Sometimes a person is compelled to do what is instinctive to them. That is the case with Lilly Nelson. She has been acting as far back as she can remember as a little girl, kindergarten or even before. Even as a kid she was making up plays and doing little films with her friends and family. Apparently her father, who is an art director, helped influence her creativity.
At home on both stage and screen, it doesn't matter as long as she's acting. No prima donna she likes to be involved whether it's in front of the camera or behind the scenes. She will help with a production any way she can. One specialty she has is helping actors with different dialects as well as teaching acting.
"Lilly has breathed life into Betty and given her more depth than we even imagined. She is a true artist." - Christine Parker Director of Fix It In Post
Currently she is starring in Closer Patrick Marber that she has been wanting to do for many years. Lilly is producing the play along with the Burning Coal Theatre Company. Directed by Paul Sapp it stars Lilly along with Miles Dwight Snow, Laurel Ullman, and Brian Fisher It will be playing through this weekend in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Lilly recently finished a part in the film Fix It In Post which is a campy, over the top story about what a film crew does to survive after an electromagnetic pulse knocks out the power around the world. She plays Betty the slate girl who has eyes for the director. A movie about people making a movie, trying to use their filmmaking skills to survive a disaster.
Not afraid to get her hands dirty she relishes playing the villain and taking parts that others might not want to consider such as the lonely woman in Kami that has lost her lover.
Lilly has several other things coming up including a part as Lieutenant Victoria Xen in Sciencstars, a TV series for kids about science. In Deadroom she is a German mercenary/assassin named Helga, adding to her list of villainous and antagonistic roles. She plays a drugged out mother In 12 Dog Days of Christmas that is about a troubled teen boy that learns a lesson about the spirit of Christmas.
A Carolina girl, she works most frequently in area between Charlotte and Raleigh, and prefers to live in North Carolina because it is home, but is ready to go anywhere she is called to for a new production.
See Lilly in the short film Kami below by William K. Gerard and read the conversation we had about her acting career.
What are you working on now?
Lilly Wow! A lot. Scienstars in Salisbury. Deadroom. Closer at Burning Coal in Raleigh. 12 Dog Days of Christmas.
Fix it in Post sounds interesting. What can you tell me about it?
Lilly It's a feature about a rag-tag group of filmmakers trying to survive after an electromagnetic pulse knocks out power worldwide. Hilarity ensues
How long have you been filming.|
Lilly Almost a year.
You have a lead role in that, right?
Lilly Yes, I'm Betty, the angry slate chick who is secretly in love with the director.
Lilly When I was 5. Likely before but my first real show was in kindergarten. I was a sugarplum fairy in the Nutcracker. And likely the most serious about being that fairy. I asked my teacher what my motivation was.
When did film enter fthe picture?
Lilly I grew up loving acting, in every medium. It was always there. It never really "entered the picture." I shot films when I was a kid. My friends and I would put on plays in my basement and one day we just started filming them on a borrowed camera.
I just wanted to act. It never really mattered where it came from or whether it was on screen or in a theater. I went from filming things for my friends school projects to films at the school of the arts in Winston-Salem.
I got a speaking part on a TV show for the Outdoor Life Network in Canada. They were shooting a TV show about an hour away and a big group of us emailed them and said can you use me. They were like, yeah!
I also modeled as a child so my dad was always using myself and my sister to promote ideas, since he's an art-director.
So you love all aspects of acting and storytelling. You are producing a film as well I see. Tell me about that.
Lilly hich one?
Lilly That was finished a few years ago. A good friend of mine needed someone to help out with a film he wanted to put me in, but I was too far away. So he made me a producer and I sent letters to the cast and notes on acting, etc... from where I was. I helped from afar and he gave me a producer credit.
I technically have several producer credits, I just don't put them on IMDb or have deleted them. Getting a producer credit can be fairly easy. You help out with a day of shooting, you get an assistant producer credit. You connect a director of photography with a producer, you get a producer credit.
Really I get producer credits simply by connecting people with the right people...which is a big part of being a producer, knowing the right people
I sense that you are doing a lot more than is listed online.
Lilly I am. A wise man once told me, if you have time to talk about every project you are doing online, then you aren't busy enough.
Lilly I am currently producing and starring in a play called Closer (as in stand a little closer) and it's great. We don't officially start to rehearse until the 14th but we have already done some read throughs and worked on accents and dialects and just played with the show a little bit.
What do you think about the southeast? Do you think there is enough opportunity for you here?
Lilly The southeast is home, but I don't just deal with the southeast. I audition for projects everywhere!
So you continue to live here because you like it but you're available for wherever you need to be.
Lilly Exactly... I am a strong proponent for having a lot of friends with available couches. I am waiting for the greenlight on a web show up north in Massachusetts. I apply for everything and see what sticks.
It sound like you just like to be working.
Lilly I like to be acting and it takes work to do that. When I'm not acting I am teaching acting and dialects. I don't like to sit still. I am currently pitching my own film and TV show ideas. I sent out 4 tape auditions this morning.
Is it the artist in you, that compells you to work? What drives you?
Lilly Insanity. Copious amounts of insanity. I love to create. If I have nothing else to do I knit and paint, play guitar and sing. I was born a creative person who just wants to create. The actor in me wants nothing more than to allow these characters, brief though it may be, a moment of life.
Yes, that's the artist. What role does money and fame have in this?
Lilly Honestly, if I could survive on the cosmos I would. Unfortunately the needs for food and shelter get in the way of my "arting". I don't need fame. I Only need money for the basics. Not that I don't get the occasional request for a signed headshot or an autograph. I love when people watch but I am just as happy acting for one person as one million.
What kind of roles do you like best?
Lilly Villains. Totally love the villains. If a normal person would be terrified to play it, that's what I want to do.
I remember watching my first collaboration with Ken Cohen, My Face, at a film festival in Charleston and the woman behind me called me a bitch. I just smiled because I made her feel something so strong she said it out loud. I like playing people you love to hate.
On being a villiam? Does that give you more room to stretch, is more exciting, what?|
Lilly I like finding the logic behind the villain. Every one of them has a reason for being that way and I love to tap into it. You are working to get people on your side. You want people to agree with you. It's not about being bad or evil, it's about finding why they are that way and tapping into it. I like complexities in my characters and villains tend to be more complex characters.
In Kami you play a troubled and flawed character. What spoke to you about that role?
Lilly The loss. We've all dealt with loss and I felt the need to explore loss.
I like tackling things like loss and fear and anything where I have to expose myself completely. I like the opportunity to tear myself open a little.
He [the director William K. Gerard] sent out a massive call online and when he sent them [the potential actresses] the script, he lost a lot of interest because the woman isn't supposed to be this hot chick mourning the loss of her lover, while making love to an attractive man.
It's a woman who has lost someone and it has hit her so deeply that she doesn't care anymore.
How tight was the script. Were you able to improvise and during filming. What was the give and take between you and the director?
Lilly The script had only one bit of dialogue. In fact the dialogue on the porch where we were smoking was made up on the fly entirely. Really it came to me with almost no actual dialogue.
We shot it in less than 2 days, I got there at 11:30 pm on Saturday and left at 11:30 pm on Sunday. And so for the most part it was one or two takes on everything.
When I am crying in the car wash they pretty much said, just cry and I cried for about five minutes straight.
How do you cry on cue?
Lilly I don't believe in crying on cue. You either cry or you don't. To get to the point where you can cry, you just have to actually sympathize with the character. For Kami I had this person so deeply ingrained in myself, so whenever I looked at the car it just happened. With Partners as Katie I was so genuinely upset with the fact he would lie to me I was destroyed.
What was it like working with Darren Conrad on Partners?
Lilly I only worked with Darren for a day. Always enjoy working with people who are passionate and want to make their own work. I do like being able to say I slapped a state trooper.
Darren worked really hard on this and it was great to work with someone so passionate about his project. He was really awesome about making sure I was comfortable and he even picked me up and drove me to the location himself and it's great when someone emails me and says, hey I wrote this part for you. Love when that happens.
Liquid Lungs. You worked both sides of the camera on that. What did you like about that film?
Lilly I love working on Ken Cohen films. He loves to write such unique stories. I love every minute I am on set. Ken has a very calm and relaxed presence while his director of photography, Danny [David Damen], is just so stoked and amazed [by what the actors deliver] and proud of everything, but he's also so meticulous.
As an actor I presume you read lots of scripts. Do you develop a sense of whether a project is worth your while by the script or by something else?
Lilly It all varies. Sometimes you get really attached right away to a character and think, this is the role I was meant to play. Other times you get a script with dialogue that is kinda dry, but you go and watch the other films done with the writer's material or things written by that director and think to yourself, wow that's amazing! Sometimes they sell you on the concept. Half the time anymore I get a friend who calls me up and says, I have a part for you. Be ready for it this day and time.
Sometimes you get really attached to a character in a script and end up playing another. To me every script is worth a read and a good story is always worth your time.
You're wrapping up Fix It In Post where you play a movie set slate girl. How do you describe that production and what's it like working with Christine Parker?
Lilly It's a fun set to be on. I get to hang out with friends and even when things are rough we get to relax and make a movie. It's not as rushed as some sets and you really get to take your time. She's really open to new ideas. Which can be good and bad with me because I did a lot of stunt work when I was younger so I can ask some odd things.
I left a bruise on one of the other actors one day throwing a slate at them during a take. I wanted to tackle someone and not only were the people keeping me off the other person [getting] bruised, but I was as well from straining against 2 people
Lilly I have been shot, stabbed, and damaged parts of my body I will never be able to use the same way again for this art. I actually pulled a muscle in my tongue during Kami while heaving into the toilet.
I have a scar on my leg from a cut, that set up an infection on my right knee. Both my knees have gone out. I was shot in the leg. I have actually been stabbed multiple times. During a stunt my partner put me in a position where I either had to break my neck or pull my arm out of joint. The arm got the brunt of it.
Any words of wisdom for those just starting into the business?
Lilly Run! Save yourself! It's too late for me!
Lilly In all seriousness about the advice. My best advice: If you can do anything else in the world and be happy, do that instead and do community theater on the side. Do extra and background work on the weekends if you're jonesing but if you want fame, fortune and stability, this job isn't for you.
That sounds like good honest advice.
See Lilly in Closer running through this weekend at the Burning Coal Theatre in Raleigh.
More information about Lilly Nelson:
William Kyle Gerardi's Website - Director of Kami