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DRAGON*CON ROARS INTO ATLANTA

EDITOR’S NOTE: Eve Gidion, Chicagoactor.com Global Correspondent, since her return from Atlanta’s Dragon*Con, has been pouring over all the interviews and photos from the fantastic convention.


NICHELLE NICHOLS is Lady Magdalene.

The timeless icon of stage and Star Trek fame discusses her latest film project.

By: Eve Gidion, Chicagoactor.com Global Correspondent

Ms. Nichelle Nichols promoting her latest film “Lady Magdalene’s”Chicagoactor.com Nichelle Nichols

Photo by Eve Gidion

Nichelle Nichols, elegant and lovely as ever, was gracious enough to hold a press conference to introduce her latest movie, Lady Magdalene’s. Not only does she star in the title role, but Nichols also performs three original songs, is the choreographer, and is co-executive producer with writer/director J. Neil Schulman, who was also in attendance. Dragon*Con had the honor of hosting the world premiere screening of the film. In this suspense-comedy, Nichols plays a no-nonsense yet compassionate madam of a small brothel in Pahrump, Nevada. Also starring Ethan Keogh, Susan Smythe, and J. Neil Schulman, the film may be summed up as such: “A federal agent, assigned to manage the brothel with tax troubles, finds himself facing an al-Qaeda plot. Luckily he has the help of an undercover operative and the brothel’s Madam, Lady Magdalene.”

Q: Why did you want to play the part of a brothel Madam?

NN: Are you kidding? That’s the ultimate choice for an actor, to play something so far removed from their identity or who they are. I think the idea or dream of an actor is to stretch. It was also well written for me by [J. Neil Schulman]. …It was just so exciting to play this hard-core broad – it’s not the first hard-core broad I’ve played! But it was a lot of fun. …And, in this, I found that there was a lot compassion, a lot of pain, a lot of love that she covers up in order to feel independent.

Q: How did you become involved in the project?

NN: [J. Neil Schulman] had the idea and he sent me the script…and I liked it. A mutual friend introduced us…and I don’t know whether to bless him or never forgive him! It’s been a process making this film. I’ve directed and produced in theatre – my original and, still, first love is theatre, especially musical theatre. So I took that experience with me. But with producing and co-executive producing…that was an experience that I needed and enjoyed -painfully! But I enjoyed it.

Q: When you’re working and surrounded by a lot of actors near the beginning of their career, what’s your approach to kind of helping them along?

NN: Three of the young women (she indicates by pointing at the promo poster) are professionals – (quickly realizing the double entendre) not “professionals” - professional actors, that is! Although one WAS [a “professional”] and I’m not saying who that was!

Q: (The roomful of reporters gasp) Really?!

NN: Well, because she was [a prostitute], she was more trouble than she was worth, in a sense, because she expected the film to reflect an honest portrayal of that life, especially in Nevada where it’s legal. I had to finally tell her, ‘This is fantasy. This is not reality.’

Q: (Ms. Nichols continues about the experience of the cast members)

NN: Three of the ladies were professional actors…three were not. The three who were not [actors] were lovely, but very nervous…and it came across sometimes, which stops production and you can’t do that in filmmaking. But, all in all, the experience was one of…anticipation…an experience I had not had before.

Q: (In regards to her role as Lady Magdalene)

NN: I loved doing Maggie because I was able to bring another dimension to her as opposed to the obvious. She really cared about her girls…she really cared about what happened to them. She made sure they had their medical tests done at regular times and she paid for that – and she paid dearly because her dear husband was spending her money faster than she could make it…fortunately, he died.

Q: Tell us more about the cast.

NN: There are some wonderful performances in this young cast, not least of which is this young man [Ethan Keogh].

Q: And the feel of the story…

NN: There’s drama to it and a good story, but there’s a lot of humor to it. It’s not a comedy, per se…the humor is in a lot of the ridiculous things that are happening and how the characters respond to them.

Q: Would you tell us more about the songs in the movie? You said you wrote one of them?

NN: In my first scene…she pulls a young man in – a customer – and instead pulling him in with dialogue, she sings Lady Magdalene’s to him. It’s a lot of fun. Then more songs came into it. It’s not a musical; it’s a dramatic comedy with music. The next song, I wrote – A Woman’s Got to Be Ready for Anything. The third song, written by J. Neil Schulman, is Rahab the Harlot.

Schulman: …it’s an over-the-top gospel number!

Q: With all the music that’s in it, can you see taking this to Broadway?

NN: I would love to. I wasn’t even going to say that…but it has all the components of a really good Broadway show. …The songs are peppy, they’re poignant…and the song A Woman’s Gotta Be Ready for Anything is raunchy – and it talks of her life…(Nichelle then says, almost singing) a woman’s gotta be ready for anything or she won’t be ready at all. I can just see me whipping THAT out on Broadway!

Q: How would you describe your role as executive producer on this project?

NN: Well, as executive producer…it can encompass a lot of responsibilities. One – seeking out funding. But more…as assistant to the producer and molding everything and bringing in people who can function in bringing the film to reality.

Schulman: Nichelle helped me develop the characters and make them stronger all the way through. …Nichelle had constant input to make things stronger all the way through.

Q: (Ms. Nichols tells us of her much-anticipated upcoming role on NBC’s Heroes)

NN: I learned that I was to join the cast of Heroes next season…I was sworn to secrecy that I was going to be in [Heroes] and I said, “Surely, you jest! Do you not know that 90% of the people that work on this lot are Trekkers??” And one of the main things that happens is that Trekkers find out secrets that NOOO-BODY ELSE GETS! …Within 24 hours, most of [Star Trek] fandom all knew it. 24 hours after I got the notice that I was going to be joining Heroes, someone called me from across the country and said, “Is it true? You’re going to be on Heroes?! Do you have a power? Who are you going to be??”

A little trivia: Lady Magdalene was shot on location in Pahrump, Nevada…and actually shot in a brothel that was handed over to the film crew for 25 days.

View the trailer and get more information at www.ladymagdalenes.com.

Since Lady Magdalene, Nichelle has completed three more films: Tru Loved, Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, and This Bitter Earth. And be sure to watch her this fall on NBC’s hit series, Heroes, where she will have a recurring role. For more about Nichelle, visit www.uhura.com.


Chicagoactor.com would like to thank Star Roberts, Dragon*Con Media Relations Director, the Dragon*Con staff, the staff of the convention hotels, Erin Gray, Samantha Gray Hissong and the great Nichelle Nichols.