure rage, spewing venom for a dozen people in the waiting room to hear. I had wasted her time and whatever atrocious event was happening in her life at that moment unleashed itself onto me for what felt like eternity. I left in tears, utterly defeated, called my manager and considered quitting. This casting director obviously didn’t handle this situation well, but I did learn that I cannot just rely on natural talent and wing it when I feel like it. She really made me get my act together. Pun intended. Study. Do the work. Research. Rehearse. Be off book. It’s too competitive out there to not bring your best to every opportunity.
  2. Continuously check your ego. There’s comfort in knowing that we really know nothing and that what other people are thinking is not personal, but based on their individual experience. I’ve learned that I am not for everyone, that I definitely can’t please everyone, and I can’t prevent them from making judgements and assumptions. The only thing I have control over is how I view and manage myself. In this industry, and with social media nowadays, we need to constantly be checking our egos and recalibrating to stay in integrity with our own true north.
  3. Live. It’s too easy to get caught up in the grind and view oneself as what we do, rather than who we truly are. Not letting others dictate who you should be, but daring to pave your own path by leaning into your deepest values builds character. I find it helpful to view myself as a student of life, so no matter where my failures and successes take me, I’m always expanding my life experiences. I find it so important to keep developing passions, gaining knowledge, learning new things, traveling and making time for what brings me joy. So, care well for yourself and others. Do not let working too much hijack these vital experiences that can help you thrive and lead a joyful life.
  4. Know you are enough. We find acting most convincing when it’s authentic. Unforced. Trusting in your instincts, in your path and the grand scheme of things, helps get yourself out of your own way. It removes obstacles and births more synchronicity. It’s in this learning to flow that creativity runs more freely through your body and your life, and in one way, that’s exactly what acting is. We lose focus and authenticity when we start forcing or pushing. When I played softball in High School, I was always trying too hard at bat. I wanted to hit a homerun so badly, I would try to swing so crazy hard that my eye would come up and off the ball just enough to miss the connection. I strive to remember this whenever I find myself feeling the need to push, force or prove myself.
  5. Give back. This one isn’t what I wish someone had told me, but rather, wise words I am grateful for being told when I moved to Los Angeles. I met a Director who suggested, in order to become a better actor, that I volunteer with developmentally disabled adults and study their cadence, behaviors and mannerisms. And give back to the community while doing it. It changed my life, and led to the birth of True Connection. Some of the most rewarding experiences of my life, thanks to that one conversation. So, I recommend each of us to ask ourselves, “how can I serve others while I reach for my dreams?”

Can you share with our readers any selfcare routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.

I practice yoga and meditation. Lemon water and journaling are nice, gentle aligners. Getting into nature is like church to me. Eating remotely healthy, intermittent fasting, and exercising daily are some habits that help me to thrive. I’ve become fond of moving more slowly, taking my time with things. More balance, less stress. I really like listening to Alan Watts, one of my favorite philosophers and theologians, to center and feel inspired. Also, reading a good book or playing with my pup always stimulates the spirit.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Out beyond the ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,

There is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.

Ideas, language, even the phrase each other doesn’t make any sense.”

To me, this prose by Jelaluddin Rumi vividly echoes the concept of the divine, the ineffable, all-knowing and omnipresent. I guess, if I were to try to put the concept of love or heaven into words, this would be it- the bliss of experiencing a deep connectedness to all that is.

You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I would try to inspire a movement that helps alleviate poverty, inequality and disparity. I think one of the avenues in which to do that is by offering individuals more education of the heart. If we raise our empathy, social intelligence and connectedness, we could live more in harmony with each other and the planet. It would be incredible to really challenge the status quo concerning old perceptions that prevent us from vital shifts in our collective belief systems regarding race, beauty and power, so we can create more unity and thrive as a species.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

I’d be deeply honored and enthralled to meet Melinda Gates at some point in my life to thank her for everything she’s done for women and humanity. She’s been a huge inspiration to me as an intelligent philanthropist who cares deeply about education, healthcare and women’s rights. The Power of Lift is so informative and invaluable to the world. I am so grateful for her voice, her message and her role modeling.

Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?

www.instagram.com/_nadinenicole_ | www.twitter.com/_nadinenicole_

This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

Thank you so much!

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In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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Authority Magazine

Authority Magazine

Authority Magazine is devoted to sharing in-depth interviews, featuring people who are authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech

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