Femme on Fire: Rachel Nichols

By Vanessa Butler

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Femme on Fire: Rachel Nichols :

There are a lot of reasons to love Rachel Nichols, and being the lead heroine in SyFy’s hit series Continuum is just one of them. She starred in one of the best seasons of Criminal Minds, was brilliant in Alias, got to make out with Captain Kirk in J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek and even kicked ass in Conan the Barbarian. Not only does this girl have the brawn, she’s got the brains too. She graduated with a double major in math and economics while she was jet-setting around the world as a supermodel. Rachel Nichols has it all, and we got the chance to chat with this bold beauty.

Playboy.com: Congrats on being picked up for the third season!

Nichols: Thank you, it feels amazing. We found out the second-to-last day of shooting and it was just such a nice way to end the season. It gets really melancholy and very sad on set, especially when you’ve come back for a couple of seasons. You’re getting ready to say goodbye to everyone not knowing if you’re going to come back. It was such a nice gift for the end of the season. Everybody is so tired at the end, but the news made us so energized. It was the best news you can receive.

Playboy.com: What’s your favorite part about working on a show that is set in a sci-fi universe?

Nichols: The sci-fi genre is magical. With our show we’re dealing with time travel so we can kind of get away with anything. Obviously we have to adhere to the mythology of whatever we decide time travel means and keep true to those decisions, but it’s limitless in terms of the things we can do with our characters, the times we can potentially travel to. That tool and other mechanisms used in sci-fi are extremely useful; you can be imaginative! You can get away with a lot more, too. Part of Continuum can be seen as social commentary. The government is run by corporations in the future! So seeing as it’s in the sci-fi genre, we can get away with it. We’re not deemed as a political show. But if you sit there and think about it, episode six of last year was all about this Occupy movement, but since it’s sci-fi, we were not considered a political show, it’s just considered one of the many facets of it, which is great.

{“pbembedwidget”:“gallery”,“id”:“14140”,“size”:“large”,“alignment”:“right”}Playboy.com: Your show is shot and based in Vancouver. There’s so much good food out there. Where are your favorite spots?

Nichols: I had never been to Canada until I moved to Vancouver to shoot the season last year. I literally got on a plane on January fifth of last year and went to a place that I had never seen before that I subsequently fell in love with. Last year when I was living downtown I found my favorite place called Blue Water. They have the best food ever; I go there all the time. My measurement of a good city is when I’m shooting in a place that I don’t know, with people I don’t know, I like to find a really good restaurant that I can sit at a bar, order food and not feel like a total loser! So when I found Blue Water last year I started going all the time. At this point I know everyone that works there! There’s also this great pizza place called Nook too. I try not to eat too much pizza, but it’s so great! The food alone is enough to make me want to buy a house here, which I am!

Playboy.com: I found it interesting that your role was originally written as a male, but I’m relieved to see that the strength of the character didn’t seem to change when the sex did. What do you love most about your character on Continuum?

Nichols: You are absolutely right; it was originally going to be Kyle and not Kiera, and Simon Barry, who writes and produces this show, writes her extremely well. A man who can write a woman that well is few and far between. As a woman I was especially happy because he didn’t change any of the ideas from when it was Kyle. He didn’t change anything about her except she’s married to a dude, whereas Kyle wouldn’t have been. I loved that nothing was lost. I have such faith in women in the lead role, and strong female role models on television are awesome. I’m the mom, I’m the wife but I’m also a cop who’s kickass, who gets to do all of these great action things! They didn’t take away that strength when they made Kyle into Kiera and that I love. It’s nice to see, especially to play!

Playboy.com: Did you do any cool training for your role?

Nichols: I’ve always been kind of an action girl. I did G.I. Joe, I did Conan, I did Alias, so I’ve always maintained a certain level of fitness. My trainer in L.A. Valerie Waters, who was Jennifer Garner’s trainer for Alias, keeps it that way! Before I got on the phone with you I was finishing up one of Valerie’s workouts. [laughs] I always try to stay in good shape. We have fight scenes, a lot of them! Weapon training too, but those are skills that once you learn, you have with you. So you always get those refresher courses, you talk to the guy on set about the weapons and the safety, and when we’re learning fight scenes, it’s much like learning a dance like the Charleston or the cha-cha. You learn one step at a time and you speed it up and you put it all together and there you have it. It’s much like a dance; they’re choreographed like that.

I’m fortunate that Victor [Webster] is a very good fighter, he’s done a lot of it and I’ve done my fair share. My stunt double Mo [Monique Ganderton] was with me for Conan and did stuff with me for Raze so we basically just train as much as we can. Sometimes we have zero minutes between takes [laughs] and sometimes we have extra time to practice. But we can do it pretty much on the fly, so in my off season it’s really important for me to stay in shape so when I do fight scenes again it comes more naturally.

Playboy.com: You’re pretty active on your Twitter account. Is it wild to see real-time reactions to your show?

Nichols: Twitter fascinates me. I think it’s such a valuable tool now. The cast has been very interactive and very much into live tweeting if we can, or all of us getting together and live tweet, and it’s really great. I feel bad about it coming out in Canada first, so I try not to tweet too many direct spoilers out because you know there are people who haven’t had the chance to see some of the episodes, so I don’t want to be the one to spoil it for them. It’s fascinating to see the real-time reactions and our fans are so supportive and so excited and they’ve loved the new season.

I’ve never done a second season of a show! I was on Alias for a year, I did a show called The Inside, I was on Criminal Minds for a season, but I never got to do a season two of anything! To hear you’ve got a season two the first reaction you feel is “Oh my god, I’m so excited, I can’t wait to get back to work!” and my second reaction was “Holy crap I hope we don’t disappoint the fans.”

Playboy.com: The synopsis of your film The Ten O’Clock People, that’s currently in preproduction, really interests me. Can you talk a little about what drew you to the role?

Nichols: Well it’s funny, because that was around last year, then it just kind of [went] away. We haven’t heard anything about it! I was really excited about it because I’m from Maine and Stephen King’s from Maine…I’ve been asked that a lot lately and as far as I knew it was kind of a dud. But maybe it’s not!

Playboy.com: Curses internet! Nichols: Oh yeah, totally! By the way, I was on vacation in Peru I found out from the internet that I was not going back to Criminal Minds. On the internet. While on vacation.Playboy.com: That literally sounds like the worst.Nichols: Well I’m very superstitious and I don’t like talking about deals until the deal is closed, and I don’t like telling my parents about deals because they get excited, rightfully so, and if something falls apart at the last minute it kind of sucks to call Mom and Dad and say, “Oh yeah, that really cool project just died on the vine.” So I don’t even talk to my parents about it until the deal is done and I’m leaving to go to vacation. But with the internet, now my mom will call me and say, “What’s this movie you’re negotiating? I’ve heard that! What’s this?” She finds out stuff before I do! She has me on Google alert! My mom finds out information about me before I find out information about me.

Playboy.com: Internet: the best tool for mothers who want real-life spoilers.

Nichols: Exactly! She can track my flights, she knows when I’m in the air, she can find out about jobs I’m looking at before the deal’s closed. I’m like, “All right, Mom, if you want real-life spoilers Google alert me!” Playboy.com: What’s your…

Worst pickup line: There’s this book written by Neil Strauss called The Game; I read it. I was at the bar with a girlfriend and a group of guys tried to come up and use techniques from The Game. And I said, “Listen, Ted, I appreciate what you’ve done here, I really do, but I’m with my girlfriend Maggie and we just want a girls’ night. We’re not interested.” But he just kept pursuing. He then says, “Oh, we’re going to do the best friend test!” and I just look at him and say, “Okay, listen. I read Neil Strauss’s book. I read The Game! Can you please go do this to someone else?” and the poor guy, I felt bad but he totally forced me to the point that I had to call him on it.

Favorite drink: Oh god, well I’m going to go right to the booze category, let’s be honest! I’m a wine drinker, I love wine. But since I’ve been in Canada I have to say that their Caesars are great. I do love a good Caesar. I can only have one, but on the weekend or for brunch it’s gold. I love Clamato, and we don’t have that in the States, so Caesars have ruined Bloody Marys for me. So I think that everybody should try a Caesar, especially with celery and olives and asparagus. Oh yeah, turning into a Canadian!

Favorite food: I’d go one of two ways. I would say sushi or mac and cheese with chicken fingers. I’m one of those girls. I’m the least picky eater you’ll ever meet. I can do fancy, I can do fast food.

*Embarrassing moment: *One of my most embarrassing moments in my life was when I was a waitress during the summer in Maine and I walked into a closed patio door with an entire tray of food. Not only did I do that, I did it two summers in a row. I did it each summer I worked there. I remember telling myself in the beginning of the second summer to not smash into the glass on the patio again! I’m naturally blonde, so I think I make some of those mistakes given my hair color.

First memory of Playboy: I’m from Maine, I lived pretty closed off. I feel like it must’ve been in junior high with a friend with an older brother, and I was so shy and easily embarrassed. I remember him saying, “Oh yeah, look at this magazine,” and of course it was this whole action spread and I remember turning bright red and crying because I hadn’t handled the situation cool enough. I think that was it. [laughs] It wasn’t exactly enjoyable.


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