Nicole Cardoni: Today’s Notable Young Professional

Nicole Cardoni received her BA from Western University in Philosophy and Film Studies and received the gold medal for the highest overall average in both her programs. At 30, she recently graduated from the conservatory acting program at The Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theatre in New York City and is currently living in the Big Apple while working on a play she plans to bring back to Toronto later 2014. We can’t wait…

Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
I am an actor. I am a writer. I am Canadian.

Why did you become an actor? What was the inspiration for this career route?
I remember watching ET as a kid and crying when Elliott thought ET was dead and then feeling overjoyed when he discovered his friend was still alive. At the end of that movie, I told my mom, “That’s what I want to do with my life.” I wanted to be the puppet master. I wanted to make people feel emotions and experience life through me. Acting is important – we all need to remind ourselves of our full range of feelings, emotions, desires and shared human existence. My job as an actor is to get to the centre of the human experience.

What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis?
I’m currently collaborating with Hannah Rittner, a talented playwright and fellow Torontonian/New Yorker, on a new play called The Bitch, The Nihilist, and The Poet. At this point in the process, the best part of my day is “figuring out” who my character is. It’s actually one of the things I love most about acting; it’s like being a student for life and always getting new opportunities to run into your classroom screaming, “Look what I did! Look what I did!” We’re workshopping this piece in New York starting in March and bringing it to Toronto this summer.

What’s the most challenging part of being an actor?
Oy, that’s a tough one. I’d say the biggest challenge is handling the lulls that come between gigs. That’s usually when I start to go a bit crazy – I’ll sit in my apartment and run my favourite movie monologues or work on obscure accents.

Any accents you recently mastered?
A more ‘culchie’ (i.e rural) Cork Irish accent that someone living outside of Cork City might have. It has a fun sound, but a very challenging melody to pin down.

What is one sign that you’ve seen over the years to suggest that your work/life balance is off?
I feel like balance is this idealistic state that many people try desperately to attain but few non-yogis can actually achieve. It’s the missing puzzle piece in our lives that was never put in the box to begin with. For me, my life is my work – the two go hand in hand. I rely on my own personal experiences to help me bring my characters to life, and at the same time I also learn and draw on my characters and their experiences to help me navigate difficult personal situations. It works for me.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
I had the most vivid dream the other night that I was exiting the 2 Express train, pushing my way  (politely – I am Canadian after all) through a thick sea of people before finally surfacing on 42nd and Broadway. I had my earmarked, highlighted script in one hand and an extra large hot chocolate in the other. I was briskly walking along, doing a mini vocal warm up while trying to resist the urge to stop and watch the line up of talented street performers along my way. When I finally got to my destination, earphones still in place, I sang aloud to The Doors’ “Break On Through To The Other Side” as I pushed open the stage doors of the Barrymore Theatre. It was my first day of rehearsals for an original Broadway show. That was a pretty good dream I’d say – I wouldn’t mind being there in five years. Or less.

What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge has been to not be so concerned with the end result of my work, but rather to be more present and alert on stage and screen. My goal has shifted from being a “good” actor to being an “alive” one.  I’d say that’s an ongoing challenge for any working actor: the desire to play needs to be more alive than one’s desire to be good.

What does success look like to you? Does Money = Happiness?
If money were the ultimate goal, I would’ve followed my original plan to attend law school and become a high-profile corporate lawyer. Instead, I realized I’d much rather play a lawyer on the stage and screen, regardless of the consequences on my pocketbook. Success to me is having consistent work in the profession that brings me the most fulfillment. Acting is not the most secure job in the world (as your local server can confirm), but when I’m acting, I feel a happiness that I can’t imagine myself finding anywhere else.

What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
After graduating from The Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theatre, Edward Allen Baker – an exceptionally talented New York playwright – decided to write a play for me and seven of my classmates after having seen a show we’d done earlier that year. I played the character Sonny in the world premiere of Sonny Under The Assumption and was able to experience for the first time what it felt like to collaborate with a renowned industry professional. It was a definite highlight!

Do you have any advice for other new actors?
An acting professor once told me, “Human behaviour is universal. It hasn’t changed since the start of humankind.” Actors sometimes focus on creating something new, when the real unique element is the actor themselves. Everything else has been said and done before. My advice? Show the audience what you honesty know about the human experience. Honesty is disarming.

Where is your favourite place to wine/dine in your city and why?
Hands down: Diner. It’s a tiny, trendy eatery in South Williamsburg that’s been around since 1999. It’s set in a narrow, snug metal Kullman car from the twenties on a corner underneath the Williamsburg Bridge. There are no menus; the server simply comes to your booth and writes the daily fare on the butcher paper covering your table. All of the food is locally sourced and made to absolute perfection. I love it here because it somehow fits my idealistic notion of the “real New York” that I grew up thinking only existed in Woody Allen movies; the view of East River and Manhattan in the distance while the trains and traffic from the bridge rattle the table while you eat.

So you live in New York. Have you tried the famous cronuts?
I’m a puritan. I have a healthy addiction for traditional, fresh, sugar raised donuts. I know I may sound like a traitor to my country when I make this next statement, but Tim Horton’s has got nothing on Peter Pan’s Donut Shop. It’s down the street from my apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and they are the most insanely tasty fried bundles of dough you’ll ever experience. However, the line up at this local neighbourhood joint doubled after Tina Fey started buying in bulk for the 30 Rock crew and tweeted them “the f***able donuts.”

When you’re not working how do you love to spend your “Me” time?
Especially around this time of year, any down time I have I spend it inside movie theatres, trying to get in all the films nominated for an award. I am completely obsessed with Bruce Dern in Nebraska and everything about Blue Jasmine. After awards season wraps, I’ll go back to my normal routine of dining with friends in Williamsburg, hitting up piano karaoke bars and standing in line for day-of rush tickets for the best theatre and opera shows in town.

If you had to choose a theme song, what would it be?
Currently, I’d start with The Stone Roses’ “I Want To Be Adored” with hopes to close the show of my life with Sinatra’s “My Way.”

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
I’d probably be an undercover cop or biologist or studying law. Or, I always wanted to be a nurse. Or maybe an astronaut…  It sounds like I just want to be playing the roles Sandra Bullock’s been playing for the last 20 years.

Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
ASPCA (Animal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) in New York. I walk adorable and available dogs around for a few hours on weekends while they work the runways of the parks in Williamsburg with ADOPT ME signs on their backs. Dogs have always brought a lot of positivity into my life. I just want to do what I can to help find loving home for dogs in need.

BlackBerry, iPhone, Android, or Other?
Well, only one of these sounds like something I would put up to my ear. A BlackBerry is a fruit and an Android sounds like something caused by muscle strain. I’ve been a proud iPhone user since 2008.

Do you have a life motto?
– When you’re feeling guilty for having too much wine, remind yourself they’re just grapes.
– Follow your dreams with the understanding that you might fall short, but in falling, you might land in a place you never dreamed.

#LYNL | (Live Your Notable Life)

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