Her Story with Nicole Stouffer: An Unscripted Story About Life as an Actor
For anyone that has that tug on their heart or the idea in their head that they can’t stop thinking about, this week’s Her Story Spotlight story with Nicoloe Stouffer is for you. You’re not only going to be inspired by her wit, strength, brains and beauty, but also by the passion she has for performing and the passion she gives back to it.
She shares what it takes to really be an actor and why she can’t imagine doing anything else. Despite still working a day job and putting in countless hours of prep and auditioning that go unpaid, she knows she was meant to do this, even on the hard days, and isn’t going to let anything stop her.
You don’t have to have an interest in an acting career to get something out of this - her weekly self-care strategy is one my favorites that I want to start incorporating. The perspective her parents passed onto her about what a degree means is so refreshing and her love for not just being on stage, but also back stage with the people who end up feeling like family is all so fun, inspiring and special.
Her big goal is to end up on a Netflix series one days and with the determination and love she has for acting, I have no doubt we’ll be binge watching her series one of these days.
Meet Nicole! - Fun Facts:
1) As part of my friends on-going drinking game, every time I talk about women's rights or science, you have to take a drink.
2) Leslie Knope, Cheryl Strayed, and Joni Mitchell are three women that speak to me on a deep level.
3) I'm a very gifted Netflix binger.
4) Proud Ravenclaw.
5) One passionate & annoyingly curious human being.
Where you can find her: Los Angeles, CA
Let's start with where you are right now - You're a year into your new life in LA, having just finished a 5 month run of a show. What are you loving most about where you are now? What's a day look like for you?
I'm just now recuperating from my run of Cabaret! I jumped right in to another show and short film after we closed, so no down time for me. You really have to take care of yourself. This lifestyle takes endurance.
In addition to these acting jobs, I still work my day job and take dance and fitness classes to stay in shape. It's been a busy time since moving here, but I wouldn't trade it for the world.
After the run, I took a trip home to reground and rebalance. Right now, I'm focused on catching up on sleep and checking in with myself. And as always, on the audition grind!
Your move out to LA included a week long road trip with one of your best friends - What was that like? Any good lessons learned/self-discovery?
I was so happy to have my best friend there when I said my dramatic goodbye to my parents (and my dog, Dobby). I truly believe there isn't a better person to have by your side in a life changing situation than your best friend. We had so many amazing experiences together on that road trip. It was me and my girl on the open road with a new chapter laid out in front of us. She literally held my hand and told me everything would be okay, that making this huge move was the right decision.
How is where you are now different than where you were a little over a year ago (back from NYC, what that experience was like)?
I'm in a much better mental space living in LA. Most of my friends live here so having that support system is everything. I love New York City, but it's a tough lifestyle. I have some great memories from living there, but it was an overwhelming and frustrating time. It wasn't a great fit at that point in my life, but I would love to try it again down the road.
You are very close to your family back home just outside of Pittsburgh - What were the events and thoughts that lead up to taking the leap to leave your family and friends and move to LA? How long had you been thinking about it?
I visited LA when I was a freshman in college. Moving to LA always felt like something I should do. I grew up watching SO MANY movies, always knowing I'd be an actor. I think it's been a goal of my mom's to introduce me to every classic movie she can possibly think of. I'm grateful that my family has always supported me. It was a no-brainer for them that I got my degree in musical theater. They've taught me that your degree and your career don't define who you are. I could do whatever I wanted as long as I worked hard.
Both of my parents are strongly led by passion and naturally, I'm the same way. I'm a person who does whatever it takes to make things happen. When I told them I wanted to move to LA, I didn't have much of a savings and the feasible plans to make it happen seemed impossible. But, my parents knew I'd somehow make it work and they did what they could to help. It was an extremely emotional time before I left home (I lived at home the summer before moving to LA), but they've supported my decision every step of the way and are always excited to hear about my LA adventures.
What do you love most about acting and being on stage? What's most rewarding about it?
Oh, there are so many things. No matter what kind of acting I'm doing (theater/television/film), I love telling stories. I believe being an actor is the ultimate journey to human connection. More than anything, I love listening to people and learning about who they are and what they've been through.
Alan Rickman hits the nail on the head when he says "actors are the agents of change". We have the ability to open up people's minds, challenge their perspectives, and inspire creativity. We are given the chance to share someone else's stories and experiences.
Beyond your effect on the audience, you share precious bonding moments with your cast and creative team through the characters and the process of telling their stories.
I LOVE acting, man!
I'll also add how much I love the energy backstage during a live show. What happens backstage is just as entertaining and fun as what's happening on stage.
What's the toughest part about it? What's a challenge most people don't see? How do you manage your time between your day job, preparing for auditions AND trying to have a social life?
The toughest part is definitely balancing your day job with your acting job. I don't think a lot of people realize what goes in to being an actor. Not only do you have to take off work for your audition, but you have to do hours and hours of prep work so you don't walk into those auditions unprepared. And hey! We don't get paid for those hours of prep work OR for going to these auditions. We're also still in class because the training never ends! You have to stay in good health mentally, physically, and emotionally. One more time for the people in the back... this lifestyle takes endurance.
In this business, like many others, there's a lot of "no's" - How do you stay inspired and keep yourself moving forward?
You can't take it personally. It's so much easier said than done and I have to remind myself of it often. Hearing a "no" doesn't mean you're not good enough. It could have been a number of different (ridiculous) factors. It's a brutal business. But, when a "yes" does come along, it happens for a reason.
In my case, every single job I've had has involved a small ensemble. If you read my above comments about human connection and storytelling, it makes perfect sense why I tend to book certain roles. It's for a reason. It's part of my acting journey. I was just talking to my bestie about losing your passion in this business. With all of the hours of work you put in, it's easy to lose the passion for acting. My drive isn't always present when I'm working and auditioning day after day. But when those inspiring and fulfilling jobs come along (and they do, no matter how small) it's all worth it. Trust the process :)
What routines do you have that help you stay focused/inspired/reduce stress and anxiety, etc? Any morning or night routines?
A lot of hiking and barre classes.
Once a week I have to have a night to myself to Netflix and chill (or read and chill). I don't like to be bothered and probably won't text you back. I've got candles, skin care, and CBD oil with a 10pm bedtime.
What are you working towards next?
I'm shooting a short film in mid-November with a director who's work I really admire. I've worked with the director and producer last February and I'm excited to work with them again.
What's your big goal for your career in acting? What would "success" look like for you?
My goal is to book a Netflix or HBO series. Hire me for your Saoirse Ronan television needs.
"Success" looks like working on a script with a strong female cast, telling some awesome female stories, and working with great people. Or the next Star Wars movie. I've got nothing to lose here.
What would you tell someone else that's wanting to pursue a career in the performing arts? How to get started? Mistakes to avoid? How to keep going?
Follow your passion, listen to what your gut is telling you, and surround yourself with people who love and believe in you. You can get a lot of unnecessary feedback in this business, but it's mostly just noise. You have to remind yourself to stay true and give it to God (or whatever higher power you believe).
While most of us aren't performers on a stage, we are on a "virtual" stage of social media videos, presenting webinars or maybe even speaking at events. Are there any tips you could share for how to get over the fear of being in front of others and/or speaking in a way that others want to listen?
I still have that fear myself. With the internet, everything seems so permanent nowadays. Everyone wants to see the finished product. It gets more likes, right? But there is something more beautiful about sharing where you are in your process. Let's be real... nobody has it all figured out. It's just edited to look that way. Share your story! It will resonate with someone, somewhere and make them feel found. And if you don't want to do it alone, write a script and hire actors to share your story :)
Lastly, where can these ladies find out more about you and follow your work?
Show Nicole some love and comment below to let her know about a key takeaway you got from her interview! If you have a recommendation for one of our future Spotlights, please reach and out let me know!