Broken Vows’ Nicole Bessick on her career and being bullied at school
Nicole Bessick (Nicole Bessick Instagram)
Cape Town - She describes herself as a “tomboy action Barbie”, and by the looks of things she’s right on the mark.
Her long dark locks extend down her back and her face – from long lashes to luscious lips – is pretty near picture-perfect. The tomboy side is evident in her grey sports vest, black leggings and sneakers and it’s not hard to see why Nicole Bessick can relate to her character in e.tv’s Broken Vows, one of the hottest shows on TV right now.
Chloe is athletic, rebellious, mischievous and complicated and it’s a role that suits the 23-year-old actress down to the ground.
“Chloe doesn’t wear make-up, so let’s start there with our differences,” Nicole says. “But we’re very similar – she’s the part of me I don’t show very often. “She’s quite vulnerable so it’s been pretty cool to explore that part of myself that I guard hectically. But she cares a lot and she’s badass – just like me!” She knew the role was ideal for her from the get-go. “It’s like it was karmic. I read the script and I said, ‘this is me’. This tomboy action Barbie-like character is absolutely me. It just felt right.”
We sit down with this rising star to find out more about where she’s from and what makes her tick.
How it all began
Nicole, who hails from Cape Town, was just four years old when she landed her first big role: playing Mary in the nativity play at her pre-school.
She recalls how her teacher was late for rehearsals and, in true take-over fashion, Nicole stepped into her shoes. “Some called it bossy back then. In 2018, I call it boss lady.” Her feistiness raised its sassy head again in Grade 1 when her teacher asked her what she wanted to do when she grew up.
“I said I wanted to be an actress and a lawyer,” she recalls. “One kid turned around and said, ‘That’s not possible – it doesn’t work like that’. Well, check and check – joke’s on you, kid.”
That’s because Nicole is indeed both. She has a BA law degree from the University of Cape Town and is exercising her acting chops too. Still, she admits her heart lies more legal chambers. “I did law so I could understand the legalities behind the contracts I’d come across as an actress,” she explains.
“Copyright was like my favourite thing. Intellectual property, the digital space and the rights around that was all very interesting to me. It’s what I did my dissertation on.”
Not all plain sailing
Gorgeous and confident she may be, but Nicole was bullied quite badly as a kid. She attended Tamboerskloof Primary then moved to Milnerton Primary before starting at Milnerton High School in Cape Town and always struggled to fit in – and she learnt the hard way that “kids are just mean”. “I looked different, I was into drama, I marched to the beat of my own drum in every sense of the word,” she says.
“One moment that sticks out for me is that classic scene of sitting in the bathroom and hiding to eat your lunch – or when you get to school, hiding until it was time to go to class. “I used to pretend to be sick so my parents would fetch me from school and the kids in the lift club wouldn’t bully me.”
With those memories still fresh in her mind, Nicole is now an advocate against bullying and last year took part in a celebrity boxing match for Bully Proof, an initiative where celebs unite against bullying. She took on fellow actress and Top Billing presenter Jade Hübner and won her bout.
But the victory wasn’t just another feather in her cap – it meant a lot to her on a personal level too.
“A journalist once asked me what I’d say to my bullies now if I were to see them and I said I wouldn’t see them. I’d look right through them. “It’s funny because I get these messages saying, ‘Oh my God, you’re doing so well, I’m so proud of you’, and they want storm Thomas from maze photography, Facebook to take me out for coffee and lunch and I don’t know how to respond.
“I’ve forgiven them for my own sanity but there’s that little nine-year-old me, 12-year-old me and 16-year-old me that’s still shattered because of it.”
Fighting the good fight
Nicole took her Bully Proof boxing match seriously. She shed 16kg in under two months training with celebrity fitness trainer and boxing coach Bruce Benjamin and is still hooked on fitness and wellness. “I train every day – I do cardio, strength training, yoga and Muay Thai and I eat eight to 10 small meals a day. I see this as my lifestyle. “Keeping fit also upskills me as an artist because it means I can do all my own fight scenes and I don’t need a stunt double.”
All the world’s a stage
Growing up lithe, athletic Nicole loved ice skating and earned her South African colours in the discipline. Excelling at nonconventional sports might not have endeared her to her bullies but it did help set her on course for the future. “When it came to skating I was very dramatic and theatrical and realised how much I loved to perform.” So she enrolled at the Waterfront Theatre School in Cape Town to hone her acting skills while in high school and as she got better, she took on more classes. “I went from the ice to the stage and I’ve never looked back.”
Lights, camera, action
After varsity she realised she’d have to leave the Mother City for the bright lights of Joburg if she wanted to give her dream of making it in the entertainment world a chance. She arrived in the City of Gold with little more than a suitcase in her hands and a head full of hope and got stuck into auditions – and within a few months she’d landed the role of Chloe. She loves her job, she says, even though she works long hours and has to channel a lot of her character’s emotions. “When I leave the set it can be a bit tough getting out of character. When I get home I cry with Chloe sometimes and then I go to bed. So yes, I do take her home with me.”
And away from the limelight?
When she’s not in the gym or on set Nicole, who’s single, catches up on sleep or binges on her favourite TV series such as Quantico and This is Us. Life’s good, she says, and she no longer dwells on the bullies who did their best to pull her down. “I honestly believe that what God has put in my path, no hater can remove. This is what I find solace in.”