We had the good fortune of connecting with Nikko Austen Smith and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nikko, what is the most important factor behind your success?
The most important factor behind my success is my willingness to always be a student. No matter how far we have come in our careers, in our crafts, we can always learn more, and that is the beauty of life. No one is perfect. When I consistently operate from a stand point of wanting to gain knowledge, instead of a stand point of believing I have already “made it”, that is when growth happens.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a black actress living in Los Angeles, CA. I can be see in seasons 3-4 of Ava DuVernay’s Queen Sugar, Season 2 of Facebook Watch’s The Birch, among other theatrical projects, and a plethora of National Commercials, my most notable being McDonald’s.
Getting to where I am today in this industry has been no east feat. I’ve been professionally acting since I was 17. I landed my first agent at that age, though I really had no idea what I was doing or where to begin. I knew I wanted to be on stage or on screen, whatever would take me! As I got rejected and waitlisted from almost all University BFA Acting programs I auditioned for, I was left feeling defeated. Until, at the final second, I received admittance into a BFA Acting program in South Carolina. A small school, with great training. There, coupled with my own research, I would learn that theatre will always have a soft spot in my heart, but screen acting has my entire soul. Junior and Senior year, I threw myself into knowing all I could about the industry. I researched, constantly, and maybe a wee bit to my detriment because I didn’t have a lot of friends… haha. BUT, I wanted to know all I could, so that I would know how to proceed to make my dreams come true… Senior year, I left school halfway through the year, because I booked a Recurring role on my dream show. Ava DuVernay’s Queen Sugar. One thing lead to another, and now, here I am in Los Angeles.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Luckily, my best friend moved here from Denver, CO almost 2 years ago! So… I’ve got this one figured out.
On Monday, we would go to Malibu and do the Solstice Canyon trail, a beautiful waterfall hike, followed by a day at the beach 3 miles away from the hike! There’s a yummy french cafe with the best homemade ice cream called Le Cafe De La Plage. Definitely would grab lunch there!
On Tuesday, we’d go to Universal Studios Hollywood. The trick is to park up an hour before they open, make it through city walk, then, right when they open, do the Simpson’s ride first, then the lower lot, Harry Potter, and other upper lot rides. Save all the shows and the Studio Tour for last! Then finish off the day with In & Out, and milkshakes of course!
Wednesday, we would go to the Santa Monica Farmer’s market in the morning. We’d get some fresh produce and some beautiful eucalyptus, and finish by walking the Santa Monica Pier, having some funnel cakes, and playing retro games. At night, we’d go to my favorite chill bar, Jones Hollywood.
Thursday, we’d go to a ballet class, and lunch at Tartine in Santa Monica sipping on some of their tasty wines. Then finish off the day by going to the Museum of Jurassic Technology or The Museum of Social Justice. Dope places!
Friday, we’d sleep in, grab some freshly made donuts at my local bodega, and spend the afternoon in Little Tokyo. Grabbing mochi at Fugetsu- Do, and chill at Far Bar.
Saturday we will grab breakfast at Meet in Paris, go dance at Tap Class, then spend the day in studio city/sherman oaks walking Ventura blvd, sipping coffee, and thrifting at Buffalo Exchange.
Sunday, we will go to Drag Brunch at RedLine or Stache, and support some local queens. Then we will make our way to the Melrose Trading Post, and grab some food at their local yummy food trucks!
Woo. That’s a lot. But loads of fun! I’d recommend anyone new to LA to download the “Nudge” app. It’s a free app that texts you once a week, with a really fun planned out activity. It slowly “nudges” you out of the house with some really dope LA staples, and some awesome lesser known spots.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
In my life, I’ve come across so many wonderful creatives, so many wonderful books and artists, so many incredible mentors. However, I would not be where I am today without the constant encouragement, support, and love from my mom, Valerie. She is a beautiful, stunning soul, inside and out.
She was the one driving me to ballet class, play rehearsals, voice lessons, etc. She drove me to and from school when I was in a musical or had Shakespeare, Drama Club, Spanish Club, Honor Society or Community Service clubs. She was present at all of my award shows, concerts, and recitals, and was the one who traveled with me all over the US for College BFA Auditions my Junior year of high school. She was there telling me “there’s something better coming your way” when I didn’t book a job. She continues to offer me the utmost support, love, and encouragement to this day.
Growing up with a single mom, you can only hope they are there for you in the moments that truly matter, she was there for me through it all. Mommie, thank you for everything. I love you.
Credit: Look At You Go! Photography by Ginger Michele Credit: James DePietro Photography