Exclusive: Actress Nicki Micheaux Talks Indie Film ‘Lowlife’Posted by Wilson Morales
April 9, 2018
Currently playing in select theaters and On Demand from IFC Films is the hilarious dark comedy Lowlife, an incredibly impressive debut from Ryan Prows and starring Nicki Micheaux, Ricardo Adam Zarate, Jon Oswald, Shaye Ogbonna, Santana Dempsey, Mark Burnham, Jose Rosete, King Orba, Olivia Benavides, Anna Pulido, Jearnest Corchado, and Clayton Cardenas.
What happens when you throw together a fallen Mexican wrestler with serious rage issues, a just-out-of-prison ex-con with a regrettable face tattoo, and a recovering junkie motel owner in search of a kidney? That’s the premise of the berserk, blood-spattered, and wickedly entertaining feature debut from Ryan Prows. Set amidst the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles, LOWLIFE zigzags back and forth in time as it charts how fate—and a ruthless crime boss—connects three down-and-out reprobates mixed up in an organ harvesting scheme that goes from bad to worse to off-the-rails insane. Careening from savagely funny to just plain savage to unexpectedly heartfelt, this audacious thriller serves up nonstop adrenaline alongside hard-hitting commentary about the state of contemporary America.
For Micheaux, who is best known for her starring role on the ABC Family series Lincoln Heights, the role puts her on the big screen and in a leading role. Over the years, Detroit, MI native has had many recurring appearances on various television shows including The Shield, Six Feet Under, Soul Food, and more recently Animal Kingdom.
Blackfilm.com recently spoke with Micheaux about her role in the film.
What was your attraction to taking on the project?
Nicki Micheaux: We all worked together before and we had been trying to get stuff off the ground but no one was giving us money to make this movie. I had worked with Ryan on his graduate thesis short film from AFI. It was basically the same crew and we were hoping that we would get some traction then for another project but nothing really popped off. Eventually Ryan came to me and said, “Let’s just make the movie,” and I said, “Fine.” We were all basically struggling to get another project off the ground. We decided that instead of going through the studio system, we’ll just do it ourselves. When he brought me the script, it was absolutely crazy. There are all these genres and it’s a crazy wild story, but I thought the script was so compelling and I really wanted to know what happens to these characters. I thought it would be a lot of fun.
How would you best describe your character?
Nicki Micheaux: Crystal is a recovering addict. She’s trying to save her alcoholic husband’s life by finding the daughter she gave up and use her kidney to save him. She then finds out the situation she put her daughter involves sex trafficking/ organ harvesting and now she wants to rescue her daughter. It’s basically a woman who has made a lot of mistakes in life and is finally trying to correct it and looming for some kind of redemption. She doesn’t deserve it but wants to do one thing right.
Are there any traits of Crystal that you can relate to?
Nicki Micheaux: For me, relating to Crystal was more about relating to a woman who felt trapped. She had fucked up in life and there was no way she was going to make it better. She was just trying to make due and hold on to what she could. By trying to save her husband, that’s how she makes sense of her life. I can relate to the feeling that you are out of control. The choices that you made have put you in a situation where you can’t get it back. I know people who feel that way. I can relate to that feeling. Even though the circumstances of her buying her daughter’s kidney to save her dying alcoholic husband are extreme, but the humanist of it is that this is a woman desperate to do anything to try to keep her life going.
With so many themes going on the film, what’s the best way to describe its genre?
Nicki Micheaux: You can basically call it a crime movie. You can’t put it in one genre. Crime thriller is probably as good as it gets in capturing what Lowlife is. It’s definitely a Pulp Fictionesque type film.
How was working with the cast?
Nicki Micheaux: It was really great. Some of the cast were on the writing team and I had just met Ricardo and Santana, but it all clicked really easily. When you’re working on a film that has such a low budget, everyone is there for the creativity. We are all there for the art and for the fun. I think they all came in to give it their all and make it the best project. Honestly, I didn’t even think we had enough money to actually finish the film, let alone to be opening in theaters. I did think out of the joy of creating. The fact that people actually like it and we have distribution across the world is stunning.
What goes into saying yes to the projects you have done?
Nicki Micheaux: Well, usually I’m looking for something that’s different from what I have done before. I’m looking for something that puts me in a category I want to be in. I want to do films. I’ve been trying to do films for a long time. I’m very interested in doing film projects. I’m also interested in character. Characters that are leading and dynamic, and where I get to really sink my teeth into.
You had a good run with Lincoln Heights. How’s the work these days. Is it still a grind?
Nicki Micheaux: As Vivica A. Fox says, “You never stop hustling. You have to stay hungry.” She told me that back in the day when we did “City of Angels.” I think for everyone, Hollywood is a hustle. Nothing is ever guaranteed. Every job you get is always ending. I have to say that I’ve really blessed. I’ve worked consistently for a long time. This is the only thing I do to make a living but I do stay busy. When people call to want me to come in and read or I take jobs that are sometimes out of town, even though I have my children here. One of the things about being an actor is that there is a lot of self sacrifice involved.