Nicole Beharie on using her voice and paving the way

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PHOTOS : DEMETRIUS WASHINGTON
TALENT: Nicole Beharie
STYLING: Chanelle Harris
SET DESIGN: Te’ron Hobbs
MAKEUP: Rachael Renee
HAIR: Jordy Pope
PHOTOGRAPHY & SET ASSISTANT: Monique Claxton 
WORDS: PARKER SCHUG
EDITORIAL DIRECTOR: Jasmine Perrier
special thanks: McKenzie Mann & THE LEDE COMPANY 

This feature is taken from Grumpy Magazine’s ISSUE NO.17, available soon in digital and print worldwide
subscribe to our mailing list for more culture and fashion content from the next issue and behind the sceneS

Accomplished Nicole Beharie has devoted a great deal of time and energy to her passion for acting. From her childhood days spent traveling the world as part of a military family — her father was in the Foreign Service — to now, she has applied a multitude of her lessons learned to her career. On top of approaching her experiences with a curious mind, Nicole hopes to continue her work in addition to helping other people pursue their own career goals. 

In Nicole’s early life, she lived in the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Panama, and Jamaica, among others, but attended high school in South Carolina. With that, she also had the opportunity to experience all different types of living. “My sense of what home is, I think, is very different, which probably makes [this lifestyle reasonable] for [an] actor in a way,” she says. Additionally, as a child and into adulthood where she has taken on this, sometimes hectic, lifestyle as an actress, Nicole embraces every opportunity to experience new things and relationships. “Moving every now and then, and meeting new people is exciting for me. I don’t think I could stay in one place, so it’s nice to have to go places for work. And then of course, you’re inspired by the different communities, cultures, and everything that you see.”

Following high school, Nicole went up to New York and graduated from the Juilliard School of Drama. Not only did she bring to light her abilities as a leader in directing the first-ever August Wilson showcase during her time at the world-famous school, but she was also actively committed to promoting diversity within the institution by gathering students of different racial and ethnic backgrounds in order to perform. “I was not someone who would go and protest, or anything like that. But I just went and I sort of pulled together all the people of color, not even just black people.” In doing that and studying with key figures such as renowned Juilliard teacher Moni Yakim, Nicole had an enjoyable, enlightening experience, but also came to see some of the struggles she may face in the world of acting. “I learned that we have to think for ourselves when you’re a woman or a person of color.” 

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It was not long out of college that Nicole found herself acting on a professional set. She starred in the film The Express as Sarah Ward, the girlfriend of Ernie Davis — the first African American football player to earn the Heisman Trophy. For Nicole, this entire experience was a very big deal, just because she felt as though she was getting to live her dreams. “Suddenly, it’s like, ‘Wait, all these people are working in concert for me to get this shot of me walking home,’” she says. After this role, Nicole continued to make her mark on the film scene, acting among others in Sins of the Mother, Apartment 4E, the short film The Mirror Between Us, and she even sang in My Last Day Without You. Later on, Nicole portrayed Jackie Robinson’s wife, Rachel, in the film 42 alongside late Chadwick Boseman, who played Major League Baseball’s first African American athlete. Recalling the opportunity she had to work with the actor, Nicole says, “What’s funny is Chadwick Boseman had a smaller part in [The Express], so we had already worked together before 42. Obviously, we had a lot more time together on that set. There’s nothing lovelier than working with someone who’s excited, really compassionate and passionate about the work, and compassionate towards the crew and the cast.” 

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Continuing her rise, Nicole delivered a strong performance in the 2020 film Miss Juneteenth where she starred as former beauty queen Turquoise Jones, a role for which she received the Gotham Award for “Best Actress.” This film gave Nicole the unique opportunity to guide and provide some role model support to her young co-star, Alexis Chikaeze. “I really loved working with Alexis Chikaeze, who plays my daughter. [I loved] just creating a connection and giving someone else the space to shine, because I really wanted her to do well, it was her first movie,” Nicole says on her favorite parts about the project. “People were like, ‘Oh, you really loved her.’ So, some of that is real, and you can feel it.”

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Additionally, Nicole can currently be seen in Amazon’s seven-part anthology series Solos, which dives into the deeper meaning of human connection in a futuristic world, through the lens of the individual. Nicole stars in episode 6 as the title character Nera, who is in a cabin by herself, anticipating the birth of a child made possible by new fertility treatments, but it turns out things don’t go as planned. Interestingly, Nicole worked on this series during the thick of the Covid lockdowns, which lent heavily to the themes of individualism. This was an entirely new experience for the actress who had a short period of time to do her part. “Normally, just that first section of giving birth would probably take three days to shoot,” she laughs, “but we had to do the whole thing in three days. That was a challenge but [it was] exciting because I’ve never done anything like that.” Even though each episode is a solo piece driven by their own actor, Nicole didn’t know the star-studded cast who was going to be involved in the series alongside her when she signed up. “That’s the ‘pinch me’ moment, that’s pretty crazy.” Moving forward, Nicole wants to support people whose stories aren’t typically told, to get their voice out there. But above all else, she aspires to pave the way for more to come. “I just want to keep working with great people. I’m trying to develop things with really great people that I respect. We’re [also] in a time where people are becoming more open to a variety of voices and stories.”

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SOLOS IS NOW STREAMING ON AMAZON PRIME VIDEO

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