GOING THE EXTRA MILE. Australian actor Nikolai Nikolaeff talks about playing as the main villain in season two of “SIX,” the after effects of his role and his upcoming projects
It’s safe to say that Nikolai Nikolaeff is more than ready for an eventful year. The Australian actor, who has found success in portraying Leo “2Dads” Kosov-Meyer in Australian drama “Sea Patrol,” is set to star in “Mile 22” with the likes of Mark Wahlberg and season two of “SIX,” where he will be playing with Olivia Munn. For the latter, he reveals there’s much more to his character, “The Prince,” than what initially meets the eye. So, be prepared to see Nikolaeff’s devilishly attractive good looks all the way through the rest of 2018. And in the meantime, he shares added insight into the show and his life as an actor.
DA MAN: Hi, Nikolai, glad to have you with us. How are you doing?
Nikolai Nikolaeff: I’m doing really well. It’s been a very big year and so much has happened. I got married on New Year’s Eve in Australia, which was insane! Also, I have three projects being released this year and I’m very excited to see them finally come alive.
DA MAN: So, by now, season two of “SIX” has been running for a while. How would you describe your experience with the series so far?
Nikolai Nikolaeff: “SIX” was a great experience for me, and a bit challenging. I landed the role of “The Prince,” which was referred to extensively in season one and had quite large expectations attached to bringing him to life. The writers are at the top of their game. It was very interesting to see how they continued the intricate storylines of the brotherhood between the SEALs themselves, their personal family dynamics, pressures of the job, as well as incorporating some very dynamic new characters played by Eric Ladin, Olivia Munn and myself this season. They took everything this season to the next level; using the amazing momentum and quality they developed during the first season and injecting it with steroids for round two.
DA MAN: Going back a bit, what was your reaction when you got to read the script for the first time? Particularly the part where you’re the villain of the show?
Nikolai Nikolaeff: You know, the older I become, the more “villainous” roles I seem to get… something about these eyebrows, maybe? For my audition, it was three pages of a monologue by my character and very challenging. Not only the volume of the dialogue, but also to capture the subtleties and the ‘cat and mouse’ nature between “The Prince” and Michael Nasry (Dominic Adams). The interaction between these two “masterminds,” figuring each other out, the power play, the survival, was very fun to immerse myself into the character.
After I got the role, I hadn’t received the rest of the script as they were still writing and tweaking as the series progressed. It was a little stressful knowing I was bringing this “damaged” character to life and being at the mercy of the writers in many ways: Where they would take him? What would they get him to do?
This character was based off two real-life people in particular, as well as being a “fanatic” leader of a terrorist organization. Not exactly a light subject matter and if portrayed without giving the character the proper respect, I could upset many people in the world. That’s one thing I’m very conscious of is to respect the characters we portray so they are not just two dimensional, especially if they are based on real people.
DA MAN: How, exactly, do you get into the mindset of The Prince?
Nikolai Nikolaeff: The Prince was originally from Chechnya and ended up settling down in Bosnia with his wife and son. When we first meet him, he was assisting the CIA to help catch a Serbian war criminal. In exchange, they would help him get to America for a better life for him and his family, which ends up going horribly wrong and he loses it all. This sets in motion him becoming something completely different, we see him rise from the ashes to become “The Prince.”
While preparing for this role, I went down some very dark rabbit holes as it involved researching the atrocities that went on in Bosnia, as well as Chechnya. All the things I read about while preparing were truly horrific and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t affect me. Usually, I’m good at separating the character from myself, but it was hard this time around for about two and a half months. It was a little hard to come back to reality and interact with my fellow cast members and friends about “normal” life things, when I had spent hours watching real life decapitations and executions from these tragic volatile areas of the world. What probably resonated with me the most is that for these people, from these regions, that was a “normal” way of life—to experience so much suffering.
DA MAN: What would you say is your favorite moment from working on the season two of “SIX”?
Nikolai Nikolaeff: The cast was amazing, the guys and myself were really able to bond. For me, it was surreal to be from Melbourne, Australia, now living in Los Angeles and filming this huge show in Vancouver, British Columbia. There were a few times when we had black hawk helicopters on set which was very cool. There was also a moment where I was on set in the last episode and my character is hardly recognizable (small spoiler), and I remember just looking around at this hard-working crew, dedicated cast, ultra-talented writers and visionary producers etc. and I was like, “This is one of the best feelings ever.” To be chasing the dream and living it is unreal. I’m a little sentimental like that sometimes.
DA MAN: We’ve also learned that you’ll be appearing in “Mile 22.” Can you give us a brief intro to this movie?
Nikolai Nikolaeff: Ok, so as if “SIX” wasn’t action-packed enough… “Mile 22” is just plain insane! There is a segment in the script that describes a fight scene as ‘what follows is one of the most insane fight sequences ever caught on camera.’ That’s it!!! In short, “Mile 22” is a movie about a secret CIA operative played by Mark Wahlberg, who has to get an agency “asset” played by the amazing Iko Uwais to the airport, located 22 miles away. Every mile they travel to get to the extraction point, is an epic survival battle.
DA MAN: As you can probably tell, people are really excited about “Mile 22” here in Indonesia, what with Iko Uwais being in it. What was it like filming with him?
Nikolai Nikolaeff: So, it’s a funny story. To be honest, I haven’t met Iko Uwais yet! As with filming these huge movies, the scheduling sometimes makes it hard and when you are playing on opposite sides, sometimes you don’t get to “dance” with the other actors as they are on the other end of the phone call. There are some twists in this film that no one will see coming. Uwais’ and my characters are connected in a way which will be really cool to see unfold. I can’t wait to actually meet him when it comes closer to the premiere this coming August. It should be very cool, and I really hope we get to go visit Indonesia to promote this film!
DA MAN: Were there any particularly memorable moments from your time working on “Mile 22”?
Nikolai Nikolaeff: My character is “hunting people” in a way, so knowing the cast that I’m trying to track down includes John Malkovich, Mark Wahlberg, Ronda Rousey, and Iko Uwais, that’s very cool. The coolest, however, was bonding with the director, Peter Berg, who I got along with very well and loved getting to watch him work. I proposed an idea to him that was definitely not in the script, and after initially rejecting it for a few seconds, there was this moment where he saw what I was trying to do and absolutely exploded with excitement and happiness yelling “That’s the best f**king idea of the whole movie!!!” So, the best moment for me on the shoot was walking back onto the set with him bellowing that behind me as I went back to work to execute this very simple suggestion that has huge ramifications later.
DA MAN: One of your most recognizable appearances in the past was in “Sea Patrol.” Can you tell us a bit about how you first became part of the show?
Nikolai Nikolaeff: Wow, “Sea Patrol” to this day remains one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. Imagine being on a real warship, with a real navy crew at 7am and you begin the day by being launched off the side of it, in a jet-powered RHIB (rigid hull inflatable boat) while going full speed. Then once being deployed, we go and chase down a fleeing ship, while it’s trying to get away! At full speed, we must board it in full tactical gear and take out the enemy as they come swinging at us with machetes or AK47’s etc.
Many times, we would film a sequence all in one shot because of the nature of where the boat is in the background and “the show must go on.” So, you really had to be at the top of your game and be juggling many elements at the same time. “Sea Patrol” was the ultimate for me in terms of combining money and guerilla style filming techniques. We had the best of everything to play with; ships, weapons, storylines, cast, guest stars, crew, production team, exotic filming locations, etc. And yet, because we were filming on volatile seas, we had to throw the book out the window sometimes and just figure it out. My natural mantra is “there are no problems, only solutions.” So, this was perfect for me.
DA MAN: Would you consider being on “Sea Patrol” as an important career milestone?
Nikolai Nikolaeff: At the time, I knew I was part of something special. I knew that and savored every day I had on set with these amazing people that banded together to make it happen. “Sea Patrol” was an important milestone because it marked the beginning of me transitioning into adult drama and seeing how a ‘big show’ came together. Of course I had been on bigger sets like “The Pacific,” but this was three years solidly for me and I loved it so much. They invited the writers to come out to visit us each year and they picked our brains as to what we would like to see happen the following season etc. It was a truly special feeling to be really included in the production and be part of the “family” that the producers Hal and Di McElroy fostered.
DA MAN: Back to the present, aside from “SIX” and “Mile 22,” what else are you working on?
Nikolai Nikolaeff: I have a few more projects coming out later in the year, which I can’t go into detail on at this time. But it’s a great feeling to be “firing on all cylinders.”
DA MAN: Moving on to something a bit more personal, what was it about acting that drew you in?
Nikolai Nikolaeff: I knew that I wanted to be an actor since I was 12 years old. I felt the urge to tell stories and since then, I have fallen in love with being on a set and joining together to make a project come to life. There is a very cool feeling of accomplishing something together.
DA MAN: People tend to forget that being a professional actor means that it’s your profession. So, how busy are you on a typical working day? Or is there anything like a typical working day for you?
Nikolai Nikolaeff: Since I have a few other projects, when not on a set, juggling life in Los Angeles and traveling back to my hometown in Melbourne is something I cherish a lot of time, as I have all my family there. Plus, I really love traveling in general, so when I’m in between filming, I try to tick off a few wish list destinations.
DA MAN: How do you usually balance out the “work” part of your life?
Nikolai Nikolaeff: Family and friends, that’s what life is all about. I am very lucky to be surrounded by both and they help me “dream” and fight for my career too. It’s important to stop and smell the roses in this life, and my favorite thing is to be at a table with good food, surrounded by family and friends.
DA MAN: On a related note, are there any non-work stuff that you want to do more of in the future?
Nikolai Nikolaeff: I was recently in Melbourne and went rock climbing with my niece. I used to do that back in the day when I was younger and had forgotten how much I loved it. I really would like to do more of that. Also, I have a cool idea involving going to New York City and creating some art or sculpture pieces to be able to exhibit. There is a budding artist inside of me that I would like to explore more. The problem is, it’s just finding the time! I’m suffering from having too many ideas and not being able to execute them all. But then again, at least I got the acting part done right.
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