SBJCT spoke with Nesta – star of “SEE” – about purpose, intention, dystopian fiction, and the art of sometimes simply being. Also, how to navigate your emotional meter, and learning to embrace the responsibility of honoring the the past with gravitas and humility. Read on below…
BY ERIN WALSH
PHOTO CHRISTIAN HOGSTEDT
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Erin Walsh Hello Nesta! Thank you so much for taking the time to have some fun with us- we are so excited to feature you and all you have been up to. I would love to start at the beginning- tell us a bit about your background and how you got started as an actor in the first place…
Nesta Cooper Well, I got my first agent when I was 17 years old when I moved to the city (Vancouver) and have been acting ever since, and then I moved to LA at 23 after filming my first American movie, RealityHigh. Between moving to Vancouver and moving to LA, I had to grow up really quickly. It was like this fast-tracked version of life school. I worked non-stop, was in acting classes whenever I had free time, I met my best friends, all that good stuff. One thing I remember vividly about that time was that I was acutely aware of being naive and young, and I felt that it affected my acting negatively. So every new experience for me, whether good or bad— I felt was only making me a better actor, because I was able to understand more characters and what they go through, or something like that… Now that I look back I’m sure that’s not a healthy way to respond to life… but it worked for me back then.
EW What about SEE? I am such a fan of dystopian fiction, what drew you to this project and how do you approach a role like Haniwa?
NC Exactly that! I love dystopian fiction as well, I read so many books set in dystopian worlds. I loved that the world of SEE has a sci-fi element to it, in the way that it feels like it could happen in real life, but some of the cultural elements to the show are completely made up for this particular situation— and feel almost magical. So it has a bit of everything. I really empathize with Haniwa, emotionally and mentally. I love that she has the courage to create her own path wherever she goes, and is bold in her hope for a better world.
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EW What do you hope viewers take from SEE and any lessons you have found to be instrumental in your own life?
NC I just hope they are excited, entertained, and warmed by this season. We put so much work into this show, I just want people to enjoy it. It’s an edge-of-your-seat kind of season, with so much going on and never a dull moment.
EW How do you go about deciding what projects to take on?
NC At this point, I am not picky. Anything that is different from my previous projects, and that excites and inspires me. I just want to work with directors, actors, writers and producers that I grew up watching and that I love.
EW What is most helpful in the process of finding a character?
NC I tend to find my link, I think that can be anything, but for me it’s usually a physical trait. For Haniwa, its her physicality. For example, she walks and slumps in ways that I don’t, she listens differently, she’s less aware of her facial expressions because she’s not used to people observing her. She also has a chip on her shoulder and is incredibly reactive. Things like that can have the effect of behaviorisms in a character, that sometimes I don’t even notice!
EW Do you consider acting or the arts as a vocation or something you were called to do?
NC I don’t see it that way exactly. I feel I was called to encourage a sensibility in people, and the vehicle I’ve found is the arts. But that could change over time.
EW What helps you stay sane and tethered these days?
NC Graphic novels, Stuff You Should Know podcast, my dogs Ollie and Juneau, and Jamaican food from Chubby’s in Toronto.
EW Any dream role you hope to come your way?
NC Anything that really scares me!!
EW What are your thoughts on purpose- like do you see a greater meaning in your work and what you are called to do? And what else do you feel particularly called to do?
NC This is something I’ve been having lots of talks about with my older sister Elisha, and I’ve thought very deeply about over the last year or so, watching people lose their jobs during the pandemic, people finding hobbies, relationships being tested from all sides. Ive come out with the conclusion that, you need to do anything to have a purpose. I’m trying to practice this idea that beyond your job, whether you’re lucky to have it veiled in purpose or not— you are a fully formed human being that is precious and whole. Just existing is okay too.
EW What inspires you?
NC Music, documentaries, the usual!
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EW How do you connect your spirit with your work and your day to day?
NC I’m essentially a walking emotional sponge, which I think is the strongest thing I bring to my work, although it’s not always a good thing. So I spend most of my work days and day to day navigating my emotional meter.
EW How do you like to spend your days when you aren’t working?
NC Exercising, and then blissfully doing absolutely nothing!
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you need to do anything to have a purpose
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EW What are some of your favorite ways to pay it forward? Any charities or causes we should know about?
NC Partners In Health is providing urgent relief efforts in Haiti following the recent devastating earthquake. J-FLAG is a human rights organization advocating for the rights of LGBTQ+ people in Jamaica. Their instagram: equalityja is informative, colorful and inspirational!
EW Anything in the way of a motto you subscribe to?
NC Life always balances itself out, good does not exist without evil. So enjoy what you can and trust the process.
EW Tell us how you use your platform to pay it forward.
NC One day I told Alfre Woodard that she inspires me in ways I couldn’t explain. And she responded by saying “I stood on the shoulders of the black women who came before me, who stood on the ones who came before them, and I gladly let you stand on mine now”. I don’t think I can say I use my platform for anything significant right now, but I hope one day I can speak to the next generation with the gravitas and humility that I was lucky enough to receive. And to continue to tell unrepresented stories.
EW Do you keep anything in the way of a 5 or 10 year plan?
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EW What do you wish people would stop asking you in interviews?
NC I actually don’t have an answer for this one yet. Ask me again in 5 years!
EW What do you wish you were asked more often?
NC I wish I was asked more about my stunts, because it’s my favorite part of playing Haniwa, and I spend a lot of time trying to perfect my fight sequences. We also worked with the most incredible stunt team, who are the coolest people ever, were so patient with us, and trusted us and encouraged us non-stop. They deserve all the praise!
EW What makes you hopeful after a year of pandemic life?
NC I was finally able to go home to see my family last week, and meet my new nieces and spend time with my nephews and sisters. Nothing is better than that.
EW What makes you excited about the coming year?
NC Doing something new in my work. After playing Haniwa for 2 seasons in a row, I’m excited to do something different.
EW Book we should be reading?
NC Wage Slaves by Daria Bogdanska
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EW What should we be eating?
NC BAO. I love bao.
EW What should we be watching?
NC White Lotus, 9 Perfect Strangers, and the Naomi Osaka doc.
EW What’s your SBJCT Nesta? What really moves and inspires you?
NC Shamelessly, and relentlessly creating without worry and without fear.
Life always balances itself out, good does not exist without evil. So enjoy what you can and trust the process.
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