TAEM- The Arts and Entertainment Magazine believes that actors exist on the East Coast as well as the West Coast. One such actor is the beautiful and talented Kari Nissena. Kari, how did you get your start in acting and what training did you receive for it?
KN- I started acting when I was 5 years old performing in Children’s Theatre and anything that I could find that had to do with acting. Every Saturday morning I would head over to the theatre and get into costume and makeup to perform in the play I was working on at the time. Curtain was always at 9:15am because the majority of our audience members were children. After the cast and I signed autographs for the kids and grabbed a bite to eat, it was off to my acting training. I was fortunate enough to be able to train in a conservatory type of school. We had Acting Classes, Voice & Speech, Tap, Fencing, Mime, TV, Film, Commercials, Movement, Shakespeare …You name it. It provided discipline and fun and laid the groundwork for a successful career as a performing artist. I did that every Saturday for years. Moving into my teens I kept up with my training wherever I could find it and would audition any chance I got. After graduating high school I moved to New York to further pursue my education and still continue to do so. I always train and think it is very important for artists to stay working on their craft, even when they are working successful actors. The biggest stars and actors I admire most are always stretching and growing and learning. That is one of the great joys of a life as an actor … there is always MORE.
TAEM- Your first role was in a film short titled ‘Dual’ in 2002. Tell us about this initial experience for you.
KN-Actually, “Dual” was just one of the first credits listed according to IMDb. But I have been acting all my life and have almost 50 more films that I have acted in that were never even listed on IMDb. I always talk to actors about how it often takes 20 years to become an “overnight success”. haha I loved shooting “Dual” though. It was a hilarious film directed by a fantastic comedian and director named Ian Harris. The entire cast comprised of comics … and then me. As you can imagine, there was a lot of laughing in between takes. I actually was offered the role without having to audition because of my previous work in a project called “Group Therapy” where I starred opposite Robert Duchaine. Robert co-wrote “Dual” and knew I could take on the role of “Pattie Mae” in “Dual”. I still laugh whenever I see the film.
TAEM- The following year found you in a spate of projects that included ‘What Should You Do?’ and ‘Strange As Angels’. Describe these productions to our readers and the roles that you played in them.
KN- I have had the great fortune to play many different types of characters in my career. And sometimes, I have even been lucky enough to play two different characters within the same project. This was the case in both “What Should You Do” and “Strange as Angels”. For “What Should You Do?” I was a nurse in one episode and booked a second episode as a teacher in another. Only the teacher credit made it but both were a lot of fun. And “Strange as Angels” allowed me to play two totally different characters as well, but this time it was in the same film! I was the boss of the character played by Alisha Seaton AND also had a very fun turn as a drunk in a bar scene opposite Mark Weiler. That scene ended up being the comic relief of the film. I got to improv a lot of the scene so it was a blast to shoot. The costume department dressed me in a wig for the character of Laura (in the bar scene). The two characters were completely different, had very contrasting looks so people watching the movie didn’t know it was the same actress. It was a great challenge.
TAEM- The next year you produced and appeared in another short, ‘Ringtone Blues’. Then you got your first big break in two of televisions well known series, ‘Nip/Tuck’ and ‘Huff’. How exciting was these for you, and tell us about your venture on the other side of the camera?
KN- “Nip/Tuck” and “Huff” were both fantastic casts and great experiences. As far as “Ringtone” goes, it was probably the most fun I have had as a producer. It was a musical and we got to sing and dance and laugh. We laughed a LOT. I always tell actors to become producers or work on the casting side of things for a bit because it makes for a much better actor. Just by knowing what a producer has to do to make a film happen changes the way an actor looks at their career. And I believe, that makes them so much more knowledgeable on set and helps greatly when dealing with the business side of the biz.
TAEM- In 2005 you worked on ‘Silver Patriot’ in which you played a character, and had been the producer as well. Tell us all about it.
KN- “Silver Patriot” is near and dear to my heart. I have always felt like I belonged in the 1940’s and in that film, I got to do just that. The whole “Femme Fatale” thing is so much fun. Hate to give away a spoiler, but I got to be both the damsel in distress AND the bad guy in that one. It was based on the old serial comic books mixed with the glamour of old Hollywood. It can be challenging to wear the hat of both producer and the lead of the film. I have no idea how certain actors both star and direct. That just amazes me. Although I have now produced around two dozen films, I must say, “Silver Patriot” is still my favorite film that I have produced so far. We also won a lot of awards and have screened in quite a few festivals.
TAEM- What was it like at the production side of film, and what were your responsibilities in these?
KN- When producing, There are so many details in your job description; hiring the cast and crew, securing equipment and locations, organizing, promoting, and much more. Basically making sure everything runs smoothly. A lot of responsibility, but very rewarding when you see your final product.
TAEM- These were quickly followed by the productions of ‘Protected’ and ‘Cats On a Plane’ in which you wore many hats. Describe these films and the events around them.
KN- “Protected” was another period film but this one took place in the 50’s and it was a comedy. “Cats on a Plane” was a crazy ride. We made that film for a 48 hour film competition where I picked the genre, plus a character, prop, and line of dialogue out of a hat on a Friday night and had to make an entire film and get back to the finish line by that Sunday night, exactly 48 hours later. That year we got picked disaster film out of the hat as our genre and I just so happened to have rented a sound stage with an airplane. It was meant to be. My team came up with the idea to spoof the film “Snakes on a Plane” starring Samuel L. Jackson which had not even come out in theaters at that point. It was a big hit, we won awards at the competition, and got tons of press for the film.
TAEM- For the next few years you racked up such projects as ‘Humanity’s End’, ‘Callous’, ‘Dear Lemon Lima’, ‘Family 2.0’, and acting in one episode of ‘Just Jordan’. How were you able to muster enough stamina to accomplish all this work?
KN- When you love acting to your core, it is an absolute joy when you are working. Acting is what I am here to do. So I treasure every opportunity to do what I love. Just Jordan was great because it was a sitcom and I got to act opposite Nick Turturro. As far as the films go, “Humanity’s End” brought in a cool sci-fi following and a fantastic time cruising around in my spaceship and blowing up a bunch of stuff. “Dear Lemon Lima” is a very sweet film that was shot in Seattle along with Elaine Hendrix, Beth Grant, Vanessa Marano, and Oscar-winner Melissa Leo. I starred opposite Christopher Atkins in “Family 2.0”. We shot that last year in Arizona. And “Callous” was one of my favorite roles yet. I got to completely transform for the role. Wore wigs, gained 30 pounds, had an accent, got to age 30 years throughout the film, and it was all based on a true story. I felt so fortunate to be cast in that role.
TAEM- Tell us about some of the new projects that are in the works, as well as some pet projects that you would like to work on in the near future.
KN- I am grateful to say that it has already been a very busy year for me. Have already worked on many films, web-series, and other projects. I just finished acting in a wonderful feature called “Least Among Saints”. It was written, directed by and starring the amazingly talented Martin Papazian. Other cast members include: Laura San Giacomo, (Pretty Woman, Just Shoot Me), Tristan Leabu (Superman Returns, The Last Gas Station), Charles S. Dutton (Roc, Legion), A.J. Cook (Criminal Minds, The Virgin Suicides), Azura Skye (28 Days, Bandits), Audrey Marie Anderson (The Unit, Once and Again), and more. It was a truly wonderful film to work on. There are quite a few films and projects on the horizon that I have already been cast in. A couple web-series, short films, and a few features. “The Guidette” is a very funny film that I will be playing the title character and I am also starring in the new series “HOLLYWOOD Inc.”
Can’t wait to see what comes next!
TAEM- Kari, I must say that you are a very busy and ambitious actress and filmmaker. We want to thank you for your time with us and we wish you much luck in all your future endeavors. Please promise to keep us in the loop with all that you do as I am sure that our readers will be looking for more from you.