I find it quite intriguing that a year ago today, I shared my review of Nikki DeLoach’s first Christmas film for the Hallmark Channel (Christmas Land), and today I have the supreme joy of sharing with you a recent interview I had with this magnificent woman, fantastic wife/mother, and phenomenal actress. Nikki was willing to share from her heart about how she began in this business, how her beloved work with Hallmark has enriched her life, and most importantly, how she keeps it all in perspective.
RH: What inspired you to become an actress? What kind of training have you had?
ND: I’ve wanted to be an entertainer since I was a child. I definitely was inspired as a young girl by certain movies, mostly the classics, but honestly, I just feel like it was in me when I was born. I’m just fortunate enough to have been able to live out that purpose in my life. My training was mostly on the job. I started working professionally when I was six. But, it wasn’t until I landed at Warner Loughlin Studios in Los Angeles in my late twenties where I learned a specific technique as an actor. Now I’m actually a teacher at the studio. I got my degree in both English and Psychology mostly because I was interested in both subjects. But also, for me personally, I always need to have a secondary focus in my life outside of the entertainment industry. This business is very difficult to journey through. I have found that when I’m involved with learning something that has nothing to do with this business, it helps to ground me, inspire me, and grow me as a human.
How did you get cast in the All New Mickey Mouse Club? What is significant or memorable about that time?
My first audition was in Jacksonville, Florida. Then, I had a callback in Atlanta, and then I went to the casting camp in Orlando, Florida where they had narrowed it down to about twenty-four kids. From there, they chose seven. It was one of the best times of my life. What was truly significant was the fact that I was able to do what I loved to do with other kids who I also loved. We were a family. I’ve never learned so much from one experience. It was magical.
As you were young when you started in the business, how did you keep yourself grounded and out of trouble? Was it difficult to make the transition from being a teenager to being an adult in the entertainment business?
Of course it was difficult. I think the thing that was the toughest to deal with was somewhere along the way your self-worth and identity becomes dictated by your successes and failures within the industry. You learn at a very young age that you are a commodity. When you’re having great success, everyone wants to be your friend and give you the world. But, when you are not experiencing success, the industry wants nothing to do with you. So, you’re constantly grasping for that next thing that’s going to keep you relevant in the eyes of others. It’s really a difficult life lesson to learn at a young age. It took me a while to not allow my self-worth or happiness to be dictated by any externals. No matter what, I love who I am and I’m not willing to betray that self-love for anyone or anything. I surround myself with people who love me for me. But, honestly, I don’t think I would’ve made it through had it not been for my faith. Every dark night of the soul, I’ve known I was not alone because God was with me.
It seems like a somewhat early work that you are known for is the Net 2.0. What can you tell us about that film–how you got the role, what you liked best about filming, why you think it was well-received?
My favorite thing about that movie was the location. We shot in Instanbul, Turkey. I also loved all the action scenes I was able to do. I loved working with Charles Winkler, the director. It was the toughest shoot of my life. The first full American movie made in Turkey. I had tremendous physical injuries throughout. The days were very long. I was in every scene…but I loved it.
Of course, many of your fans still remember you and love you from Awkward. How did you get involved with that show? Why does it have such a following? Any special memories from the show?
I auditioned just like everyone. I’m sure glad I did because it was one of the best experiences of my life. I think people love the show because it marries heart and comedy so beautifully. It managed to find humor in heartbreak. Plus, all of the actors who brought those characters to life were so great. So talented and very special humans. Our crew and cast were a family. We will always be. I think the people watching can really feel that.
Your first Hallmark film was last year’s Christmas Land. I cannot tell you how many people continue to ask me if you are related to Maureen McCormick. While I know you’re not, did you get a chance to spend some time with her on set even though you have no scenes together? How did you land the role in that film? What was the one on-set filming atmosphere like?
It was a little crazy how much we looked alike. I did get the chance to spend time with her, and I absolutely loved her. We actually have a lot in common. Both of us started in this industry at a young age and now live very normal lives within this industry. That was a purposeful decision for both of us. I was sent the script for Christmas Land and really connected with it. It was one of the most pleasurable filming experiences I’ve ever had on a movie set. I loved every moment of making that movie.
I received the offer for A Dream of Christmas, and I very much understood her journey and the questions she was asking herself. I think most women do. This life thing is really hard sometimes…especially when you feel like you’ve made all the right decisions, worked the hardest, been a good human and life is just not swinging in your favor. Gary Yates and Mike Bell had written a very good script. I was excited to dive in. My co-stars were aces. Andrew Walker is really such a joy. Lisa Durupt, who played my sister, has become a sister in my real life. She recently came to Los Angeles and stayed with me. We had the best time. She is wonderful. I hope that the biggest thing people take away from the movie is the fact that it’s okay to question the choices you’ve made in your life. However, it’s also really important to remember that all the success and money in the world mean nothing if you have no one to share that with.
What do you like about working for Hallmark?
Everything. Seriously, they take great care of me and my family. I get to tell stories that matter. I get to work with people I really like. There’s nothing better.
Any other upcoming works you can mention? Any plans to return to music or possibly some writing, directing or producing?
Yes ma’am. There are several things in the works, but nothing I can announce as of yet. Stay tuned!
Are there any special holiday traditions that you and your family have? Possibly even new ones that you and your husband and son are starting too?
We go to Georgia to be with my family over the holidays and it’s packed with fun holiday traditions. We are in that transitional period where we are trying to figure out our own holiday traditions. The most important thing is that we get to spend time together.
You seem to be such a positive individual who even cited God’s work in your life during your recent Home & Family appearance. What have you discovered is the secret of remaining joyful and uplifting in a world fraught with negativity, pain, and suffering?
This is the question, right? What a terrific question. First, I must say I’m always in search of joy. I think that’s the secret. You have to be a person who wakes up in the morning and despite the negativity, pain, and suffering, you want to find the joy. Some days you can’t. Some days it’s really hard to get there, but you eventually do. Other days it’s easy to get there. You have to be really compassionate with yourself. If you are always choosing love, you’re on the right path. Having a strong relationship with God taught me that. Thank God for that!
The moment I heard Nikki share her story on Home & Family before her current film A Dream of Christmas premiered, I was convinced of the unwavering commitment Nikki had to her faith, and I immediately sought an interview with her. After gaining a real perspective on who this woman is, I sensed that genuine connection with one who is a fellow sister in Christ, and my respect and awe has merely increased for this woman who has remained true to who she is in spite of a world who seeks to mold her in a less than positive light. All too often, young people who begin in this business compromise their values and become less authentic, and years later, their stories are splashed all over the news, while all bemoan the young, misdirected former child star who is attempting to pick up the pieces of his/her shattered world. In Nikki’s case, her faith, family, friends, and support system has kept her grounded, and she can stand as a beacon that demonstrates that degenerative behavior and bad choices are NOT a prerequisite for young people in today’s society no matter their upbringing, opportunties, nor even chosen profession. It is women like Nikki that this world needs more of, in my humble opinion, and I am so thankful that I have been able to cross paths, albeit only briefly, with this humble, strong, influential woman, for she has made a significant impact on my life in her quiet way, and no doubt I am not alone in my persuasion. I would invite everyone to investigate Nikki and her career at the links listed below, and if you happen to have missed her film this year on the Hallmark Channel, check local listings as all “Countdown to Christmas” movies are playing again beginning on December 24 (and with no commercial interruptions), so be sure to check local listings for A Dream of Christmas. I can promise you that will not be sorry for taking the time this holiday season to watch her uplifting and thought-provoking film.