Running, crashing, sinking into foamy waves, Nico Greetham seizes soft bubbles swirling on the surface. With clothes plastered to skin and a low sun glowing golden, the actor inhales sea salt as burning lungs feed hot veins and an ignited spark flares the senses. As a former gymnast and professional dancer, Nico is oh-so aware of his surroundings. From the sweet tinged air to the slow cooling of the late afternoon, Nico enchants his environment and fuses with the scene, understanding the dynamics of living and learning.
It was a gymnastics injury which set Nico on the path of dance, where he reached the finals of So You Think You Can Dance and soon after landed a role in Broadway’s Newbies, before returning to LA to pursue acting. Nico is incredibly grateful for everything life has provided him, including his friends, family, and experiences. Due to appear in Ryan Murphy’s The Prom this December after featuring in Dramarama, First Lady, Birds of Prey, and Dinner in America earlier this year, the former yellow Ninja Steel Power Ranger is stirring up waves in the Hollywood sphere with his discipline, determination, and raw talent.
While wildlife creeps through cracks in concrete, photographer Amber McKee shoots Nico as he draws on his disciplines of gymnastics, dancing, and acting to transition from the LA beach to the Venice streets in a masquerade of shapes, positions, and expressions. Rachel Fawkes styles Nico in a myriad of cool, casual looks and Michaeline attends to his grooming before they return to the beach and the ocean claims their work for the taking.
Faces of passer-by’s blur into oblivion as the day wraps up. Taunting shivers cascade down Nico’s warm back as he rolls his shoulders and stretches his aching legs, worn out and weary from a day climbing chain link fences and cuddling newborn puppies. The blinding sun sinks into the sea as baby blue becomes black and the stars glimmer above a restless city. Join us as we delve into the journey from boyhood to manhood, the effects of COVID-19 on the film industry, and the importance of Nico time.
Who is Nico?
Nico was a young boy who grew up in Northern Virginia. I’d say I’m currently phasing out of boyhood into manhood. I give a lot of thanks to my friends and family for shaping my character and my being. They guide me throughout life and they always have: for that I’m very thankful. A big part of who I am is my passion about my career and obsession with acting. I just really, really love it! I grew up a dancer and acting is fairly new to me - new as in the last four to five years. With that I feel like every day I get to learn something new which really excites me. I appreciate that every part of it feels like a new experience. Every role is different, every audition is different. I love being a character that’s completely separate from who I am and walk around with every day.
You said you were transitioning from boyhood to manhood. How would you describe manhood?
I haven’t mastered it yet so I wouldn’t trust every word I say! I’ve learned lessons and ways of viewing life in such a different capacity than even two years ago. My manager always says "People will come in and out of your life", and back in the day - in boyhood - I used to think ‘I’m always going to have the best friends that I have now and they’re the most important thing to me’, which was true, but he was right in the way that people do phase out of your life. It happens naturally too - it’s not necessarily in a negative capacity. Sometimes things just happen in a way, like my friends are now getting married or they’re buying houses with their partners. That’s fantastic but since we’re in different stages of our lives it phases out. So, things like that - and paying bills of course! Also having to wear eye cream when I go to sleep because apparently that’s a thing now! It’s a constant state of learning. I’m constantly learning about myself everyday which is exciting. It goes back to why I like acting - I just like to learn!
Did you learn anything about yourself during the pandemic?
Yes, I did. I’ve learned quite a few things. Including textbook knowledge of our culture. I learned a lot about the Black Lives Matter movement. I sat on my laptop to learn a lot because I didn’t know as much as I should have. So textbook-wise absolutely, but personally as well. I’m very extroverted and I love my friends and family and I love to be around them at all times, but with lockdown where I have to be stuck with people, I realised that it’s important for me as an individual to take time for myself and give myself that. It was to a point where I was scheduling: ‘Okay, two hours of the day is Nico time’, which I’ve never done before because I’d rather it be ‘friend time’, but I needed it. I needed to go to the park and journal for myself. I needed to literally just sit in my room, which I don’t normally like doing, but I have my candle on, maybe read a book, and decompress with everything that’s happening. I learnt that about myself this year which is great. I think I’ll constantly learn how to evolve Nico time.
Where is your happy place?
My happy place is absolutely being on set. I also have a happy place of journaling in a park - laying down on the grass and looking up and seeing the trees and the sun and hearing the birds - that is a time I’ve discovered I need for myself. That becomes my happy place, but to be my most happy is to be working. I love being on set and the collaboration of it all and seeing how these projects are made by every individual, because everyone has to take part or it doesn’t work. To sit there on set and watch is a beautiful thing, and to be a part of that is even more beautiful because it becomes a piece of you.
You were born in Woodbridge, Virginia and trained as a competitive gymnast! What was that like?
I was a gymnast first and I ended up cracking my head open when I was nine, so my parents were like "We’re going to pull you out of that!", which made sense! From there I became a competitive dancer. I used gymnastics with dance, and it was helpful to have that background. That was my life. If you had asked who Nico is then, I would have said that I’m a dancer, because that’s all it was - but in a great way, it just took up all of my time. I took it very seriously because my dream was to be on So You Think You Can Dance. I ended up achieving that dream when all the stars aligned, but once I did, I was like ‘Well, now what?’. That’s what I worked my whole life for! Being a dancer teaches you so much about discipline. It teaches you about collaboration and camaraderie. I will carry the discipline that dancers hold with me for the rest of my life. Even being on set, it’s so different - it is so interesting how different it is with a group of dancers versus a group of actors versus a mix of both. I’m grateful for that training.
How has the discipline of gymnastics influenced your work ethic?
It’s influenced my work ethic majorly. Because it was my entire life, I don’t think I can necessarily see it if I look in the mirror. I have to step back to realise ‘Oh, this is because I was a dancer’. I’ve realised that it’s ingrained in me so I don’t necessarily think about it per se, because it’s become such a big part of me throughout those years of discipline. As dancers and as actors, I think you constantly want to please people and never want to let anyone down in a way of always being able to say yes. You’re constantly working towards making the project something that works. There’s the other option of just being an actor and showing up on set to do your work and sit back and let everything else happen as long as you fulfill your job - which is valid because, at the end of the day, you have a job that you have to fulfill - but with my background, I go on set and I am so aware of every other job on set and what they’re doing to make it happen, and wanting to work with them to make sure that what I’m doing is helpful for them. I’m so, so aware of everything else, and that is because of the background of dance. As dancers, everything has to be in unison, and you have to work together to make the dance look good. The collaboration part of my job is my favourite thing.
You became the 5th top male finalist in Fox's hit TV series So You Think You Can Dance Season 10 at the age of 18. What was that experience like?
That experience was a dream come true. Like I said, that’s why I danced - to be on that show. It wasn’t to win the show, it was simply to be on it. You have to be 18 to audition and I had just turned 18. That was the dream. When I was at the audition, I was like ‘Okay, even if I get cut or eliminated, as long as I’m here and I did this, then I’m okay’. Luckily I continued on, and I took it day by day because that’s all you can do. I didn’t do the show to win, I did it to relish in what I watched on television every week with my mum. Doing that and knowing my mum was watching on the same TV screen back home and with me on it. But it was difficult - it was very physically and mentally demanding, as you can imagine. On a dance competition show, you’re constantly working your body out, but it’s emotionally draining too because you see all your best friends get eliminated week by week. The further you go, the more people you see leave. My mum said, "Make me a promise that you won’t cry on national television", and I was like ‘mum, I’m not going to cry!’ - every week I was sobbing when my friends would get eliminated! I was a mess! It would pan over to us and I was a mess! You live this experience with them and then you go home. We are now a huge family. My So You Think You Can Dance family is very tightknit and we love each other dearly. I actually lived with four of them after the show so it became this frat house of So You Think You Can Dance!
How has this experience shaped you?
Thankfully the experience is what brought me to LA and started the rest of my life from then on. It was the foot in the door. I would have gone to college had I not done the show - which was the prior agreement that my parents and I had. If I didn’t get the show, I would go to college. Thankfully I got it! It started my life. From there I moved to New York to do a Broadway show six months after SYTYCD ended. Because I had the public eye from SYTYCD, Newsies - the show I did on Broadway - wanted me to audition for them. Aside from career-making, it gave me a family out here in Los Angeles and that’s the biggest thing - to have a core group of people who you share similar interests with and view life the same as. So You Think You Can Dance gave me that, and I’m forever grateful because I think that is what’s rooted me in Los Angeles - having these people and these friends.
You spent time in New York whilst on Broadway and are now settled back in LA. How do these cities/lifestyles compare to your hometown?
Oh my Gosh. Well, both New York and Virginia are on the East Coast, so they have East Coast vibes, which is very much a thing. For that, there was a comfortability when I lived in New York. Knowing I was only six hours away from home, but just being on the East Coast, living in such a large city, brought me a little bit of comfort. But New York was pretty overwhelming for me. For the personality that I have, Los Angeles is very fitting: slow paced with good weather! Versus the hustle of New York - which is beautiful and vibrates at such a high frequency - but I couldn’t do the grind there. I got eaten alive by it. After that realisation, I did move back to Los Angeles and I’ve been here ever since. It’s nice to have a home that feels like home. Even in New York, I had to move to the Upper East Side which is quieter and more family-orientated because I needed to see the strollers and dog walkers and I needed that for myself. Here in Los Angeles, I live in the Valley, which is further away from the inside of Hollywood because I like to feel close to the city but not inside it.
You’re half Scottish and half Colombian! Did you grow up with any Scottish or Colombian traditions?
Oh absolutely! My family is very barely American! We’ve lived here my whole life, but everything is from international cultures, which I’m very grateful for. It’s a huge part of me, the way that my parents raised us. Not being from here, they understood the importance of different cultures. Any chance we got, we would leave the country and travel. Looking back as an adult, I’m very grateful for that. As someone who now cherishes that, I can’t wait to raise my kids and take them everywhere. It’s truthfully so important to know how people live in every other country. And of course, the cuisine that I grew up with! Both my parents are wonderful cooks. We hardly went out because they would cook and could cook all the time which I’m very grateful for. My mum’s Colombian empanadas are my all-time favourite food. That would be my last meal on death row - my mum’s empanadas! My dad makes shepherd’s pie, bangers and mash, and scotch eggs, so I grew up with all that and it’s unbeatable! I prefer that over Red Robin!
Have you ever visited?
We used to go to Colombia every other summer from when I was a young man until after I moved out and my sisters and I got older. Life started to happen a bit more, but we would go very often, and my grandpa had a farm up there that my mum and her brother now run. There’s definitely ties there - my entire family still lives in Colombia. We speak all the time, and as you know, Latin families are huge and never end! They’re very family-orientated so we have a group chat going - all the Colombians on WhatsApp. You know what’s beautiful? Because of quarantine, I’ve spoken to my British side way more than normal because we would have a Zoom every Sunday with the family. I’ve spoken to them so much more this year and I’m so grateful because we don’t normally speak very often. I’m very connected and it’s such a big part of me. I hold it dear to myself and it’s important.
What are the similarities and differences between dancing on stage and acting on set?
Good question. The difference that comes to mind straight away would be being on stage and performing for a live audience. There are very few things in this life that can beat that feeling. The immediacy of it - the reactions and the ability to give your performance to something that will, in real time, see it and react to it is very special. I miss that. When I’m on stage versus being on set, you have so much time to fix things. It’s not necessarily: 'this is the one and only moment that this can happen', because you can do another take and fix the light and your performance if it needs to be fixed. What I love about film is the collaboration of it all. The performance aspect of film is also one in which, because you get so many takes and chances, gives you opportunities to have so many different options and so many different reactions every single time, which to me is exciting. I like to find new ways that I can do the same story. I love them both so much!
You’re appearing as Nick Boomer in Ryan Murphy’s The Prom alongside many big names including Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Andrew Rannells, Kerry Washington, and many more, which is set to premiere in December. Can you tell us a bit about your role and the film?
I play a character called Nick Boomer and he is the bully in the school. He’s in the crowd that does not understand or appreciate the differences in people. The film revolves around a queer female in this small town and they don’t quite understand and accept her, Nick Boomer included. Thankfully, in the film, Nick Boomer has an arc and does end up changing his views and is then more open and accepting of the LGBTQ community. The film is so fun, it is a musical comedy, starring all those people. I think people will watch it and have smiles on their faces the entire time which is how I felt making it. I really do hope that people who live in the Midwest and the parents who don’t necessarily understand or accept their queer kids will watch and it opens their minds up a bit - knowing that it’s okay, and acceptance of your kid is the most important thing you can give a child.
How important is LGBTQ+ representation in cinema?
It’s incredibly important for these people who live in places where it’s not okay, and where they don’t feel okay with themselves. The suicide rate in LGBTQ kids and the homeless rate in LGBTQ kids is far too high. The more awareness we can bring in cinema and TV and social media, the more that they will feel it’s okay to be who they are and who they want to be. We’ve made strides, even in the last few years - we’re definitely headed in the correct direction, and people like Ryan Murphy who are actively making most, if not all, of their projects based around that awareness, is a beautiful, wonderful thing. I hope to be a part of as many projects as I can be in regard to being able to bring awareness.
From an insider’s perspective, do you feel there is a shift towards greater inclusivity and representation in the industry?
Yeah, absolutely. This industry is completely shifting in the most amazing way - having female directors is an exciting thing. It’s crazy thinking ‘Why have we not had this years before?’, ‘Why are we celebrating this only now?’. It should have been a thing to begin with. But now that we have the opportunity to celebrate it, it is a beautiful thing. To have people of colour having their own series and creating entire casts based around that now is something to celebrate and I hope it’s becoming more normalised. I hope that we can accept the normalcy of it and live the way that we should, because it should have been like this the whole time. I’m grateful that it is going this way so that all of these people will have the opportunity that people like myself have always had. It’s a beautiful thing to watch society be aware of their mistakes and try and fix it.
In what ways do you relate to your character in The Prom?
It’s important as an actor to understand your character’s mindset and not judge them for what they think. The difference between Nick and I is very evident, in the way that he’s not understanding of the LGBTQ community and I very much am, so having to understand and research why someone would think that way is important. It is a result of his exterior surroundings that he didn’t necessarily have the opportunity to think any differently because everyone around him thinks like that. It makes sense why he would think this way, but then in the film you see someone teaches him and his friend group that it’s okay and it’s actually worse of a character trait to not like them so don’t be a terrible person. I really appreciate the process of trying to find why a specific character does what they do. Even with serial killer characters or characters who do terrible, terrible things in film and TV, it’s fun to understand why they would do that because they believe what they do is correct. I don’t necessarily relate to Nick in that way, but I do understand why he’s like that and I’m glad he’s not like that anymore.
How did you prepare for this role?
We had about a month and a half of dance rehearsals which was a shock to the body because I hadn’t danced like that in a long time. So, lots of sore ice baths, lots of heat cloths! There’s singing involved too, so I had a vocal coach that I would see every so often, which was a new thing for me because I’ve never had a project where I sing in film, so that was exciting and a new experience. As far as the acting process went, I had an acting coach in which we would work together in finding the understandings of Nick and how someone could go about living this way. It was a very fun process because there were so many different components that I had to work on which was exciting and maybe overwhelming at times, but nonetheless, I hope it will pay off! I guess we’ll all see! But making it, I felt prepared, which I would like to always feel when I’m working.
You’ve had a very busy year, appearing in Dramarama, First Lady, Birds of Prey, and Dinner in America opposite Kyle Gallner and Emily Skeggs earlier in the year! What has been your most challenging role so far?
I played a role in a Blumhouse Into The Dark anthology film. Every film is a different episode, and I was a very small character in one of those, but the character was a paraplegic. I didn’t want to offend anybody because I know that’s a very thin line to walk. I had some talks with the directors, and we were discussing how we can make this okay and work. I did research to fulfill that character and I went to a rehabilitation centre that’s just down the street from my home. I was studying some of the patients and how they have to cope with what their body’s current state is at and understanding their way of life and how they go about their day by day. It was really interesting having to transform my body into sitting in a wheelchair with a paraplegic stance. It was a lot of research which is one of my favourite parts of the process, but I would say that is the most challenging role that I’ve had up to date. The more challenging, the more exciting, I think.
How do you think the pandemic has impacted the film industry?
I have not been on set since the day before the quarantine began, but I’ve heard that as far as being on set and the protocols and safety measures now in place, which are of course necessary and important, it's a very different way of filming in the way that the cast would be separated at all times unless they’re in the scene together. I think one of the best parts of being on set is getting to know your castmates and building a relationship aside from the character relationships - and that doesn’t seem possible six feet apart! Or definitely more difficult. I’m interested to see how that feels, and I’m sure it’s a bit isolating, but as far as the industry goes, I’m curious to see if the films and the writing of films will have less scenes with a massive amount of people or scenes with extras. I wonder if that will change careers for people who are professional background actors. I hope not, for their sake. It’s all very curious and I’m interested to see what happens in the next year of projects that are being developed currently.
How will the pandemic impact the audience?
Going to the movies was one of my all-time favourite things to do, whether it was by myself or with other people. I really pray that it does not completely wipe out that magic, because there’s such a different experience going to a theatre and there’s etiquette that needs to be in place so people can’t just pull out their phones when there’s a lull or when they get bored of the film. You have to be quiet, and you can’t just walk upstairs to your room and be distracted by all the other things - you’re in the world of the film, which I think is so special and I really hope that it doesn’t completely diminish that. On the other hand, as an actor and someone in the industry, it is fantastic that we have all of these streaming services and these different opportunities for projects because now there are so many more jobs for actors and anyone in the industry which is definitely not something to take for granted. How many do we have?! We have so many streaming services that it opens so many doors for actors to work and to be seen. It’s a wonderful thing that we’ve moved this way but I pray that it doesn’t take away from the old magic.
How did you use your free time during the COVID-19 lockdown?
My roommate and I decided to take a picture every single day from day one of the lockdown. At first it was going to be just a photo - we would be in our pj's. It was only to document because we didn’t think it would take this long! We thought it would be maybe a few weeks, so the first seven/eight photos are just us in our normal day wear. It became this full production of costumes and ideas and we would imitate movie scenes and we would be characters from television shows, to a point where everyone online got involved and they were like "You’ve got to do this!" and "Dude I’ll come drop off a costume!" - socially distanced of course - don’t touch me! It became this huge thing to where we made this Instagram account, and it was funny because at the beginning of quarantine, my days would be surrounded by our photo: when we had to do it and how we would accomplish it. Sometimes it would take hours to set up. So, on a silly note, that is how we spent the first 80 days of quarantine. When the Black Lives Matter movement began, it didn’t feel appropriate to continue our silly little daily quarantine photos so we stopped that, but it was a nice light-hearted thing that came from it. Aside from that, it was important to maintain the mental health aspect and to make sure that I was finding time for myself, which was something that I learned this year. I needed my Nico time. I get really overwhelmed when I have people telling me what to do and what my day is going to be. For example, my roommate is a big planner and he likes to plan all his days for the whole week. I’m not necessarily like that and he would plan days for me, and he’d be like "Here’s what we’re doing: we’re doing this and this and this", and I would get really overwhelmed. Because of my personality, I would normally say yes or go along with it, without realising that I needed to do what I needed to do. I needed my time for myself, to where I would literally have to be like ‘hey, I’ve got two hours in the day where I need to go read a book’ and he’s like "Okaaay…", and I’m like ‘please just give me that!’. Let me go to my park and journal and listen to my music and put on my candle and have my own special light! I’ve now developed a regimen that helps me ground myself mentally and come back to normal ego.
You previously played Calvin AKA the Yellow Ninja Steel Ranger in Nickelodeon’s Power Rangers Ninja Steel and you’re well versed in stage combat. Do you have any cool moves?
Do I have any cool moves I can do like right now?! At the Power Ranger audition process, they had us do a minute of - they called it ‘physical activity’ - meaning some sort of fight sequence. With my background I just did a bunch of flips and gymnastics things. I also took Taekwondo when I was eight! I went in and did a bunch of flips and HI-YAHS! I think it was helpful in my process of them booking me, but on set I wanted so badly to do crazy, crazy stunts, but they couldn’t have me do all the crazy stunts because they couldn’t have me get hurt - which makes sense for filming, but I would always beg. I would ask if I could flip off a building and they’re like "No Nico! You can’t flip off the building!", and I’m like ‘but I can!!’, and they’re like "NO!". I did feel a little stunted in that way which is fair - I’m not Tom Cruise or Jackie Chan! I don’t know who I thought I was!
What happened with your head injury when you did gymnastics?
Well the story is: I was jumping on a springboard and grabbing the pommel horse, which is the one with the two handles, and we were going to flip over and our coach was going to help us over because we were only eight years old. I remember vividly that he cued me to run down the track, so I did, but he was talking to this girl, and it seemed like he was talking to her to get her digits - that's what eight-year-old me thinks! So, I ran down the track and I jump and grab it, but he’s not paying attention to me, so he doesn’t help my legs over. I fell the opposite way and cracked my head on the wooden springboard. It was interesting because the gym was kind of a sketchy gym, and they just held me. My white shirt turned red very quickly. I won’t say they held me hostage, because that sounds very dramatic, but when my mum showed up to pick me up, they ran out to her car, went to her window and were like "You don’t have to get out! It’s okay! Don’t worry about him he’s fine!", and she asks, "What do you mean? What are you talking about?", and they say "Just stay! It’s all good! You don’t have to sue us! Nothing’s wrong!". Cut to: she comes in and I’m bleeding out! It was very bad. That’s when my mum was like, "Well you’re not going to do gymnastics at this gym anymore", and I was like ‘yeah, that’s fair!’. As far as the procedure to get better went, it wasn’t intense at all. I had a few stitches and that was okay. I have not gotten any serious injuries in all of the physically demanding jobs that I’ve done which I’m very grateful for. The biggest injury is probably my trousers because I always rip them! I’m constantly tearing the crotch area! I don’t know why - I can’t stand still! I’ve become friends with the costume departments at most of my jobs because I’m like ‘look, we’re going to be working closely together and you’re probably not going to like me because I’m going to have to make you fix all my costumes but I love you!’.
What are you hopeful about in 2021?
Oh man! Can I say everything, period? That’s all! I’m anticipating the election, and who’s going to be in office. With that, maybe some things will change, maybe they won’t. I’m hopeful for the vaccine for COVID-19 which will then create a longer list of things that I’m excited for! I’m excited to get back to work, which could still happen in 2020, but I know that I’ll work in 2021 so I’m excited for that. Putting it out there! Truthfully, I’m excited to see what society decides will change and what will stay the way it currently is - will wearing masks be a normal thing from here on out? I am interested to see what happens and I’m hopeful of the humanitarian movements that have happened throughout this time. I’m excited to see the evolution of society from them. But again, you could just write everything.
Anything else you’d like to add?
My name is Nico Greetham and I really enjoy coffee and cookies. So, if there’s any way of getting me coffee and cookies, I would appreciate that. That’s all.