Nelson Estevez: Betting On Yourself
Words + Interview By: Krystal Luster
No matter the cards you’re dealt, be sure to make the most of each play that comes around. Nelson Estevez sheds light on the importance of persistence, faith and appreciating those pesky lemons life is so fond of dealing out. Whatever your dream, don’t take for granted the small stepping stones because they could very well be building your staircase to greatness.
Tell us what life was like growing up.
I grew up in New York City (mainly in Inwood), which is on the northern tip of Manhattan. I spent high school in Cardinal Spellman in the Bronx. I was born to two first generation immigrants from the Dominican Republic who worked extremely hard to provide food on the table and a roof over our heads. I am the oldest of two and I have a younger sister.
Growing up around our neighborhood we all made the best of what we had and what we could afford. I was fortunate to have both of my parents while growing up and to this day. No matter what the situation was, they always managed to give us the essentials. I was pretty much a level headed kid with a lot of energy; my dad introduced me to baseball as an outlet because of it.
What made you decide you wanted to become an actor and how did you get started?
My sister and I had a VHS when we were kids and we would record our favorite music videos, commercials, TV and film scenes and we would act them out and even build the “sets” with cardboard and/or sofa pillows. We would direct each other to make sure that we were able to mimic the scenes or moments to the best we could and would spend hours doing this!
My sister pursued theater throughout high school and I pursued sports (baseball, football, track). A couple of years after graduating college with a degree in business, I was presented a job to work as background for a scene in a movie (Hitch with Will Smith). At this time I was still working a 9-5. I remember watching him (Will) and Kevin James performing and improvising scenes, all while having so much fun doing it. Soon after I started looking into working more background jobs and the rest is history.
Tell us about the upcoming Tyler Perry film “Acrimony” and the character you play.
Acrimony is about a faithful, devoted wife, Melinda (Taraji P. Henson) who becomes sick and tired of standing by her devious husband Robert (Lyriq Bent). She then becomes enraged when she finds out that she has been betrayed. This is when Melinda unleashes her wrath and goes after what she feels is payback. I play the character Casey, who is a grounded, supportive husband of one of Melinda’s sisters, June (Jazmyn Simon). Casey tries to be a voice of reason throughout Melinda’s wrath by either consulting his wife and sister-in-law hoping she snaps back to the loving, happy person we all know.
Is this your first big break on the silver screen?
It is! I have been blessed to work on TV series and have been working more on independent films for festivals, but this is my first break on the silver screen for a major production. I can’t wait to have you all check it out and support!
Were you at all nervous working with Taraji?
I was more excited than nervous to be working with her. I knew that she would bring the best out of everyone in every scene since she is one of the best in the industry. This excited me because I knew something new, real and interesting would be happening in every take. She is so free and confident in her choices while performing and I knew that if I just listened and stayed true to my intentions of the scene, it would be very exciting and genuine on camera. The entire cast was really solid and being around such seasoned actors and actresses allowed me to grow and excel in my craft.
Do you remember how you felt when you were told you got the part?
I was very excited to have booked a job, but I had no details or clue as to who or what the project was for since production was keeping everything confidential. During the audition process all I got were the sides, character breakdown/description, casting director name, movie title and the time and location of the audition. Within a week I was on my way to Atlanta to Tyler Perry Studios. This was when I was briefed about who hired me, who was directing and who was starring; which we now know is Acrimony with Taraji P. Henson.
How does LA life compare to New York life? What do you miss most about the city that never sleeps?
What I truly miss the most is my friends and family who I know have my back. LA life can be a little more laid back but I try to keep my New York speed and since everything in LA is more spread out than NY (and traffic is worse), you can’t accomplish as many tasks as you can in New York. So, time management and execution is important. These beautiful beaches and palm trees can be a huge distraction for me! Then again, there is always something happening in New York and there is truly no other city like it.
How long have you been trained in martial arts?
I started training in martial arts in 2012. It has always been a great outlet for me, mentally and physically. I started with Tae Kwon Do and then found a Kung Fu school that has been my sanction. The goals are to be a black belt at both arts. I still have a ways to go with training, forms and flexibility but I love it!
Dope! What is your favorite martial arts film and why?
That is a great question and a tough one. If I had to narrow it down to one film or a franchise I would have to say Rush Hour. I love how Jackie Chan uses his surroundings to maneuver, block and attack his way throughout the film. I also enjoy the comedic elements he brings, as well as Chris Tucker. Jackie does it with such fluidity and it’s amazing to watch. I remember just rewinding the sequences to see how certain moves were timed and executed. If I would have to compare myself to an action star, I would say I am more like a Jason Statham. He is very rough, raw and usually uses his surroundings as well.
Choose your destiny: Jet Li, Bruce Lee, or Jackie Chan. One is your disciple, one is your master and one is your opponent.
Bruce Lee is my disciple because then I would be a legend, Jackie Chan is my master because then my legend status would go up to a SUPER legend and when I fight Jet Li, I would be considered a martial arts icon.
How do you typically prepare for a role you’re auditioning for?
It depends how much time I am given. In a perfect world with enough time, I’ll read over the script numerous times. I’ll make sure that I understand my objective for the scene, my long-term objective as well as the other character(s) in the scene. I’ll also determine or create a before and after if it is not given to me. This means that I’ll try to figure out what was I doing before the scene and where I was emotionally as well as after the scene, depending on whether or not I reach my objective.
I also love to underline significant words in each line in order to emphasize certain intentions, line by line. I like to highlight my lines so they stand out on paper. I read over the actions while underlining and making notes of certain key actions. My script looks like chicken scratch at the end of my auditions. I like to give it a rehearsal with a partner if time and schedule permits before an audition as well. You need to hear and see it for yourself in order to make corrections. A great scene partner will give you different perspective. If I have time, I usually like to watch previous episodes or films of the writer for the film or TV series I am auditioning for in order to hear the cadence and style of it.
Are you a binge watcher? If so, what show(s) are you currently keeping up with?
I am not much of a binge watcher due to my attention span, but I will finish it through! Right now I’m really enjoying a comedy series called, The Mick. I need to catch up on West World. Surprisingly, I do enjoy Ash vs. The Evil Dead. It’s over the top but it makes me laugh.
Who would you enjoy working with most if given the opportunity?
Director: Martin Scorsese. Actor: Denzel Washington. These are two legends and I would love to see both of these individuals in the process of their craft.
What are 3 life rules you abide by and why?
One) Be a man of your word. Two) Trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, then speak up or just don’t do it. Most of the time, you are right and if you are wrong with the situation at least you stood your ground. Three) Evolve. The world is constantly changing. Do not be afraid to learn something new or try something new.
What are your thoughts on karma?
I strongly feel that whatever action or energy you give out, it truly comes back and sometimes in another form when you least expect it. It can be challenging, especially when there is an opportunity for revenge. I have learned that coming to peace with certain terms or situations will open other doors and will allow you to evolve and grow with situations and people. It’s easier said than done.
Are you currently auditioning or filming in any upcoming projects?
I am always auditioning on a weekly basis and I am grateful to say that. This week I had a big audition for an upcoming pilot series. I didn’t have much time before the audition but I managed to be off book and I felt really good leaving the offices.
I just finished shooting a short film that I co-directed, wrote, starred and co-produced. We will be in post production soon and will be submitting to festivals. I also have an independent feature film that I will be the lead in, plus I’ll be writing some scripts in order to pitch for TV (I have to keep everything confidential but it will be up on social media and IMDb soon). I’m just staying busy and letting the creativity flow!
Any Last Words?
Thank you for such a great interview and don’t forget to watch Acrimony, March 30th!
Contact Nelson Estevez via Instagram @nelsonestevez.