'I am Frankie' star Nicole Alyse Nelson talks about playing Dayton and wanting to be an astronaut as a kid
Nicole stars as ‘Dayton Reyes,’ Frankie’s confident, intelligent best friend who makes it her duty to teach Frankie all about the wonders of Sepulveda High
A fresh new face in the entertainment industry, actress Nicole has quickly become one to watch this year. Nicole can currently be seen starring in Nickelodeon’s hit series “I am Frankie.” The show follows the life of ‘Frankie Gaines,’ who appears to be your average teenager. However, we come to find out Frankie has a secret – that she is actually a cutting-edge, experimental android that must hide her true identity to avoid being tracked down by the evil tech company EGG Labs.
Nicole stars as ‘Dayton Reyes,’ Frankie’s confident, intelligent best friend who makes it her duty to teach Frankie all about the wonders of Sepulveda High, what it means to be a human, and how to fit in with a judgmental society. Season 1 debuted in September 2017 and was an instant hit for the network.
Born in Galveston, Texas and raised in League City (a suburban area south of Houston) Nicole grew up with dreams of being in the entertainment industry. She started acting in theatre as a child and created her own sketches for YouTube while in high school, then landed a summer internship in Los Angeles with a film production company, working behind the scenes.
During that time Nicole realized she wanted to pursue acting full time. After a year of taking various acting classes and working to perfect her craft, she went on a few auditions and landed her current role on “I am Frankie.” Additional credits for Nicole include Netflix’s “GLOW,” Lionsgate’s “Swedish Dicks,” and Go90’s “Mr Student Body President.”
There is a barrage of teen-centric shows on TV at the moment, what sets 'I Am Frankie' apart?
The huge underlying message behind I am Frankie is that it’s okay to be yourself, which isn’t far off from the majority of teen content. Although Frankie isn’t human and wants nothing more than to fit in, by just being who she is, she attracts the right people like Dayton and Cole who love and embrace her uniqueness. However, our show is a sci-fi and (this upcoming season in particular) has a lot of action. The season is filled with fight sequences, android superpowers, and high stakes from life-and-death scenarios, which is a really rare way for us to go about delivering this common message.
What was the best thing about playing Dayton? What were you told about your character before auditioning for the role? What attracted you to it?
Dayton is so much fun because she’s the kind of character who has her hand in every little scheme there is. She drives a majority of the scenes she’s in, so all the dialogue and opportunity for physical comedy give me a lot to play with considering her quirkiness and lack of restraint. Ultimately she keeps me on my toes because I never know what to expect when I’m reading an episode for the first time!
I wasn’t told much in the beginning other than she was “confident, funny, and intelligent,” which was my initial attraction. I had no clue Dayton would be such a significant character to the story arc!
Can you give us a little sneak peek into what we can expect from the upcoming season of 'I am Frankie'?
Without giving away too much, I can tell you that there’s more action and quite a few new characters and new sets. Loyalty is questioned more than ever before and overall everything is amped up. As a cast, we even have more chemistry now that we’ve all been friends for a longer amount of time.
Tell us a little bit more about how you spent time on the sets with your co-stars when you were not filming? Did everyone get along? What was the vibe like?
The vibe was so unique because while filming everyone lives in the same hotel, so it kind of feels like an endless summer camp. Everyone is just a few doors away and when I get a knock at 11 pm on Friday night I genuinely have no clue who could be on the other side. It’s so fun to be able to say “hey meet in the lobby” if we want to go to a restaurant, ice skate, see a movie, or just explore Miami, which happened several times a week!
If you had to play a different character on the same show, who would you ideally go for and why?
I would take over Kyson Facer’s role as Andrew LaPierre because he’s such a badass. Andrew is that stereotypical cool guy that looks awesome without trying and nothing really fazes him. Quite the polar opposite of Dayton Reyes! Haha!
What is your career bucket list like? What kind of roles are you interested in after playing Dayton?
I really love television because you get a lot more time to develop a character, so ideally I would hop to another series regular role- maybe slightly more “mature” teen content such as 'Riverdale'. Although, I haven’t shot a lead role in a feature film yet, so that’s immediately next up on my bucket list! A film like 'Mean Girls' or 'Easy A' would be a dream.
If you had to co-star with anyone from the industry, who would it be and why? Is there any role in particular that you wish to have played?
I grew up watching Reese Witherspoon and Drew Barrymore movies, so shooting with either one of them would be the coolest thing ever, specifically if I was cast as one of their daughters!
Is there any role in particular (in film or Tv) that you wish you could have played?
I love all of Emma Stone’s teen characters because she has such a way of being goofy yet cute, sensitive yet stubborn, and confident yet seeking approval, which are qualities I feel I also possess. So roles such as Olive in 'Easy A', Gwen in 'Spiderman', Natalie in the 'House Bunny', and Wichita in 'Zombieland'. I also recently watched Netflix’s 'Lost in Space' series and thought “Wow, being cast as a daughter in the Robinson family would have been amazing.” I love space and sci-fi content!
Let's rewind a bit, how has your journey from being an acting student to appearing on the big screen been like?
As a student, I feel like the best way to grow as an actor is to watch yourself on camera. It illuminates so many minor features in your work that you’d never know you had while in the moment. When I watch my footage back it’s really hard for me to let go of that desire to learn and just enjoy the show because I’m constantly analyzing my performance. I never stop being a student in that regard because there’s always more to learn. The idea that people I don’t know have seen my face and been impacted by my work is the surreal part. I’m not sure that will ever fully sink in!
Have you ever had a fangirl moment on a show or appearance which has left a mark on you? Do you have any idols that you look up to in the industry?
I have only ever been star struck once in my life and it was on the set of 'American Horror Story' with Lady Gaga. After a few months of moving to Los Angeles, I got a call out of nowhere asking if I could stand-in for a recurring character on the 6th season of AHS. The first day on set I see a super tiny woman with massive black heels shaded by several umbrellas and stop dead in my tracks recognizing the back of her head. Lady Gaga has been such an inspiration for me since 2008. Her voice helped me embrace my uniqueness at an age where fitting in was impossible and brought me closer to some of my best friends.
The best part was discovering that she is such a personable sweetheart. Gaga had creative handshakes with several crew members, addressed everyone by name (there were hundreds of people walking around), and asked even the most minor crew members personal questions about specific family members. She also included me in conversation when I stood nearby STARING (yes, uncomfortably staring, I was star struck remember) instead of being weirded out by the total creeper that I was. Coolest experience ever.
If you were not in showbiz, what would be the plan of action for you?
The first thing I ever wanted to be when I was a kid was an astronaut, so maybe something with NASA. I grew up practically in NASA’s backyard in the Clear Lake area of Houston so it actually wasn’t that crazy of a profession! Tons of kids I grew up with had parents working at NASA and several parents actually went to space. I was drawn to the idea of floating around weightless but soon discovered I get motion sickness, making that career, not an ideal one. Haha, but by 7 years old I had my heart set on storytelling and that was it!