Actress and celebrity boxing champion, Nicole Bessick lives an incredibly active lifestyle. And she’s thriving! Whether she’s in the boxing ring or on camera, she finds a way to smash glass ceilings … and now she reveals some exclusive details.
Nicole Bessick is often referred to as Action Barbie. (Google her name, and you’ll see the headlines flood your screen.) It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see why – this actress and celebrity boxing champion pretty much has it all… Long, lush locks. A killer figure. And a passion for action – she describes herself as an ‘adrenaline-obsessed, Cape Town-born actress based in Johannesburg’. Oh, and she’s super-witty too.
At the moment, she’s lives in Rosebank – ‘I know, I know! Cue the dreaded Joburg versus Cape Town debate,’ she exclaims.
‘For me, it’s not a competition. Of course, Cape Town has the winning hand when it comes to the natural beauty of the mountains, the winelands and the seaside. But there’s just something about the energy of Johannesburg – especially the northern suburbs – that makes me feel alive.’
There’s a lot of truth in her joke that she’s ‘Cape Town at heart, Joburg at hustle’. Exclusively – yes, exclusively – she gives us the scoop on a trio of her recent successes. Think, juicy details on how a series she recently starred in is a finalist in some pretty prestigious awards, how her audition ‘immediately’ landed her a role in No Hiding Here and why she’s so proud of the film, and how she feels about the series she’s currently shooting. Hint: It’s all super-exciting! But first, just take a moment to think about these successes in the context of the past year. The Covid-19 pandemic. Lockdown. Tough restrictions affecting the entertainment industry. Nicole says, ‘Positivity, productivity and patience got me through 2020.’ And she’s come out on top. Now that’s hustle. And a whole lot of heart.
Shortly after lockdown was announced last year, Nicole says the idea for the IGTV daily soap opera, Lockdown Heights, was born, and she was cast in the role of ‘feisty, go-getter’ Britney. ‘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. The show is currently in its fourth season.’
Its success doesn’t stop there. ‘I am proud to share that Lockdown Heights has been approved as a submission for the 2020 Saftas [South African Film and Television Awards]. The awards are currently in the judging phase – keep your fingers crossed!’
And that’s not all. Nicole also starred in No Hiding Here – South Africa’s first gay romcom which was released on Showmax in February. ‘This film is the first of its kind and, as an ally of the LGBTQI+ community, I am so proud to stand alongside this cause, and bring this incredible piece of art to life! This was the safest, most inclusive set I have ever worked on. The cast and crew were predominantly from the LGBTQI+ community, pronouns were noted on call sheets and, as a heterosexual cis woman, I was completely outnumbered. I loved every second. This is a step in the right direction of history.’
Nicole was cast in the role of Jamie-Lee – a ‘lovably over-achieving drama buff’ – ‘immediately’ after her audition. Los Angeles-based filmmaker and director, Gabe Gabriel, says, ‘I watched Nicole’s audition and immediately knew she was perfect for the role. I could basically cut and paste her audition into my film. She nailed it!’
The new series she’s currently working on tops her list of favourites. ‘I can’t say too much about it just yet, but what I can say is that the character I’m taking on is quite the firecracker! She is challenging me physically and emotionally. The cast is star-studded. The plot is wild. You’re going to want to stay tuned! Keep your eyes peeled to your screens around April.’
“This film [No Hiding Here] is the first of its kind and, as an ally of the LGBTQI+ community, I am so proud to stand alongside this cause”
Nicole says there’s something about the South African entertainment industry that sets her soul on fire. ‘I grew up watching a handful of women of colour on television. I looked at them and thought, “They did, it’s possible, I can too!” Fast-forward 15 years or so, and I’m literally in their shoes, doing what I love and making SA a better place in the few pockets of influence that I have.’
Nicole’s flair for performance started at a young age. ‘I like to joke that I got my “big break” when I played Mary in our pre-school nativity play. I have never doubted my calling.’ At age three, she began figure skating and by the time she was eight years old, she was representing South Africa. By age 12, she turned her attention to performance art with an aim of becoming a ‘quadruple threat’ which she explains is an artist who can sing, dance, act and play an instrument. ‘My hard work paid off, and while in school, I landed my debut role in Cold Harbour – a film that put SA on the map at the Cannes and Berlin film festivals.’
After school, she didn’t just jump into a career of performance, she went to the University of Cape Town where she majored in law and media studies, and obtained an honours degree for her dissertation on the state of intellectual property in South Africa. From there, she went on to work on several series and feature films like Binnelanders, Broken Vows and Black Mirror.
The action genre is her absolute passion, and she says some of the female action stars in modern cinema who inspire her are Uma Thurman, Angelina Jolie, Rhona Mitra, Milla Jovovich and Cameron Diaz. ‘I also love that each of these women has done their bit to break the glass ceiling of the entertainment industry and challenged stereotypes every step of the way.’ Nicole certainly pushes – and breaks – boundaries, and she says she evolves as an actress by constantly upskilling. ‘In this industry, you should never stop learning or get complacent. When you stop learning, you stop growing as an artist. In terms of evolving, I’m always looking to learn new skills that I can bring to my characters. That’s the main reason I started fighting and shooting guns and racing cars in the first instance. I wanted to be able to play those roles convincingly.’
Nicole’s drive to do her stunts led to her taking up boxing. Then, she fell in love with it. Now, she’s a celebrity boxing champion – and you’ll find her in the gym twice a day, every day doing Brazilian jiu-jitsu in the mornings and boxing in the evenings. ‘I see it as a powerful reminder of how strong and resilient the body is. It’s a sport that has shown me my limits, and that has made me strong enough to overcome them.’
With a super-active, ‘fight, film, fight’ career and lifestyle – and very little downtime – Nicole says she has a genuine love for what she does. ‘Every day at work, at rehearsal, at training, in the ring – it fills my heart with so much joy and purpose. I am blessed to have built a life for myself that I don’t need a vacation from.’
Details: Follow @nicole_bessick on Insta.
* Text: DANIELLA GRAHAM. Photographer: Xavier Saer. Make-up artist: Ellenor Fisher.