Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Lance Nichols: At The Table With Actor Lance Nichols

At The Table with Actor Lance Nichols

For over 30 years Actor Lance Nichols has transformed himself into a wide variety of characters across numerous genres including TV, movies, and live theater. He has starred in TV shows such as Hanging With Mr. Cooper, Touched By An Angel, Cheers, Murder She Wrote, Desperate Housewives, Matlock, Everybody Loves Raymond, and Martin. A couple of months ago he finished starring in the theater adaptation of Driving Miss Daisy. Most recently, he and the cast of HBO's hit drama, Treme, wrapped production after a successful four year run. In Treme, Nichols is in a lead role as Dr. Larry Williams, a New Orleans Dentist helping his family rebuild their lives after Hurricane Katrina.

I recently interviewed Lance to learn more about his storied acting career that began when he was 'bitten by the acting bug' in high school.

Actor Lance Nichols

Dr. April: Lance tell me where you are originally from?

Lance Nichols:
I was born and raised in New Orleans, LA. I lived out in L.A. for a number of years then moved back here to New Orleans which is where I live now.

Dr. April: Did you go to college in New Orleans?

Lance Nichols:
Yes I did. I went to The University of New Orleans and have my degree in Drama and Communications from there.

Dr. April: Were you a Drama and Communications major all along?

Lance Nichols: It’s funny that your ask that because I was actually a pre-med major in the beginning.

Dr. April: What made you decide that pre-med wasn’t for you?

Lance Nichols: Taking a look at my grades after my freshman year LOL! I said, “I can always play a doctor on TV. I don’t have to be one {Laughs}!” At that time, it just seemed like the finish line was so far ahead. I realized that I was not as committed to becoming a doctor as I would have needed to be to make it happen, but I really loved acting! I changed my major at the end of my Freshman year of college. In one semester, my GPA went from a 2.3 to a 3.8!

Dr. April: .....Because you found your true passion!

Lance Nichols: Yes, because I found my true passion. In those 30+ years since then, I have played many doctors on TV. See, I became a doctor in a round-about way!

Dr. April: What got you interested in acting?

Lance Nichols: I landed the lead male role in a theater production of “Halleluja Baby“ during my junior year in high school. After that, I participated in a couple more plays and was completely smitten with acting. As they say, I was bitten by the “acting bug”! I was also President of the Drama Club my Senior year in High School and on the Speech and Debate team so, by that time, I was totally immersed in acting.

Dr. April: You have been acting for many years across numerous genres - from Hollywood films, Television shows, commercials and theater. Out of all of these, do you have a favorite genre?

Lance Nichols:
I would have to say that I love the art of live theater, but the money is better in film and television! So I have to balance the two. I have to satisfy my creative side, but I have to also make a living. I just came back from Florida where I’ve been for the past two months doing Driving Miss Daisy. That was a terrific experience. There is an immediate gratification that you get from live theater. When you step out on stage for the first time and you tell a joke that the audience laughs at or when there is a tender moment in a play and you hear people crying, you feed off of that energy.

Dr. April:
You have been on the hit HBO series Treme for the past 4 years playing the character Dr. Larry Williams, a New Orleans Dentist. Your character is also a husband and father who is helping his family rebuild their lives after Hurricane Katrina. I know that you all recently shot the last episodes for the series. When will the final season start?

Lance Nichols: The final season will start airing this fall, I think in September.

Dr. April: I’m sure you miss your cast mates........

Lance Nichols: You know, I do. When you work with the same group of people for so long, you become like a family. The two young men who played my step-sons along with the actress who played my wife, Khandi Alexander, became like my real family. I had the pleasure of working with Khandi Alexander who is so talented and such a joy to work with. I really got to know the crew members and the people who worked in the production office.

What made being on Treme’ special for me is that it told our story. It told my city’s story and it told it accurately. There were a couple of times over the last 4 years where I would just have to sit back and pinch myself. I lived in L.A. for 24 years, working pretty consistently, but never getting the chance to be a regular on a show. But, what were the odds for me to come back home to New Orleans and be a regular on a series that’s about my home town? I said, “God is awesome!” When my wife and I came back to New Orleans in 2001, we came back because we both had parents who were in failing health and we made the decision to move back because our parents needed our help. I remember when I announced that decision to the industry in L.A., the people told me I was committing career suicide. They asked me what I was going to do with my career and I said, “I’m going to trust God!” The month that we moved back to New Orleans, unbeknown to me, was the same month that the state of Louisiana started offering the tax credit to production companies. You can’t tell me God didn’t line that up! I am working more now than most of my friends in L.A.

Dr. April:
See what happens when you trust God! God is going to do what He wants for you, whether you are in Hollywood, New Orleans, or Tim-buck-too. It doesn’t matter because there are no limits on what God can do!

 You have starred in numerous other TV shows such as Hanging With Mr. Cooper, Touched By An Angel, Cheers, Murder She Wrote, Desperate Housewives, Matlock, Everybody Loves Raymond, Martin. I will never forget the segment from Martin where you played Pa Duke. I barely even recognized that was you because that character is so “out there” LOL!
Lance Nichols: You know when that aired, a lot of people didn’t believe that was me!

Dr. April:
You were also the Preacher in the 2008 Oscar Nominated film, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

Lance Nichols:
Yes, that was such an unbelievable experience for me because that movie was so well written and so well crafted. That role was such a fun role to play. I had the honor of working with one of the top directors in Hollywood, David Fincher. That scene that I was in was part of every trailer that came out about that movie. When Brad Pitt was on Oprah discussing the film prior to it movie coming out, they showed that clip. I got so much free publicity from that movie it’s crazy! it is one of the most memorable scenes from the movie. That film opened up a lot of great doors for me and I will always be grateful and thankful to David and everyone who was affiliated with that.

As a result of that film, I am now on a new Netflix series called House of Cards. It’s a political Drama that stars Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright and it’s set in Washington D.C. It’s about the political shenanigans of the political machine in D.C. I got cast in this series partly because of David Fincher as he is one of the Executive Producers of the show. I play Mayor Gene Clancy, mayor of a small town in South Carolina where Kevin Spacey’s character is from.

Dr. April: Can you tell me about your Production Company that you started to help budding actors and actresses perfect the craft?

Lance Nichols:
Yes, my wife and I own a production company called Lanzardis Productions here in New Orleans and we teach and mentor. When I first moved to L.A. in 1978, I didn’t have anybody to mentor me and I made a lot of mistakes. I got scammed, I spent money that I didn’t need to spend because I didn’t know any better. I made a promise to myself and to God that when the day came that I became successful I would try to mentor as many people as I could so that they wouldn't make the same mistakes that I did. We offer instruction in all phases of acting - commercial, film and TV acting, audition technique, scene study workshops, and monologue class. Our students are really responding. More people are getting booked here on film projects and commercials and we feel like proud parents.

Dr. April: How can people find out more info about your production company?

Lance Nichols:
They can go to Facebook at www.facebook.com/lanzardisproductions. We are in the process of developing a website that should be launched sometime this summer so stay tuned!


Lance and his wife Zardis own a Production Company, Lanzardis Productions, in their home town of New Orleans. Here, Lance is teaching an acting class

One of the most famous scenes from the Hollywood Blockbuster, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, features Lance Nichols as the preacher who prays for Benjamin Button, played by Brad Pitt.

Here is a YouTube clip of that scene:

Here is the YouTube Clip of Nichols starring as "Pa Duke" on a hilarious episode of Martin. Fast forward to the 2:00 minute mark to see Nichols in action!

 I hope you enjoyed my interview with Actor Lance Nichols! You can keep up with his latest projects by visiting www.facebook.com/Lanzardisproductions

--Dr. April


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