"The glamor roles are fine, but the action stuff is such a blast. Ask any stunt guy or gal who’s worked with me or had to teach me. I’m really just a Hollywood tomboy.”
A.M.A.M. Interview with Actress Nia Peeples:
AMAM: Although, you may have initially found recognition as a cast-member of the beloved T.V. show FAME, your career then continued on as a favorite T.V. movie actress. Please tell us a bit about those early years.
NP: Fame was one of those rare experiences where who I was as a person met who I was as an actor. My role mirrored my own life, my desires, my struggles. It was really quite unique and powerful. And as a singer/dancer it gave me an amazing outlet for expression. I’ll always cherish that.
AMAM: You've played a wide variety of characters in some very successful films, including Northshore, Deepstar Six, Blues Brothers 2000 and more, do you enjoy any particular style of roles over any other?
NP: For me, acting is really a way of experiencing other life times, other ways of existing, thinking, feeling. The style isn’t necessarily the deciding factor as to what it is I enjoy most. It really has to do with the quality of the role, how well it’s written, and the quality and commitment of the people I get to work with. It really is a team effort. Acting alone is like living your life alone: not incredibly fruitful. Life is really about relationships. I’m talking about all relationships, not just romantic relationships.
AMAM: Focusing on your action roles, describe your experience on the set of Half Past Dead with Steven Seagal, what was he like to work with?
NP: Steven is an interesting guy to say the least. He really had his own thing going on. For me the wonderful thing about shooting an action film like Half Past Dead is the experience of being surrounded by guys and gals who care enough about what they’re doing enough to actually train. This is where being a team player is incredibly important. Things like doing all the wire-work takes coordination and cooperation. Kicking someone’s arse requires coordination and cooperation. The power of my punch is only as evident as the commitment of the (stunt) gal hitting the ground. And, for me, action flicks hold a special place in my heart because its an added expression of who I am as a person, as an athlete. Reeeeaalllyyy fun!
AMAM: One of your most popular T.V. roles starred the legendary Chuck Norris in Walker, Texas Ranger. Please tell your fans a bit about that experience, any humorous anecdotes on the set?
NP: Chuck is definitely the real deal. I have a ton on of respect for the guy. And he’s incredibly loyal, so he would bring all his old buddies in to work with us. And they had some fabulous stories from the old days. Loved it. That being said, we also got hit with every Tom, Dick and Harry from his newer camp who decided they wanted to do stunts for a day: accountants, writers, drivers, whoever. The regular stunt guys on the show kind of hated that because honestly, it put us all in danger. I mean, think about it, you’re doing a scissor take down on a guy who’s never hit the ground before, let alone trained in any form of fighting, and suddenly you’re hanging horizontal 5 feet up in the air about to wrap your legs around this guys chest and take him down in a way so he can break your fall, but he decides to lay down before you get there. Now, you’re on your own with nowhere to go but down on your side, feet level with your own head…that hurts! So, one day our illustrious leader JJ Perry got really tired of it and lined this accountant up in front of a chair saying, “okay, it’s really easy. All you have to do is stand there. I’m gonna do a flying sidekick into your chest and all you have to do is land in the chair. Got it?”
AMAM: Do you enjoy performing your own physical stunts on set?
NP: I absolutely love it. Every chance I get, I do it. And, in particular I love wire-work. Suddenly all the dreams I had as a child of flipping across the floor and sailing through the air off a mini-tramp come true…and you’re safe! You never have to stick it on your own. Ha-ha. Love it.
AMAM: Please tell our reader's of your martial arts background, how did you get started?
NP: I don’t call myself a martial artist because to me, that means you dedicated years of your life to the art, to the philosophy and physical discipline. I never did. Honestly, I had maybe 6 months of Tang Soo Do when I took my son to train with Tom Bloom. I learned the basics really well, as I was a dancer. And, I learned all the fancy stuff on set. But, I learned it in such an intense manner from some of the best. Think about it, I had to learn 3 fights a week. Worked with guys like Sensei Fumio Demura and, of course, Chuck Norris. Plus, I worked really hard at it off set. It was important to me that I learned how to do it right if I was to work with this caliber of athlete. They were very patient with me and incredibly gracious.
AMAM: Any advice for young actor's looking to get into action films?
NP: Train. Train train…..and for goodness sake, learn to act!!
AMAM: As a humanitarian, you've devoted your time towards various Relief efforts around the world, please tell us more about this charitable work.
NP: Wow. That’s a big door you just threw open. I believe everyone has something to give, in his or her own capacity and in his or her own way. Humanitarianism can be as far reaching as international aid, like what Sean Penn is doing in Haiti. Or, it can be as local as helping granny across the street. When you see a need you can fill, fill it. That’s humanitarianism to me.
For me, I had a very unique opportunity: In the aftermath of the great tsunami of 2004, I traveled to the wilds of Indonesia off the west coast of Sumatra and joined a rag tag team of rebel relief workers in creating SRO: Surfzone Relief Operations. We were a homespun group of surfers and do-gooder's who pooled our money and dummied up documents to make something happen. Our Mission: to cut through the tidal wave of red tape and bring sustainable aid directly and immediately to those in greatest need. It was quite the adventure. We gave them dugout canoes with paddles and fishing kits so they could start fishing and feeding themselves again. We set up medical clinics that went well into the night. We even tried to save an eight-day-old baby by sailing him to another island…but that’s another story. We set up schools. And delivered dried fish and rice and well digging kits. At times it felt useless, like a drop in a sea of tears.
But honestly, what I gained was so much greater than whatever it was I had to give. Being there reminded me of who I was and what I was capable of. I learned that I can pull anchor and sleep on bags of rice, that I can live at sea for weeks at a time with no bread or meat and only a cup of water to bathe in. I learned that I am patient and kind and strong as an ox, that I have great organizational skills and a temper that flares at conceit and selfishness and lack of loyalty. I learned that I can communicate without words and inspire people with nothing more than my spirit.
After 25 years of Hollywood whirling, I needed to recognize the woman I had become and learn to have faith in her. And I did. I found it an invaluable experience.
AMAM: Please tell us all about your new health project Nia's Elements of Life.
NP: Elements of Life actually came out of that trip to Indonesia. For years women have asked me “how do you do it?” “It” meaning, how do I stay in shape, raise kids, have a career, keep my skin clear etc., etc.
When I was asked by a publisher to write an outline for a health beauty and fitness book, I realized that what ever I knew about how to take care of the outside meant nothing without having it together on the inside. So, that outline became 12 elements that I think are important for women, and men as well, to revisit and pay mind to throughout our lives. For me, this is the basis for all beauty and health. So the website, NiasElementsOfLife.com is a place where people come to share their wisdom, to access the 12 free recorded seminars and daily inspirational quotes. You can even access my inner circle of friends and professionals who have helped me through out my life. Even my trainer, Mister G, who was recently inducted into the martial arts hall of fame is in there.
AMAM: You've enjoyed success in T.V., movies & music...which is your greatest passion?
NP: Sharing, creating. The medium doesn’t matter as much as the process. I know my purpose is to inspire others through my own expression. So as long as I keep my expression honest, I’ll be meeting my purpose