Albert Nicholas – On being a working actor in Vancouver

Photos by: Louis Lay

Photos by: Louis Lay

Statistics say that the average person changes jobs seven times throughout their working lifetime, but for an actor, every role is different. For Albert Nicholas', the Vancouver based actor has his entire life as a true testament to this.

Born in Ottawa to a Canadian father and Vietnamese mother, Albert had an inkling that he wanted to be a film actor, shunning the efforts of his parents to get him into theatre. “I didn't want to be in theatre I wanted to be in film and TV, so I always said no when they tried to push me to get me into theatre. I refused. I didn't want to do it.” Even though he resisted their attempts they still endeavoured to work on showing him how incredible theatre could be. “We saw so many shows as a kid, and I hated it, I think because essentially I wanted to be the centre of attention - I mean, as an actor wants.”

Finally succumbing in grade five, Nicholas performed in one play. Though he'd made his parents proud, he didn't pursue theatre again until much later when he was in university. “It's funny because that was the first taste I had of it and it kind of changed my mind slightly, but I didn't really pursue it until I was nineteen. I was in university and I was fortunate I was a smart kid. I liked the arts, but I was also athletic, so I could have chosen anything to do, but I hated university so much.”

Going through a lot during that time, Albert found himself at a crossroads. Having switched degrees three times and dropping down to three classes a semester, he was simultaneously going through health issues.

His father came to the rescue with a novel solution to get Albert back on track. “My dad, got me into this play. I don't know how he did it. I think he wrote an email saying my son really needs this artistic expression because he's not doing very well. Is there any way you can put him in this show as anything? Anything, just let him be a part of it. And I met with the director who ended up being one of my biggest mentors, because I had no acting training or anything, and she basically taught me what she knew.”

Being involved in that play changed everything. Despite not having many scenes, something had sparked inside of Nicholas. “I didn't do much, I had one or two scenes and that was it. I got to learn through watching what they were doing. After that I was doing six shows a year.”

Photos by: Louis Lay

Photos by: Louis Lay

Hooked on theatre, Albert learnt on through immersion. “I didn't have any training, so all my training came from my mentors and the directors. My last university show, I was the only person who wasn't in the theatre department. Everyone else was a theatre actor, and then for some reason she [the director] opened up the casting to anybody. I came in and did my thing, and she wanted to work with me. The reason why, was part of her thesis was picking one person who was not an actor as per standards of being in the theatre department, and to groom him or her. She grilled me. I've never been worked so hard. So yeah, that was my training.”

By the time Albert came to the decision to move from Ottawa, he'd performed in thirty five shows over a five year span. “I ended up ironically falling in love with theatre, I just got so involved. It became one of those things, whenever someone needed someone in a theatre show they always thought of me.”

The choice to move to Vancouver came from a logical viewpoint for Nicholas. “Toronto just didn't feel right. They had a lot of Canadian productions and I really wanted to work in the American industry, so I chose Vancouver.”

However making the right decision doesn't always mean the timing is right. “I chose Vancouver at the worst possible time, because 2011 to 2014 was when there was no work.” Instead Albert threw himself into acting workshops, preferring the format and usefulness over a structured multiple year program. “I started studying with Jeb [Beach] maybe a year or two after he started his business. And then it kind of all cannonballed from there.”

Consistently being top of his class, he built a relationship with Jeb Beach and associates, where he now coaches actors. His advice to new actors is sage. “I would say save your money to do workshops and work with different teachers around your city so that you get different perspectives - just because so many actors are broke, it's a better use of your money. In my opinion you can learn way more, it's just a different atmosphere. You have to do your due diligence on what type of school it is, make sure it's what you need, whether it be an institution or workshop.”

Photos by: Louis Lay

Photos by: Louis Lay

Spending countless hours honing his skill and auditioning, Albert worked patiently for his break. “I was auditioning for a bunch when I went to Supernatural, up til then it was one of the auditions I was most calm in.” He booked it and immediately called a friend. “All I could say was Oh my god, I did it, I did it. And that's all I could say. I booked a recurring for a few episodes.”

The friend he'd called was also a mutual actor, and someone who suggested they work on creating their own content and roles. “My buddy said let's focus on doing our own thing. So we started writing our own stuff, I did a professional website to promote myself and I started photography, and then I started auditioning way more out of nowhere. It's funny because it was one of the years when I thought I was going to quit.”

Decidedly not quitting, Albert had hit the jackpot. “After that I worked every month for a year and a half. I went to Planet of the Apes, Magicians, i-Zombie, Fifty Shades of Grey, Lucifer...”

Learning from the best on set, and then teaching others with his knowledge, Nicholas has made this career work for him and others. He's learned to explore characters and listen to his gut when acting. “My favourite sets to be on are Shut Eye, Lucifer and Van Helsing. All for different reasons. Shut Eye is amazing because what I really learned is how involved the lead actors are with even the writing. Because the lead was saying this doesn't feel right for my character and he knew the trajectory for his character. The writers bought me in on the conversation and it was a collaborative experience to get the scene to where it needed to be.”

Photos by: Louis Lay

Photos by: Louis Lay

Despite being a strong working actor in Vancouver, Albert still has moments – like most actors do – where he wants to give it all up. Though the moments are fleeting they still come every now and then. “Every year I say maybe I should give this up, and it's always on a low. If ever I want to give this up when I'm on a high, then I'll know I actually do want to give up. That's the only way I can know if it's true or not.”

Instead Nicholas is able to separate the feelings and know the difference between the two. “Even when I'm working on a job, I always want more.”

He's created quite a name for himself, as well as helping numerous up and coming actors in Vancouver to better their skills. Albert is truly a wonderful fixture of Hollywood North, or Vancouver as we know it. He understands the drive that keeps him going in this fickle industry. “Even when I'm working on a job, I always want more.”

Talent: Albert Nicholas
Photos by: Louis Lay
Article by: Melissa Riemer