On screen, she plays a spunky red-headed, tech-savvy teenager.
In real life, Nicole Fairbrother is a single mother of three, juggling home life with trying to write her latest screenplay and travelling to Vancouver for auditions and voice-over work.
However, life for the Vernon-based actor has become a tad more surreal lately.
It all started when she was given her most unique role to date, as the voice of Erin on the animated series, Animism: The Gods’ Lake, which airs on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN).
Produced in Vancouver, the series draws on ancient First Nations mythology and follows the adventures of 17-year-old environmental activist Mel Ravensfall, who discovers that her friends’ efforts to save the Gods’ Lake from condo developers are just the smallest-scale skirmish in a much wider war.
Fairbrother voices Mel’s friend, Erin, who delves into her digital know-how to help save Gods’ Lake and the mystical world that lies beyond it.
“It’s a show like Avatar and The Matrix that goes back to nature with special effects that are top notch,” said Fairbrother. “I’ve got daughters that are younger than Erin, but I see her spunky energy in them. They’re like me. When I say I’m going to do something, I do it… I’m a go-getter and (Erin’s) like that too.”
Fairbrother got started in the acting business later in her life, although her penchant for the dramatic was instilled when she was young.
Born in Vancouver, her family moved to a farm in Grindrod when she was five years old.
“I had nothing but time, my books and oodles of imagination. I spent many days making up stories, staging my bedroom for a scene and acting out each part for my imaginary audience,” she said. “My actual performances though were limited to school audiences and the odd wedding or event where I sang and/or played my guitar.”
Later attending Enderby’s A.L. Fortune Secondary School, and then going on to graduate from Salmon Arm Secondary, Fairbrother would move to Vernon and study psychology at university, completely unaware of the film industry and opportunities that existed in Vancouver. It wasn’t until her third child that she started looking at acting as a career.
“I was always into music and wanted to do acting, but I got married and had babies early on. I waited until the kids were older before I started. I read as much as I could and then started taking courses.”
It was at the Kelowna Actors Studio where Fairbrother took her first acting class and then auditioned for her first role.
“It was Steel Magnolias and I did the scene where the mother talks about losing her daughter. I talked to the guys that ran KAS and they said I was on the right path. Although I didn’t get the part, I was booked in a role in Godspell right afterwards.”
That was seven years ago.
Fairbrother made further strides in her career through the Vancouver Actors Guide, an online actors’ forum based in Vancouver. Through the site, she met actors who discussed everything from etiquette, to writing, to coaching.
“I met a number of mentors through the website. The community was so supportive. I met coaches that helped me with what I needed to do such as getting head shots taken,” she said.
It was also through the website that Fairbrother landed herself an agent.
“There was a list of agencies on the guide. I knew that I wanted to do acting and voice-over work so I put a package together that included an aggressive cover letter stating what I wanted, my head shots, and a demo reel of my voice and what I could do for commercials, etc.”
After putting out approximately six applications, Fairbrother says she got an interview with a reputable agent owned by a father and daughter.
“He was sweet but he said, ‘You have three kids. You don’t want to do this,’” Fairbrother recalled. “He was also worried about my location and how I could do this from the Okanagan.”
Instead of feeling dejected, Fairbrother came home and sent out more applications. Five other top agencies ended up calling saying they wanted to meet with her.
“Three wanted to sign me on the spot,” she said. “I ended up going with a bigger agency. With bigger agencies, they often are excited with you at first, but then they move on to the next person. I then switched to another agent, who wanted to produce my work and support my writing.”
Fairbrother soon found herself at a number of auditions, and says she learned the ropes quickly.
“I know how hard it is. Auditioning is a job. I don’t view it as rejection. It’s really not a choice, you just have to be strong in your convictions and just go out and do it.”
Although she wasn’t focused on doing voice-over work at first, she was intrigued when she heard that people could book this kind of work and show up in their pyjamas.
“You go in there and they say ‘here’s your line’ and you have to deliver it back seven different ways. They also want to make sure you can sound American. In Canada, we not only pronounce our words different, we end our sentences with an uplift.”
After auditioning for Animism: The Gods’ Lake back in 2011, Fairbrother had to wait several months before hearing she got the part. She has since travelled to Vancouver’s Lions Gate Studios regularly to record, and says the show’s creator/producer Matt Toner and director Jericca Cleland have been particularly encouraging.
“While I didn’t have a lot of training or experience, they have still put a lot of weight on my shoulders. It’s been great.”
When not in Vancouver acting on set or recording the new series in studio, Fairbrother spends her time in Vernon writing. She is currently working on her fifth feature full-length screenplay, and a second short film, which she hopes to direct and produce.
She is also happy to share what she’s learned along the way.
“In this industry, one needs to be aggressive. I know there is an acting community here and many talented individuals just waiting for their break. I have always tried to support this group here, even bringing out a Vancouver acting coach for kids’ classes at one time. I still stay in touch with some of the students and their parents and some have even gone on to Vancouver to pursue their goals in the film industry,” she said.
In the meantime, locals can catch her work on Animism: The Gods’ Lake, which is broadcast on APTN Wednesdays at 8 p.m. (PST) and repeats Saturdays at 5:30 p.m. (PST).