The stars and creator of “Nikki & Nora” talk chemistry, fans and Season Two

Back in 2004, the pilot for the lesbian cop show Nikki & Nora generated a lot of buzz and excitement in the lesbian/bisexual intertubes. Alas, the show written by Nancylee Myatt and starring Christina Cox (Better than Chocolate, F/X the Series) and Liz Vassey (Tru Calling, CSI) was not picked up but that didn’t stop fans from falling in love with the show anyway. Ten years later, with the help of dedicated fans and a committed cast, the show finally came to fruition as the webseries Nikki & Nora. (Read our review here.)

Nancylee, Christina and Liz  took some time recently to chat with AfterEllen about the Nikki & Nora phenomenon. 

Christina Cox and Liz Vassey

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AE: The original pilot for Nikki & Nora was shot a decade ago, and just this year the webseries Nikki & Nora debuted. You have all gone on to do many other projects over the past decade, but you have all made your way back to Nikki & Nora. What do you think is so special about this project? 

Nancylee Myatt: For me, the biggest thing that makes Nikki & Nora special, are the fans. They are the ones who kept it alive, wrote fanfic about it, made videos which were essentially love letters and songs to and about Nikki & Nora, and they never gave up hope that their favorite New Orleans couple would be back–somehow, some way.

As a writer, what made it special for me was being able to write a story about a couple at home and at work, who just happens to be gay.  Who are out and dealing with the ups and downs of life like every straight couple represented on television.

Liz Vassey: For me, it comes down to one word: “alchemy.” Very rarely do people meet on sets and instantaneously bond the way the three of us did.  That not only makes the entire working experience huge fun, but I believe it shows onscreen, as well.  Shooting the Nikki & Nora original pilot in 2004 was—and I don’t say this lightly—one of the best professional experiences of my life.  Nancylee created something truly original and I was and am incredibly proud to be a part of it.  My hope is that we can keep playing these characters for as long as people’ll have us. In fact, I’ve been pitching Nikki & Nora Episode 712: “Dentures and Depends.” Nancylee was initially hesitant, but I think she’s coming around.

AE: Christina and Liz, you have such a fantastic chemistry together as Nikki and Nora. What was it like after all that time to not only play these characters again on screen, but also work together behind the scenes as executive producers? 

Christina Cox: We had all stayed in such close contact after filming the original pilot that Nikki & Nora was just an integral part of us and our continuing dialogue of how to create an opportunity to work together again. Producing obviously allowed us greater creative input from the very beginning as opposed to stepping in very near the culmination of the creative journey, as one does when stepping in as an actor.

LV: Thanks for saying that about our chemistry. Quid pro compliment: I dig your site. As far as your question, personally I found it pretty damn easy to slip back into the role of Nikki. It was like slipping into a nice pair of high-heeled, ass-kicking boots I can run in. Nancylee created characters who are real and relatable and fun, so I was truly excited to play the part again.

Also, Nancylee, Christina, and I have remained delightfully codependent since shooting the pilot in 2004–so it actually didn’t seem like that much time had passed at all. Certainly not 10 (yowza!) years. As far as executive producing, Nancylee has always been open to collaboration, so that didn’t feel much different from the pilot. Nancylee sits firmly in the “Best Idea Wins” camp, which is one of the eleventy-four things I admire about her.  It’s also why I’d work with her in any capacity (in front of the camera or behind) in a hot second.

AE: The city of New Orleans plays a major role in Nikki & Nora. When the original pilot was shot, Hurricane Katrina had yet to devastate the city. Was it important to all of you to keep the series in its originally intended home? Is there a special energy being able to shoot in the sets and locations of that beautiful city?

NM: It was hugely important to see how this couple survived the storm, came back and adjusted to life post-Katrina. Finding the new normal, as everyone who returned to the city has done. This is something my wife and producing partner, Paige Bernhardt, and I have witnessed firsthand as we migrated to New Orleans four years ago.

As I’ve said before, New Orleans is a beautiful, dark, layered, inspired, sexy, scary bitch. She is as much of a character in this story as Nikki or Nora. You can tell a good mystery anywhere. But telling one in New Orleans adds a fresh, rich layer to the storytelling. Cinematically, if you don’t get a cool and interesting shot in this city, you need a new DP. Ours, Adriana Torres, did an amazing job shooting Nikki & Nora’s New Orleans.

LV: I know it sounds corny and a lot of actors say this about the setting of their series, but I’m going to say it anyway: I think New Orleans is another character in this show. It’s sexy and dark and cool and a little spooky, and actually being there adds an integral layer to the flavor and tone. My mother lived in New Orleans for a few years, so I fell in love with it a long time ago. As far as I’m concerned, any excuse to go back there is a good one. And seeing how that amazing city rebuilt itself after the devastation of Katrina is nothing short of inspiring. On a lighter note, the beignets are like deep fried love.

CC: New Orleans was a character in the original pilot as much as we were. It’s in almost every element of the show. Moving it to anywhere else would have created a different show—a show about two women who left New Orleans. So NO would STILL be a character in the show! It’s a city unlike any other I’ve been to in the US. For me, it felt like home. I’m currently writing a screenplay set in New Orleans because I can’t wait to get back there and do more research!

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