If you’ve been hiding under a rock lately and haven’t seen Steven Soderbergh's Liberace bio-pic “Behind the Candelabra” on HBO – you’re missing some amazing performances. Actress NIKEA GAMBY-TURNER had a front row seat to not only watch the magic but also participate in what is likely to be a front-runner during next year’s awards season.
Nikea has been making a name for herself in Hollywood, turning small roles into big opportunities. She’s worked with some major A-listers and is quickly becoming a sought after character actress. It’s not been an easy road, having to take a break from her career to deal with a life threatening illness, but this seriously funny lady didn’t let it keep her down for long.
We recently caught up with Nikea to talk about “Behind the Candelabra” and much more.
HOLLY: Tell us about your experience working on one of the most promoted and highly-anticipated TV movies of the year?
NIKEA: It was truly an awesome experience. It just so happened to be my birthday as well, what a birthday present. My scene was with Matt and Dan, and I watched in awe. I would be easy to be a little nervous but I just remembered that they were once in my shoes. The newbie on the set with heavy hitters -- that made it a little less intimidating.
HOLLY: What did you notice or learn from working with these “masters” both in front of and behind the camera?
NIKEA: I was on set for two days, but I learned that you are the master of our craft and it is your job to know the character inside and out, and create the life. It was a tense scene so there was really no funny business on set, just kind of a calm. I can't say Matt Damon is a method actor, but he definitely allowed himself to get in the zone. So I just quietly observed, he's a genius, he was Scott Thornson.
HOLLY: Had you read Scott Thorson’s biography about his relationship with
Liberace before you worked on the film? And, do you think it’s harder or easier to work on a project based on real events?
NIKEA: I did a bunch of research online and downloaded the book, but didn't have a chance to read it all till I was done shooting. I kind of skipped through just to get a feel for what the movie would actually be about. I think Matt Damon and Michael Douglas truly embodied these characters, when I saw the final product I was in awe. Michael Douglas What? He killed that role; and Matt and Rob Lowe…I am just simply honored to have been invited to watch it happen. Stories based on real events might be a bit more manageable because you can actually see the person and speak to them, and get the info that's not in the book to help with character, but you don't have a ton of freedom to make adjustments or improv.
HOLLY: You’ve also worked with Frenchman Luc Besson on “Columbiana.” How was that experience?
NIKEA: Luc wasn't on set, but I am a huge fan of his, from “The Professional,” “The Fifth Element,” and “The Transporters,” so it was an honor that I was chosen. Olivier Megaton was the director and Luc gave him his big break on “Transporter 3.” I actually thought I blew the audition cause I was soooo excited, but I made sure I practiced it and and all my ducks in a row. Ironically, I found out on my Birthday that I had booked it. July 31st is my Birthday, and wonderful things seem to happen for me on or around that day. I had a great time on set, I was able to improv which is my favorite thing to do. The best part was, I was not supposed to have that second scene, I was just supposed to get taken away, but because he thought I was funny, he told me, "you can talk", so I walked in with my gum poppin. That was my first major role in a film and it was the most exciting. I shot in Mexico City and was there for 4 days…a girl can get used to the star treatment for sure.
HOLLY: You had to step away from your acting career for a period of time because you had Breast Cancer, can you share with us your story about that and how you think that’s affected your career now?
NIKEA: Do you have an hour LOL, I will try and keep it short, when I was diagnosed I thought I made a huge mistake, I had quit everything and literally hustled with odd jobs like most actors do, and then I got cancer. I couldn't believe it, I thought God was punishing me honestly, but he always has a plan. I say this because my faith played a huge part in my recovery, and I know if it wasn't for prayer and petition I wouldn't probably be here. As I said God has a plan. When I had quit my job to take the odd jobs and live 100% as an actor, the old "suffer for your craft", I hadn't really booked anything. I had an agent and was getting nothing. Suddenly I had to stop it all, at the end of the day, I survived cancer and if I can do that I can do anything. I got a desk job again and thought, well this must be what I'm supposed to do with my life, but acting came a calling, so I quit that job and started again, this time with a mindset of knowing this is where I belong I am stronger in my craft, I have much more confidence, and I can take it or leave it. I think when your fighting for your life because you are in between acting jobs, and you have bills to pay the pressure can be so much that you end up blowing and audition cause your more focused on the bills you have to pay. I'm actually grateful that I had cancer, it's made me the woman I am today, a fighter. I fought that and won, and I am fighting for my space in this business and I will win. I know this is just the beginning.
HOLLY: Do you know what your next project is and where can we check back to keep up with you?
NIKEA: All I can say is stay tuned ‘cause I know I'm not done yet :). I do have a couple of webseries that I am in, one show called Walk This Way, on Alright TV on You Tube and another called M.A.S.H, also on You Tube, and a Clorox short film/commercial on Clorox.com that was seriously fun.
Folks can keep up with me on
Or follow me on Twitter: @Nikeagt
Or Instagram at Okayimhere
"Behind the Candelabra"