Nikki Blonsky :: From ’Hairspray’ to ’The Geography Club’
Performing since early childhood, singer, actress and dancer Nikki Blonsky hit the big time at the tender age of 17, starring in Disney's critically acclaimed movie version of the Broadway musical "Hairspray" - a gig that witnessed her acting alongside silver screen legends such as John Travolta and Christopher Walken. Viewers will also recognize Blonsky from her numerous television roles - credits, which include the lead role in the short-lived ABC show "Huge," and guest stints on the phenomenally popular prime-time show "Ugly Betty."
Blonsky's latest project is a movie adaptation of Brent Hartinger's novel "The Geography Club.". The narrative follows a group of high school students as they negotiate their queer identities and the ups and downs of teenage angst. Blonsky confesses that this is arguably the project that she is most proud of, due to the positive portrayal of LGBT youth during a time of endemic homophobic bullying in schools. EDGE chatted with Blonsky about her successful career, LGBT activism and dancing with John Travolta...
(Note: "The Geography Club" is available to stream on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video and VOD across the United States and Canada. To find out more about the film, visit the film's Facebook page.)
EDGE: You’re a talented actress and singer - did you always want to go into show business? How did you get started?
Nikki Blonsky: I had been singing since the age of three, so I had always wanted to be a singer. I was really into Celine Dion, and Melissa Etheridge and Patsy Cline. But when I got into high school my friends started doing shows, and my mom suggested that I try them too- the plays and musicals. And I refused, because I believed that I was just a singer. And so she told me ’you don’t just do anything- you do it all if you want.’ And so I got into a couple of shows in high school and the acting bug bit me, and I’ve never looked back.
EDGE: Your big break at 17 was a leading role in the smash hit movie ’Hairspray,’ alongside stars like John Travolta, Christopher Walken, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Zac Efron. Was that a surreal experience for you? What were the highlights of making that movie?
Nikki Blonsky: That was definitely the best life experience I have ever had. Everything was a fun experience. I have to say that dancing with John Travolta in the street was pretty crazy and surreal! He is an icon and movie star, and I was dancing with him! I was also playing Christopher Walken’s daughter, and he’s an Oscar winner! So it was just packed with so many great celebrities who gave me so much advice. I was so blessed to be involved, and so lucky to play Tracy, who is just so wonderful and wants to bring everybody together.
Singing or acting?
EDGE: You are an accomplished and talented singer. Do you prefer music or acting? Or can’t they be compared?
Nikki Blonsky: Well they are very different, because with singing you are often live in front of an audience and you are getting their reaction. Acting is more intimate, in front of a crew and with cast members. Either way, you are getting to express yourself and you’re really getting to portray other people - and this is the case with singing too, because I am singing a variety of different artists. So for me, I can’t compare the two! They are both the loves of my life.
EDGE: You have also achieved television success with guest roles in primetime shows such as ’Ugly Betty’ and ’Smash.’ What has been your favorite television role and why? Is it different from film and music?
Nikki Blonsky: My favorite guest starring role was on ’Ugly Betty.’ It was such a blast! America Ferrera is amazing. And so was being able to work with the great Vanessa Williams- and not just to work with her, but to have a cat fight with her, on screen, well that was amazing!
A ’don’t mess with me’ attitude
EDGE: Your latest role sees you star in a movie adaptation of ’The Geography Club.’ Can you tell us a little about your character?
Nikki Blonsky: This is an amazing movie about all different types of kids, but at the same time, my character, Terese, has kind of a hard shell and she has a kind of ’don’t mess with me’ attitude. And that’s because she has put up this wall that she doesn’t want people to break down. Ultimately, she doesn’t want people finding out that she’s a lesbian. She is petrified of coming out. And the only person that is able to get to her heart and break down that wall a little bit is her girlfriend, played by the amazing Ally Maki! So yeah, I loved playing her! She is very different from Tracy, but there is a similar message there I think - trying to bring people together.
EDGE: What attracted you to the role? And can you tell us a little bit about what you think makes the movie special and unique?
Nikki Blonsky: This movie is unique and so very important because it speaks to today’s generation. Children, teenagers and young adults are afraid to come out and be who they are, and they shouldn’t have to feel this way. They shouldn’t be afraid to go to school because of bullying - whether it be physical or emotional. People should be able to live their lives without fear. So when you see these kids who think that taking their lives is the best way out, well it is the most heart wrenching thing. So if the kids who aren’t being bullied see this movie and the kids who are doing the bullying see the movie- well they’ll see it from both sides, and it might help to educate them.
A big step
EDGE: What was your experience like during filming? Was it a fun cast and crew to work with?
Nikki Blonsky: It was a blast! There was such charisma and passion behind this project, and it just flowed through all of our veins, and we were all just happy to be there to play each of our roles. And I know for me, it was such a big step in my career. And I was so thrilled that I was able to do it with such an amazing cast - we even spent weekends together hanging out! We would go to the beach, and I would have them over to my house and stuff. We were like a big family!
EDGE: It is an LGBT positive film, and they are always important in helping shape societal attitudes towards queer acceptance. Is LGBT activism a passion of yours? What are your thoughts on the current state of the LGBT movement?
Nikki Blonsky: LGBT rights are a huge passion of mine. My cousin is gay and I have a best friend who is gay, so I feel very passionate about this role, because it lets me see things a little from their perspective, and it allows me to walk in their shoes. It was an unbelievable experience. I am very proud to be a New Yorker, where we now have marriage equality. And I think that now we have a movie about LGBT bullying, and that it’s coming to theatres on big screens - well that’s a big step for Hollywood. So I think if we keep going in this direction, then things will keep getting better and better. We are all human beings, and we all deserve the best that life can give us.
EDGE: What advice would you give to young people trying to break into show business?
Nikki Blonsky: The key is to never give up. You will hear the word ’no’ more times than you will hear the word ’yes.’ And that’s normal, because in this industry there is a lot of rejection. I still hear ’no.’ But when one door closes, three more open. So just keep going and keep trying. At some point you have to create your own destiny!
EDGE: What is next on the agenda for you?
Nikki Blonsky: I have a new movie coming out in the near future, and I’ll be going up to Vancouver, Canada to shoot that. And I am so thrilled because it is such an amazing cast and I can’t wait to meet them all.
And the script is fantastic! It is a horror/thriller movie, which is something I have always wanted to do. I can’t disclose the name of the movie yet, but it’s going to be big. I am also working with ’Nutri-System’ to become a happier and healthier me!
"The Geography Club" is available to stream on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video and VOD across the United States and Canada. To find out more about the film, visit the film’s Facebook page