Breakout Nickelodeon star, Nicole Alyse Nelson talks “I Am Frankie” and the season finale shocker that have fans sitting on the edge of their seats.
When actors set out at the beginning of their careers, many paths form in front of them. There are no limitations to what they can learn about the craft and how to go about achieving their dreams. For some, it’s an inspiration that came later in life.
In the case of Nicole Alyse Nelson, acting is something she was practically born with. At just three years old, she would act out the movies she’d watch on screen, her parents unsure of what was happening in front of them. According to her, they thought she was crazy.
“I was just babbling,” she explains.
“I’ve always wanted to act and be in acting,” Nicole continues. “I was an only child growing up and when I would watch things I really, really liked, they knew I was acting it out because I would do the scene from every single character’s perspective because I was doing it alone.” Remembering that first time she really had a passion for acting, she recalls portraying various characters from Pocahontas, a film she loved watching growing up.
Giddy as she reminiscences on the past, she describes, “I would do the scene from Pocahontas’ point of view, then I’d switch places and do it from John Smith’s point of view. [My parents were] like, ‘What is our child doing?!’ It was the oddest thing.”
I would make my own content, write things, act it out myself, I learnt how to edit…
It wasn’t until Nicole was older that her passion for acting was brought to the stage.
“I got into theater in middle school – you know, when people are trying to find electives, trying to find themselves,” says Nicole. Though the time was fun according to the actress, she reveals that she was never a lead. “I never got really big parts in theater so although I was very passionate about it, I had to find other ways to learn and get my creativity out.” She found her own solution in creating skits on YouTube.
“I would make my own content, write things, act it out myself, I learnt how to edit… That’s also where a lot of the passion for film and TV came from. All I knew before that was being on stage which is very different acting from what I’m currently doing,” explains Nicole.
Going on, the young star says, “It’s just been a process of growing up and finding out what I like. It’s always been about storytelling though.”
The story she is currently telling is that of Dayton Reyes on one of Nickelodeon’s newest shows, “I Am Frankie”. In the show, Dayton befriends the new girl Frankie Gaines who turns out is actually a super high-tech android.
Nicole describes Dayton as confident and intelligent. “She’s charismatic, she is extremely expressive, and she is just the ultimate best friend,” she says. “She’s very unapologetically herself and at the end of the day, she’s very loyal and a great secret keeper. She’ll do anything for the people around her.”
Throughout season one, the great lengths Dayton would exercise for the good of her friends is shown multiple times in protection of Frankie. Speaking about their friendship, Nicole recalls, “It develops so well in terms of her just being pretty much just an outsider who didn’t know anything and she just kind of took Frankie under her arms and showed her everything.”
Thinking of the character development that grew with the friendship, the actress points out how Frankie transitioned from cold and monotone in the beginning to a caring person who miraculously develops feelings.
“Their friendship is just so pure,” she gushes. “They would really just do anything for each other – and especially for Dayton. She’s very much about finding people who are not going to judge her, and just be who they are, and the good thing about Frankie is she can only be who she is; she’s pretty blunt, she only tells truth, and that’s all you can ask for in a friend.”
Continuing, Nicole looks back on season one and the many scenes that really portray that wonderful friendship the two characters share.
“The scenes that really stand out to me from filming is pretty much everything that went down,” she begins, “when Frankie couldn’t walk, couldn’t talk, couldn’t speak for herself so [she] was just kind of in this trance and when I was filming it, it was just an entire day on location, running through the streets of Miami after her. What’s great about it is she doesn’t stop. Dayton is not going to give up. Even if it means she is holding onto [Frankie’s] leg, going into traffic with her; she’s like, ‘We’re gonna do this together!’”
In addition to loving everything that happened in that episode, the finale of season one also holds a special place in Nicole’s heart for Dayton and Frankie’s friendship. “When [Dayton] runs into the hotel and tries to warn Frankie in front of all these people – she just doesn’t care. It’s just about the safety of [Frankie] and about saving her best friend.”
Speaking of the finale, Nicole confesses that she was shocked at the events that took place from episode fifteen through twenty. “I didn’t see it coming,” she reveals.
“It’s like from the reveal of Andrew to my dad to Eliza,” begins the actress. “When I got the job, nobody told us what was going to happen. I had a vague idea of who my character was, of who the other characters were, and then at the end of the day, sometimes, that idea is even wrong.”
A moment when she realized this that sticks out to her most is finding out that Kingston, the man who has been hunting down her best friend, is actually her dad. “I was so deep into developing Dayton, I personally felt just betrayed,” she expresses. Nicole recalls putting down her script and practically throwing it across the room. With a slight laugh, she says, “I was like, ‘This isn’t happening. This is a joke script. You’re not giving me this information right now!’ because it is a lot to process.”
Nicole explains the difficulty as an actor this brings, as you have to completely reevaluate your character. “As an actor, how do I go from thinking I know everything about her to getting this and being like, ‘What is my family like? How was I raised?’ That was just crazy.” Of course, to make things even more insane, she brings up the plot of Eliza coming in and taking over Frankie’s place.
“[The writers and characters] kind of just drop hints that something worse happened but they don’t say anything else and it just ends up with being like, ‘Oh, look! Here’s potentially the most destructive person in history disguising themselves as someone else!’ So that was also insane,” she says. As Eliza was no longer in service to Sigourney Gaines, Frankie’s creator as well, her sudden appearance has left fans worried for what this means for their favorite characters.
I would like to see Dayton team up with more good people and try and sort this out.
“I still haven’t shot a scene with Eliza so I’m really interested, should this continue, how that’s going to go. Because I don’t believe for a second that Dayton’s going to think that’s Frankie.”
How exactly would Dayton and Eliza/Fake-Frankie’s first interaction go? Nicole imagines her character would instantly ask where her brother Cole was. “‘Didn’t you guys go together? What happened?’” she supplements as some questions her character may have. “We’ll see how that works out.”
While there is no word at the moment on a season two renewal by Nickelodeon, the network on which the series airs, the talented actress has a few hopes for what she would like to see if given a second season.
“I hope that [Dayton] would try to team up with her brother and Frankie, [but] if Frankie’s in hiding, I don’t really know how much she can do, in order to destroy Eliza.” Though she confesses with a laugh that she doesn’t know how they would destroy an android, she wishes they still would team up and have better odds together.
“Another thing that was presented very last minute was Tammy – either she’s super nice being controlled by WARPA or, I actually found this from a fan theory online, that the really Tammy has been taken and they made an android look like her because she had the chip in her neck where the USB would go.” Nicole builds off the theory and suggests, “Maybe this chick isn’t Tammy at all, maybe it’s not even a person. We don’t know what’s happening with that either.”
Stating that the Tammy at the end of the season is completely different from the Tammy audiences are first introduced to, the young star remembers the confusion between actors when filming scenes. “They wouldn’t give us any details. I’m not sure if they don’t have all the details, but whenever we were doing these scenes, I remember them giving Mohana [Krishnan] notes, being like, ‘No, but this is genuinely nice. You’re really nice right now.’ She was just like, ‘What is happening?! I would never do it like this!’”
The advice from the crew was for Mohana to forget everything she has done as the character in the past and to focus on being a really nice girl.
The memory incites a laugh from Nicole, her story continuing with, “So then it’d just be weird and we don’t know what’s going on.”
Her theory is that since WARPA is controlling Tammy, there is no way she’s good. “Maybe her and Andrew team up to try to take down Frankie but maybe they think Eliza’s Frankie because we don’t know who’s controlling Eliza.” Bringing in the creativity and insightfulness of the fandom the show has cultivated in such a short time, Nicole brings up a point presented by a fan. Wouldn’t Eliza’s battery have been dead by now? “Which means somebody’s been working on her, hoarding her, keeping her alive, then telling her what to do so there has to be another bad guy!” concludes the actress. “It was not Kingston, and not James, so there has to be!” She jokes with a giggle, “I’m like, ‘How many adults are involved on this show?!’ It’s crazy.”
Despite all that is happening with Tammy, Nicole reiterates her desire to see her character work more with others. “I would like to see Dayton team up with more good people and try and sort this out. But with my brother being gone and Frankie being gone, I don’t really have anyone else so I’m not sure if they’re going to give me another character to try and get me back in the group.” She explains that the writers leave the story in a very odd position for Dayton.
Even as a cast, we’ll sit down and read some of the fan theories and we’re like, ‘Wait a second! This person has a good point! I didn’t even think of that.’
Could a potential team-up even be between the good guys and WARPA? “That would be a great plot twist!” enthuses Nicole on the idea. “Have WARPA on our side for once – that would be insane,” she says.
Continuing to think positively on getting a second season, Nicole hopes that she would get to see a little more happen with her character and a potential love interest. “That would also be fun – you know how high school goes,” she comments. “As far as getting to do things from an acting perspective, I’ve done so much in season one like I feel completely artistically satisfied so I’m just excited to see what else they come up with. There’s nothing I have to do; I did my own stunts, I did emotional scenes, I did hilarious scenes, I did a spit-take. I’m totally satisfied,” she states happily and proudly. Her enthusiasm oozes from her voice as she says, “I’m just excited to see what they come up with because our writers are insanely talented and I’m very impressed.”
Being able to be so artistically involved with her character is so much of what Nicole loves about working on the show. “I mean, the best part is honestly doing what I’ve always wanted to do,” she says sincerely. “I love to be able to flesh out a character and receive like 700+ pages of material and just have fun with it.” She includes that she has loved getting to bond with the entire cast and crew on “I Am Frankie”.
“It really just feels like a second family,” she gushes. “Before you dive into a project like this, it’s like you’re just wanting to act, you’re craving being on set. And then when it actually happens, there’s no better feeling. I finally get to show the world what I’ve been dedicating my past year and a half to.” With awe still struck in her tone, Nicole says, “It’s pretty crazy.”
What has been even more of a world changer for the actress is the incredible response she’s received on social media. While she hasn’t been stopped in public or anything like that, according to the star herself, everything online has been really, really positive. “It’s crazy because Nickelodeon will post a picture from ‘I Am Frankie’ and if I don’t know about it, I go and see my phone an hour later [and] everything’s blown up. I’m like, ‘Wait… what happened in the past hour? I was eating a bowl of cereal!’ I’d get so confused,” confesses the actress, the small, embarrassed smile clear in her voice.
“So it’s crazy to see that aspect of it. Everybody posts fan art and fan videos and watching those, and seeing the kids version of the content and them create what they think is going to happen, is so much fun,” Nicole enthuses. “Even as a cast, we’ll sit down and read some of the fan theories and we’re like, ‘Wait a second! This person has a good point! I didn’t even think of that.’ It’s just been so much fun.”
Outside of “I Am Frankie”, Nicole has accomplished much in front of and behind the camera. While her skits on YouTube introduced her to more of a world she deeply loved, a summer internship with a film production company in Los Angeles give her a new perspective from behind the lens. All of her work combined has helped her to find what she really loves and would like to do in the future of her career.
“Anything with Sci-Fi, is super awesome, which is also why I love ‘I Am Frankie’,” Nicole begins as she thinks about her dream project. “But growing up, I loved Harry Potter, Percy Jackson. Being surrounded by green screens and reacting to things that aren’t there. There’s so much creativity involved that would be so much fun.” On the other end of the spectrum, one of Nicole’s dream projects would be to work on a show like “Riverdale” – which Nicole describes to be a teen, dramatic, very single camera kind of show. “That would be fun as well,” she says of taking on a project similar to The CW’s dark take on beloved comic characters. “Also because it’s completely different from what I’m currently doing style-wise,” she adds. “Either one of those. I even think I’d even be interested in directing in the future; any kind of comedy directing would be fun as well.”
Her passion for acting can be matched by one thing in particular. Her dedication to Think Pink, a community effort to raise awareness for Breast Cancer, is her other passion in life.
“It’s important to me because it’s been a scare that happens to a lot of women in my family – from my grandma, to my mom, to my aunt,” confesses Nicole. “It’s just one of those things that I was always kind of raised knowing about,” she says, adding growing up with the knowledge of October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month. “My mom in college, she was also a Zeta Tau Alpha, the sorority, and their philanthropy was also for breast cancer awareness so she would tell me everything that they did, ways to raise money, to spread awareness about it because so many women get it now.” Thinking over the incredibly common chances women have through the statistics that one in eight U.S. women get diagnosed with breast cancer, Nicole expresses, “Anything we can do as a community to help people out and shed light on the issue is something that I love to do.”
Thinking over the past year in general, the actress first says that the only thing that’s changed about herself, with a laugh, is that she has a better work ethic. “I’ve been given a lot more content and a lot more ways to figure out how to manage my time.” While she doesn’t think she hasn’t changed much as a person, nor has her passion, the only difference she sees is the increase in work, which she’s more than happy to do and is excited to do.
“Time has definitely passed by very different and the way that I kind of breakdown my day,” she reflects. “My goals kind of have shifted a lot too because a year ago, it was just, ‘I’d love to be a guest star on a TV show!’ and now it’s like, ‘Well…’” she admits with a laugh. “It’s crazy how much things have changed and you don’t know where they will go.” She confirms that her goals in acting have changed, though her passion is as present as ever.
As fans wait for news on a second season of “I Am Frankie”, Nicole shares that she will be on five episodes of Verizon’s Go90’s series “Mr. Student Body President”. A brief guest starring stint in the first season, the actress gushes over how glad she is they asked her back for the second season. “My character is Kaylee Cozzalino [and] she’s pretty crazy,” describes Nicole. “She started out as the freshman class treasurer, and even though she’s not featured a lot, her art is insane because this season, she’s not even hanging out with the same girls that she used to.” She reveals that when she first got the scripts, she questioned who this character was as she had changed so much. “That was a lot of fun so I’m looking forward to that coming out!”
All episodes of “I Am Frankie” are streaming on Nick.com now. Catch Nicole in “Mr. Student Body President” on Verizon’s streaming service Go90.
**ABOVE PHOTO CREDIT TO JSQUARED PHOTOGRAPHY