Every weekday morning round about 11, I get up from my desk at our offices in Carew Tower and walk across the skywalk, past Macy’s, and take the escalator down to the Booksellers on Fountain Square to get a cup of coffee. It’s something of a ritual, the coffee walk. I look forward to it not just for the promise of a cup of joe but for the conversations that I get into with Nik, who runs the register and handles the espresso machine, and Joe, who oversees everything else. Nik, it turns out, is an actor. He gets up early to open the Booksellers Café at the crack of dawn and works until the early afternoon. If he’s in a production, he has a couple free hours before rehearsal; if he’s not, he spends his time hustling for parts in local plays, commercial shoots, or the occasional movie. Like a lot of actors in town, he seems to never not be strategizing for a way to land that next role.
If you’re surprised to discover that the barista brewing your latte is using Cincinnati as a base of operations for an acting career, don’t be. The city is in the midst of boomlet of independent film shoots, from Miles Ahead to The Blunderer to Carol. Part of that has to do with state tax incentives, of course, and part with our rich trove of urban architecture. But the most important part lies in the ranks of homegrown talent we continue to nurture. It’s not for nothing that we’ve got four ambitious theater companies—Ensemble, Know, the Playhouse, and Cincinnati Shakespeare Company—vying for our attention, along with a raft of community groups. Nik caught the theater bug as an undergrad at UC. As he tells Amy Brownlee in Frontlines this month, it was a performance of Our Town at CCM that grabbed him by the lapels and refused to let go. “I know it’s the play everyone sees in high school. But I’d never seen any theater,” he says. “I just had no idea.”
He hasn’t really looked back. If I asked Nik what the high point has been so far, he’d probably say the speaking role he landed in Carol, which gave him a window into the differences between acting on stage and in front of the camera. That and some quality time with Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. But honestly, the stories he told me about his recent stint as the monster in a student production of Frankenstein at Thomas More College sounded just as exhilarating. I can’t wait to see what he does next. Neither can he.