by David S. Jackson
New Orleans native Nicole Porche is carving her own path in Hollywood using grit, ambition and talent. Porche now shares movie credits with a diverse list of castmates that range from Oscar winner Matthew McConnaughey to entertainment mogul Master P.
“I’ve only touched the surface of my potential,” says Porche. “I started a decade ago. I did basically what everyone did who wants to get into acting. I went to where the work was in L.A. I thought that I have to go and make a name for myself.”
Porche has navigated the acting world as a single mother of two.
“I have watched Nicole struggle and sacrifice to accomplish her goals,” says DreamHustle Talent Manager Trinese Brumfield. “I am ecstatic every time I see Nicole on the big and small screen because I know the time and dedication she has devoted to her craft. The entertainment business is a very tough and competitive industry. However, Nicole’s will to succeed is the driving force that keeps her going even when things seem impossible. The sky is the limit for Nicole and I look forward to the journey of all the amazing opportunities she has before her.”
Porche says it has been difficult to look for guidance or role models in the movie industry in New Orleans with few local actors being able to nab big screen feature roles. While native sons Wendell Pierce and Anthony Mackie have transcended the norm as outliers, most actors from South Louisiana are relegated to theater productions and commercial work. Still she boasts acting credits on Spike TV, the Lifetime Channel, the Food Network, Bravo, Lee Daniel’s movie “Paperboy” starring McConnaughey and Zac Effron and most recently Master P’s comedy “I’ve Got the Hook Up 2.”
Porche’s dramatic awakening began after surviving Hurricane Katrina. She had worked as a musician, owned a boutique and a small moving company. But after losing everything she owned in the hurricane, she dedicated her life to her passion.
“After losing everything you own and have worked decades for, you shift to, ‘What am I going to do that is going to make me happy?’ ” says Porche. “What is going to inspire me to spend my time. Whatever I do, I have to love it.”
She recalled her time acting in plays and musicals at Xavier Preparatory Academy as the source of her greatest joys and purpose. But instead of engaging her heart, Porche approached acting the same way that she approached entrepreneurship. She hired a talent manager and began the arduous task of finding work.
Despite the moniker of Hollywood South, Porche says it has been difficult to garner lead parts while being based here. Even though films and television shows are shot here, lead parts are already cast before filming ever starts in the Crescent City, which leaves only the scraps for local actors to fill in background parts.
“I would fly to L.A. and audition for a movie that was going to be shot here in New Orleans,” says Porche. “I would get the part, and then fly back to New Orleans to start filming.”
Porche laments the casting choices of some movies that she believes deserve more gravitas. Many actors from the United Kingdom land roles that are organically written for Black Americans, which leaves actors of color from the United States, and more specifically the southern United States in a diminished position.
“It happens more often than not,” says Porche. “There are a lot of roles being cast to actors who are not authentic to the character role. And this is not just for race, but for culture.”
But instead of complaining about the decisions of Hollywood, Porche believes the best way to get a seat at the table is to build her own board room. Porche is now working as an executive producer on a passion project with the filming of a new movie called “Desire.” The movie is set in the famous New Orleans housing development and is based on the book by author Clarence Miro and directed by two-time Oscar winner Willie D. Burton. Burton, who has been praised by fellow American cinema icons Oprah and Sidney Poitier worked on the groundbreaking cultural phenomenon that was “Roots.”
“Desire” is about a harsh environment rife with domestic violence, drugs and molestation. “This story will touch places of pain in viewers and will ultimately change lives,” says Porche.
Porche is looking for a partner to invest $5 million to have this story told. As an executive producer, Porche says she will make sure authenticity is in the forefront.
“I’ll be damned if I cast anyone who can’t authentically represent New Orleans,” says Porche. “There’s no way someone from L.A. will come here and give this culture the justice it deserves.”
In the realm of artistic ownership, Porche exudes praise on fellow New Orleanean Tyler Perry for opening his major studio in Atlanta. Perry built a major movie studio that boasts 12 sound stages on 330 acres in the heart of the city, making Atlanta a go to destination for creatives to tell their own story.
“The person who has the money has the control,” says Porche. “Let’s say I have a story, but if you have to go to someone for money, the artistic people lose their control. So when people invest $3 million to $30 million in a project, they have the control.”
Control also comes in many forms, particularly in the famed casting couch in Los Angeles. The quid pro quo culture of sexual favors in exchange for movie roles that has birthed the #metoo movement is alive and well, according to Porche.
Porche says her proudest achievement has been her ability to traverse through the entertainment world without trading her morals for roles.
“I’m just a Catholic school girl from New Orleans,” says Porche. “I will never compromise my integrity to get a part, and if it takes me a bit longer to get there, then that’s fine.”
In her spare time, Porche does voiceover work and works as a motivational speaker and acting coach to help young people who want to follow the dream of acting.
“I always try to encourage the next person. I tell young actors to never get comfortable. Always work on improving your craft. This is something you have to eat and sleep to be successful,” she added. “You can’t expect to just sit there and have roles just drop in your lap.”