Film

Close-up: An Interview With Nina Wisner

Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge chats to emerging talent Nina Wisner about her recent role in M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass and her intense passion for acting.


Q: You played a chained up cheerleader in one of the intense early scenes of ‘Glass’. How exciting was this opportunity to be on set with the likes of Bruce Willis, James McAvoy and M. Night Shyamalan?

A: It was surreal. I know it was a tiny part, and not to sound corny, but it really felt like a dream come true. I wanted that little part so bad. It was my first time on a real big set like that. I feel like it was a great first set experience.

Night couldn’t have been more kind. All of us girls were pretty green and he was so careful and respectful of that. He spoke to everyone the same, and I really feel like I learned how to be a professional on that set. Seeing James McAvoy perform right in front of you – it was like an out of body experience, he is truly a super human. It really solidified that this is really what I want to do with my life.

You know how you think you might want something then when you get the chance to do it is not what you pictured or you change your mind? I was afraid that might happen, but it was the complete opposite. It made me so hungry for the next project. It made me want to work harder.

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Nina in ‘Glass’

Q: How was the shoot? Any fun stories or memories to share?

A: I turned 22 on set. I wasn’t expecting anything, but it was one of the other cheerleaders, Shannon’s 21st birthday the same day. When we wrapped for the day, someone brought out cakes and everyone sang to us. Bruce Willis shook my hand and wished me a happy birthday. It was so nice. I felt like I was going to pass out.

The entire experience felt like a crash course in how to be an actress and how to be on a set. I had to really focus and not get caught up in the excitement. I learned so much from Night and I was just trying to soak in everything I could. Be honest in your work and committed is what I took from it.

Q: As well as ‘Glass’, you also recently had a role on the TV show ‘FBI’. Was that a different learning process for you?

A: TV moves much quicker. Everything happens so fast, they have to churn out these episodes on limited time. These people work so hard and you really get to see it and get a new appreciation for television. I loved watching Missy Peregrym, you can tell she’s the real deal and is really passionate about this.

Law and Order truthfully is one of my dream roles, so getting to be on a Dick Wolfe felt like a big accomplishment.

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Nina in ‘FBI’

Q: What first sparked your interest in acting?

A: I’ve always loved taking myself to another world. I have always been pretty shy, but I love entertaining my friends. I’ll do anything to make them laugh, even if I have to look stupid. When I was really little I would get obsessive about different things and go through phases.

The first movie I remember being obsessed with was Selena. I saw it, I had to get all the CDs, join the fan club, get posters. I would immerse myself in things. My parents always showed me cool old movies, like Shirley Temple and Marilyn Monroe.

I would play with barbies by myself for hours on end – which when you think about it is good improv training. I loved Beetlejuice and the Bride of Frankenstein. If I saw something I had to get the full costume to match. I just liked listening to stories and telling stories and transporting myself.

Eventually I figured out that it was acting. Getting around being shy was one thing – but it was almost perfect because in the audition room I didn’t have to be myself, I was expected to play a role.

Q: Is there an actor who you particularly admire or would like to follow a similar career path to?

A: Ugh, there is too many. I love actors. If I watch something I’m hopping right on the internet to learn more about this person. I love Sissy Spacek, Jodie Foster, Laura Dern.

I hope I can create something for myself. I just want to give really interesting performances, and feel the same way I feel when I’m watching these women and others like them. I really just want to work hard and see it where it takes me. I feel incredibly lucky and blessed every time I get the chance to work as an actor.

Also, I am obsessed with Rami Malek right now – but who isn’t?

Q: You also have a lot of experience modelling. Do you get a creative satisfaction out of modeling or do you see it as a different kind of pursuit to acting?

A: Modeling is a really hard job, and I have so much respect for models. I started modeling when I was 16, and haven’t really stopped since. I tried to quit, but I think I really did miss it. Above what anyone else thinks about being a model, it is hard work and it is creative work. Models get treated pretty bad sometimes, I thank it for my thick skin. I think it prepared me for auditioning and rejection.

Acting and modeling are two totally different worlds. I kind of try to keep them separate, but they do overlap. I just try to appreciate being able to work in any creative field and remind myself that.

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Photo by James Bartolozzi

Q: You will also star in Eva Evans upcoming short film ‘Girls Will Be’. Can you reveal anything about that and your time working on the short with Eva?

A: Doing Girls Will Be was like one big three-day sleepover. Eva is an absolute sweetheart.

The set was 90% women, which was great. We were in this big Victorian house in Brooklyn in the middle of summer. There was no air conditioner, we were all sweaty and fanning each other. The girls I worked with were so great, we were only together for a few days and I feel like we formed some sort of bond – sitting on the floor doing each other’s makeup, taking photos, laughing.

I’ve seen the film and its really beautiful, I hope everyone gets the chance to see it some day.

Q: What are your hopes and ambitions for the future?

A: I love film so much, I love acting. I know it’s really what I want to do. I hope I can just make a go of it. I think its worth trying, and I don’t want to give up.

Being a working actor is my real dream. I love to be on camera, I love to read scripts, I love to write backstories for my characters. I don’t know, crazier things have happened. I don’t want to give up and sit in an office. I’m not saying its a bad thing, if it’s what you want, but I know what I want. I’m going to work really hard, and take it day by day. You have to, or else you’ll go insane.

Every time I do an audition I try to pour everything I have into it and then the second I walk out and am finished just throw it all away and start from scratch on the next one like its my first. It’s the only way you can possibly keep going without over critiquing yourself to death.

I look forward to the next chance I get to play and think and do something with all of this stuff that goes on in my head that I can’t wait to pour into a character.


Title photo by James Bartolozzi

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