Nicole Bessick has taken South Africa’s entertainment industry by storm. Fondly referred to as “The Action Barbie”, Nicole Bessick is an acclaimed Actress, TV Presenter and Celebrity Boxing Champion.
She has bulldozed her way onto our screens in the locally produced and internationally acclaimed crime-thriller Cold Harbour which put SA on the map at the Cannes, Berlin and Los Angeles film festivals of 2013. She then went on to feature in the Netflix hit Black Mirror and Investigation Discovery’s Killer Instinct.
Local audiences will know her best for her work on Skin Deep, The Watcher, SAFTA-award winning soap operas Binnelanders and Broken Vows, as well as her presenting on The A1 Chat show, which boasts a following of over 2.3 million views.
Having already made an impressive impact and a name for herself among the country’s most dynamic artists, in 2020 Nicole set her sights on breaking broadcasting boundaries when she joined the cast of Lockdown Heights. The IGTV daily soap opera was created in response to the lockdown restrictions imposed upon film and television studios by the COVID-19 global pandemic. What began as a passion project quickly grew into a fully-fledged soap opera that has since been hailed for being the first of its kind in the world, and earned the cast a nod from BBC International.
But it’s her latest career highlight that is said to have set Nicole apart from the rest, as she takes to our screens not only amongst some of South Africa’s best talent, but as one of South Africa’s best.
‘I’m an ass-kicking, adrenaline-obsessed Actress based in Johannesburg and I play the role of Sonia in Is’Phindiselo.’
We caught up with Nicole who tells us more about her latest role.
Describe the character you play?
Sonia is a fierce and feisty stripper turned entrepreneur with loads of street smarts, sexual power and confidence. Don’t let the heels and nails fool you, she means business! She’s straight down the line, and won’t be taken for a ride by anyone… least of all her long-term boyfriend, Jerry (played by Warren Masemola). I’m one of the very few female character’s in the storyline. The hair, make-up and nail treatments were quite intricate, and while I may not be wearing much, those skimpy, stringy outfits made of glitter and lace take forever to get into!
As an actress, selecting the roles you play is important, why this particular role?
The roles I am most drawn are quite daring and require the artist to be able to display a great deal of physical ability. So when I came across Sonia’s character brief which quite plainly stated that she was ‘a master of the pole,’ I was sold! I felt an immediate connection to her feistiness and her bravery. Pole art is one of the hardest disciplines out there, and the challenge excited me. I really wanted to try my hand at adding yet another ability or ‘tool” to my skill set. I had quite a smooth audition process: a self-tape, a call-back with the writers and directors, and the rest as they say, is all history.
How do you become the character you play?
I’m a method actor, which ultimately means that I use a particular set of techniques to completely identify with the people I portray: emotionally, psychologically, physically. Most importantly this requires unlearning your own habits, and opinions, in favour of acquiring the habits, opinions, and abilities of the character you’re portraying. In order to do justice to a particular character, you must embody them 100%. There’s nothing more frustrating than watching a piece of art where it’s evident that the artist hasn’t done their due diligence. Instead of watching ‘a slice of someone’s life,’ you become aware that ‘this is not real life, this is an actor, the actor is just saying lines and following direction.’ The ‘suspension of disbelief’ element falls flat, and it can be quite cringing to watch.
How did you prepare for the role of Sonia?
The biggest characteristic that separates Sonia and Nicole, is the ability to pole dance, so in order to do her justice and bring her to life as authentically as possible, I took up pole art and had to acquire high skill levels of pole art in a very short space of time (with the epic team over at Gravity Goddess!). I’m quite athletic, so physical activity comes quite naturally to me… but pole is on a whole other level! I have never experienced exercise that challenges my body the way pole does.
Fun fact: We shot at a local strip club, and some of the ladies who worked there, asked me how long I’d been in the adult industry and why they’ve never seen me around before (LOL!). While some may have been insulted by that question, I took it as a HUGE compliment and was incredibly proud of myself. The level of pole-competency I achieved even had the professionals fooled!
Let’s talk about the cast… Who brought ‘life’ to set and how?
Robert Mpisi! It’s hard not to laugh and love life when he’s around. Our time spent together in hair and make-up, and our ‘long romantic walks to craft service’ (inside joke!), brought me so much joy!
Name one episode everyone should tune in for?
Episode 6, and I’m not even in this episode! The action, the fire, the stunt work! When filming this scene, the set was quite literally set on fire. It’s a must-see!
Most memorable day shooting?
Shooting scenes alongside Baby Cele. I watched her on television with stars in my eyes as a young girl, so to be sharing screen time with her was such a humbling thing. It was one of those moments where you look around you and realize you’re ticking off career bucket list items you only once dreamed of!
Your character has quite the wardrobe – talk us through this…
With the evolution of her character, Sonia wore everything from stripper heels to Haute Couture! Our wardrobe master, Bryce Bouwers, did the things! But if I had to choose my favourite look, it would be a silk, long-sleeved emerald mini dress Sonia wore to the Nkosi wedding.
Photography: Courtesy Images