If you’ve got your finger on the pulse of Atlanta’s independent film industry, you may have heard of Actress Nicole L. If you haven’t yet heard that name, you soon will if it’s up to her.
This actress (who refuses to be called an aspiring actress) is surely a force to be reckoned with. She’s been cast in four different web series, a play, and produced an original short film all- all in 2018. To say she is driven is an understatement.
“I’ve been an actress as long as I can remember,” the 29-year-old married mom of one said. “I couldn’t imagine pursuing any other career.”
Nicole Lockley-Obi, a Morton, Pennsylvania native (a small suburb southeast of Philadelphia) started her career by performing in church and school plays. Recalling her first lead role at 9-years-old as Satan in a church play called The Train to Hell, Obi says that was the most important role of her life.
“Not because I got to play the Devil, but because I got to be something that is completely out there compared to normal roles. I really got to play with the character, make him who I wanted him to be, which really opened up my love for acting.”
She continued performing in school plays and appeared in her first commercial at 14 for an anti-smoking campaign called ‘Busted!’.
“It was so weird having people come up to me in school and tell me they saw my commercial on Nickelodeon or MTV,” she explained. “To this day I still never saw the commercial on TV. I had to look it up online.”
Although performing arts was an obvious passion of hers, in 7th grade she discovered another talent which would later inform her college education choice.
“We took one of those personality-career matching tests and had to do a full research assignment on the career chosen. I got journalism, researched it, and fell in love with writing,” she said.
In addition to being involved in several extracurricular school activities including plays, Future Business Leaders of America, and active church involvement, Obi joined a local poetry organization and found her creative writing side. “I guess you can say that I’m a storyteller in all aspects of my interests. It’s ingrained in everything I love to do, whether it be through performing arts, telling someone else’s story through journalism, or creatively writing a piece of work.”
During this time, she also discovered another side of herself and began telling stories through the eyes of a feisty, 90-something-year-old woman.
“I started doing stand-up comedy as Hannah Mae in 8th grade. I dedicated the role to my great-grandmother that passed that year. I wore her clothes, her wig, her jewelry, and her walker,” she explained. “It was Madea before Madea because I started that in 2003.”
In 2006, Obi was accepted on the spot at an Open House of her first choice, college pick, Lincoln University. In August 2007, she started her journey at the first Historical Black College/University which she credits with shaping her into the woman she is today.
“I learned some pretty hard lessons while at Lincoln. I partied pretty damn hard, but studied harder,” she explained. “I went to college for free based on my grades and maintained my status on the Dean’s List. However, outside of class, you would have never guessed I got those type of grades.”
She explained that she went to every party, drank just as much as any college student, met new friends, fought with those friends, lost those friends, found new friends, and started that cycle again. “It’s said the people you become most closely with in college likely be your friends for years to come, that is definitely not the case for me,” continuing that she only stays in contact with one person from the university.
However, there was another relationship that lasted beyond college. “I met this guy at Spring Fling, the last month before I graduated from college, through a mutual friend. He was just supposed to be a one-night hookup, but 7 years later I’m blessed to still be with him, married for 2 years with a 2-year-old son,” she said.
She says she owes a world of gratitude to her mother and grandparents who “ran up and down the road” getting her all the places she wanted to go and always supporting any endeavors she had.
“My mother always gave me the encouragement to do whatever I wanted, and my grandparent played a huge part in raising me. My grandmother passed in August and I feel like I lost a piece of me,” she said. “However, I have no regrets because when I found out she had cancer I thanked her for everything she ever did for me every chance I got, to the point that she told me to stop because she got it.”
Through all her trials and tribulations, the one thing that has remained constant is her love for acting.
Moving to Atlanta in March of 2014 to pursue acting full time, Obi and her husband left everything behind including her public relations company and career as a journalist. Getting a very featured role in BET’s Being Mary Jane in Season 2 Episode 1 that April, and signing with an agent in November 2014, she had extremely high hopes for her career aspiration.
Since 2014, she’s been involved in a number of plays, short films, and other independent projects but she says an uptick in her career is in the near future.
“I’m obviously nowhere near where I want to be concerning my career. But 2018 has been an amazing year so far, and I have faith that this is my year,” she said. “And even if it’s not, I’m not stopping until I get where I want to be.”