If you're looking for an alternative to the big budget action films and big studio comedies of the summer, you should check out A Bird of the Air (also known as The Loop) with Rachel Nichols and Jackson Hurst. Now available on DVD, A Bird of the Air is a quirky love story with unique characters - both two-legged, four-legged, and with feathers. An entertaining romantic tale, A Bird of the Air stars Jackson Hurst as an introverted highway courtesy patrol worker who helps stranded motorists. His life consists of working the graveyard shift, spending his lunch break in a quiet diner, going home, sleeping, and then repeating the sequence of events. It's a solitary life he leads until a talking parrot and a free-spirited librarian (Nichols) turn his life upside down.
Nichols has been keeping super busy with both TV and movie roles since filming A Bird of the Air, however she was very enthusiastic when we chatted about her experience working on this sweet romantic movie, which is a huge departure from the roles we normally see her tackle. And in our exclusive interview, we also talked about her other projects including her lead role in the sci-fi/thriller TV series Continuum, working on the action film Raze, and the possibility that she could be in the next Star Trek film.
Exclusive Interview with Rachel Nichols:
A Bird of the Air is a really sweet, gentle love story, and how often do we see those?
Rachel Nichols: "Never, and that’s why I love to talk about it. It was a very big departure for me and something very different. It’s something that I’m very proud of. You're right, it’s scarce."
It really is. Was the fact that it’s a departure from what you're used to one of the main reasons you were sold on it?
Rachel Nichols: "You know, I have a very funny story; I’d been given the script and I hadn’t read yet. Then I heard the director had fallen out and we didn’t know who was going to direct it. Then I just put it on the shelf. And then Margaret [Whitton] decided she was going to direct it and I hadn’t, of course, met her. They told me to go meet her, she is amazing. And I went, 'Okay, crap, I've got to read the script really quickly.'
So, on the day that I met her I read the script before meeting her. I was kicking myself for not having read it previously because it was so funny and charming and sweet, and so different. On the way to meet her at her friend’s house in Beverly Hills I thought, 'Oh my god, what am I going to do if I don’t get this job?' I loved the script. I met Margaret and I fell madly, madly in love with her - I just adore her - and we went from there. I auditioned for it with Jackson.
As soon as I was about 10 pages in I thought, 'Oh my gosh, this is something that I have to do. I can’t believe it has taken me this long to read this script.'"
You loved the script and loved the story, but if you hadn't hit it off with the director, would you still have done it?
Rachel Nichols: "That’s a really interesting question. I think absolutely because as soon as I met Jackson I fell in love with him as well. He is perfect, and spending time with him in the room ... we did a couple of very emotional scenes together for the screen test and I just thought, 'God, he's so perfect.' He was really easy to be myself around. He is really authentic. So, yeah, I think unless the director was a complete nightmare I would still have jumped on board. But having Margaret there, I can’t say enough good things about her except I hope that I get to do many more things with her in the future."
Margaret Whitton is a first time director and she comes from the world of acting. Did you have any qualms about putting yourself in the hands of someone who hadn’t directed before?
Rachel Nichols: "Not once I met her. Margaret is one of the most intelligent women I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. Having the fact that she had been an actress, had directed theatre, all you need is a perspective from someone. As long as they know what they want and how they want things to look, I blindly trust and I go with it. She had this vibe and I went okay she knows what she’s doing and I go with it. She has this vibe and I went, 'Okay, she knows what she's doing.' She's a veteran and it’s nice to have a director who’s been an actor. It's very helpful."
And it's also relatively rare.
Have you given any thought about getting into directing?
Rachel Nichols: "You know, I never did until...I've been in Canada since January until two days ago and I never had the desire to direct but we did 10 episodes of this new show back to back and I'm the lead of the show, and after spending that much intensive time on set I think I might direct next season. I never wanted to do it before and I'm completely petrified by it, but I kind of got the itch a little bit. I worked with eight different directors in the 10 episodes and I thought, 'You know, with this production team around me I think I can do it.' There are certain technical terms I would need the help of the DP with, but I think now I kind of got a little bit of an itch for it. I might try not season."
And the TV series you're talking about - Continuum - sounds interesting. The premise has you coming back from the future?
Rachel Nichols: "It's fantastic and I’m very pleased with it. The show opens up in 2077 and I’m a cop in the future. We are about to put the seven most criminal terrorists in the world to death. While they’ve been in prison, unbeknownst to me, there's other people who weren't involved and they've essentially created it's not like a time machine but sort of a device that creates a wormhole. They set it off right before they are executed and we are all shot back 65 years. Because I go in to stop it, I get shot back with them.
Suddenly I wake up in 2012 and I’ve just fallen out of the sky. I'm quickly figuring out where I am or who I am, but I’m still fighting the same fight that I was fighting 65 years in the future but it's in 2012. Obviously, a lot that goes along with that. It was really, really intense, but very cool."
It sounds like a premise you can take a lot of different directions.
Rachel Nichols: "Absolutely, absolutely."
Has it been picked up? Do you know if we'll be seeing it soon?
Rachel Nichols: "Graham King of GK Films produced it and what they want to do, which I’m completely on board with since I had my heart broken after several pilots didn’t get picked up during pilot season over the past through years, they wanted to shoot all 10 and then sell it. It’s already been sold in Canada and it will come on at the end of May. But they wanted to shoot and assemble all 10 episodes and then sell it like that. They are negotiating with American networks right now, but just they wanted to put it all together and make it the show they wanted to make it before succumbing to the pressures of executives and things. They just wanted to make the show they wanted to make and then worry about selling it, which was great for me."
Are you worried about tying yourself down to a show as the lead when you've got so many different movie roles that are options?
Rachel Nichols: "We’ve had many discussions about this and I loved the role so much - it's such a departure from my role on Criminal Minds. It's a lot of work, but there is a lot of action and there is a lot emotion. I leave my husband and my son 65 years in the future. I’ve never played a mom before; I’ve never really played a wife before. They don’t want the show to be one of those shows that does 22 to 26 episodes a season. They really don't. They would much rather have it in a 10 to 13 realm, which therefore is much less of a worry about getting locked in. 10 episodes is four months and I’d love to have a guaranteed job for four months of the year and then come back here and start working on other things."
It sounds intriguing. I hope an American network jumps on it.
Rachel Nichols: "Thank you. I’m really looking forward to seeing it myself. It would be great and I would be really, really proud and excited if it sold. I have people in Twitter-verse saying, 'That’s not fair! How can we see it?’ And I said, 'If you make enough of a fuss about it. Come on and join my bandwagon and we’ll make it happen."
Your character is very interesting in that for the first 10 minutes or so that she was on the screen, she really annoyed me - but then I got to love her. How did you do that? How did you pull that off?
Rachel Nichols: "You could not have paid me a nicer compliment. That is something that Margaret and I worked with very intensely. Because, yeah, I’m annoyed with her the first 10 minutes of the show and I am her! [Laughing] Margaret said, 'You're going to have to trust me,’ which after meeting her and doing rehearsals I did trust her. She said, 'You can’t see the love as soon as the show begins. You're just going to have to suck it up and I guarantee you you'll reap the benefits. This is how it has to go down.' I went, 'Okay, sure,' and we worked on it. Obviously there was a lot of editing that went into it and story that went into it, but we did that intentionally because then it means even more when you do fall in love with her. It works. I trusted Margaret and we went for it full-bore. I’m very proud that you enjoyed that part of it; it makes me very happy."
And being a huge dog lover, I also enjoyed your canine co-star. How was it working so closely with your animal co-star?
Rachel Nichols: "They say the hardest things to work with are animals and children. I have to say that we got very lucky in the dog department. You know, Jackson had to spend an extraordinary amount of time with both George the dog and also the parrots. He had to actually spend kind of more time with them than I did. The only bad thing that we had happen was when we were slinging George while we were trying to save him. George vomited on Jackson. George got a little bit sick over being thrown around so much, so Jackson set him down and he proceeded to barf right after he had been swinging around. That’s the only problem we had."
And because I know your fans want to know, is there any possibility that you’re going to be back for this upcoming Star Trek movie?
Rachel Nichols: "I would love to be back for Star Trek. JJ [Abrams] is super, super secretive and as of right now - because I have been up in Canada and I believe they’ve already started shooting it - as far as I know, I’m not shooting it although, of course, I would love to do it. Of course, he could call me tomorrow and say, 'Hey, you want to come in and do something?' But as of now, sadly, no I will not be returning."
We’ll have to start that Twitter campaign, too.
Rachel Nichols: "Yes, let's start that one!"
Have you completed filming Raze?
Rachel Nichols: "Josh Waller is the director and a very, very dear friend and also a very talented filmmaker; we shot my part of it before I left for Canada. We knew that I was going to be gone for four months and they were still looking for financing, actually. I didn’t even tell my agents or manager that I was doing it. I just did it on a whim with him and Zoe Bell. Because they didn't have financing they didn’t know what was going to happen and so I just said, 'You know what? I want to be in it. I love you and I love Zoe'...I’ve known Zoe for years...'I want to shoot it, so let's do it and see what happens.' That's exactly what we did. They actually are going to finish shooting it in June because they just got all of their financing."
Zoe is a professional stunt person and she can handle anything. How did you handle those stunts?
Rachel Nichols: "I have this funny story and she hates when I tell it, but it's funny. When I was on Alias, the first fight scene I ever had on Alias I fought Zoe. What they do a lot is if you’re the actress and it's your coverage for a fight scene, you fight the other actress’ stunt double, and Zoe is one of the best stunt women in the world. So, my first fight scene I’m fighting Zoe who's playing a double at the time and I come up too early for a punch and she hit me in the face and I got a fat lip. She had never hit anybody before and it was totally my fault because I was supposed to be down and I went up and that’s what happens. So, she hit me in the face and then we joked around that Raze was going to be my payback. It's kind of a female Gladiator, really. It's really sort of throw down and I think people are going to really enjoy it. It’s definitely something different than I’ve ever done and something different than people have ever seen when it comes to a chick fight."