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Katie Nehra Answers Our Questions

As the Tribeca Film Festival kicks off, the designer, actress and screen-writer fills in DuJour on her latest film, Alex of Venice

Katie Nehra is a tall, sinuous blonde with intense green eyes. She is quick, funny and a little bit self-deprecating, as we quickly discovered over cups of seltzer water and tea. The actress is in New York for the Tribeca Film Festival, where her film—six years in the making—is premiering. Directed by Nehra’s L.A. neighbor Chris Messina, Alex of Venice tells the story of a woman who finds herself reeling under the weight of life when her husband unexpectedly leaves her. DuJour caught up with Nehra to chat about co-writing and starring in her new movie, what it was like working with Messina and how the worst day of her life changed everything.

How did you get started writing this film?

Justin [Shilton] and I got started writing this film six years ago. I knew Chris Messina from the Labyrinth Theatre Company, and then we lived on the same street in L.A. for like, six months. When we wrote the original script I always wanted Chris to play George. I had literally written that on a piece of paper. We weren’t as close back then, but I said to Jaime our producer, can you contact him? And I always thought he would be a great director.

For yourself as a writer working on this film, were there any specific things that you had a really hard time letting go of in the cutting process?

Oh, yes. There was this Christmas party dinner scene I wanted to do, and the producer was like, it’s a nightmare to make a film with a Christmas scene—you have to release it at Christmas, and then you have to do Christmas decorations, and the cost goes up. I love Christmas. So I’ve taken this scene and put it in this new film I’m writing, so hopefully I get away with that.

What was it like having to balance co-writing the film and also starring in it?

Well, Chris was so great. It sounds weird, but he was such a cheerleader of mine. He was like, you’ve got to put your actor hat on; don’t think about the script. He is so sensitive to people and what they’re going through, which is a great attribute for a director.

Chris has worked with a lot of strong women figures in many of his films and projects. Do you think he has a gift for working with women?

It’s funny because he’s so about women—which is really rare in Hollywood. Men are always wanting to go for the male-driven dramas, or even comedies with male humor. But he is definitely such a lover of everything, and he’s all about the art of it—I know that sounds like, yuck—but he really is. He believes in staying true to the story, and that’s rare.

Can you think of a day that was the best day of your life?

Probably the day I found out that this movie was going to be made.

What about the worst day?

I think the day I was thrown out of high school. I thought my life was over. I was 16. I never drank or smoked or anything like that; I was just such a smartass. I was elected to student council, and then I left school early one day and they said, “The leaders have to follow the rules, so you need to write this three-page paper on why leaders have to follow the rules,” and my paper was only two-and-a-half pages. I thought my life was over because I wasn’t going to be able to graduate with my friends, and then the class went on strike—it was bad.  I ended up going to school downtown in Baltimore, which was like day and night.

Did you think that had a big effect on you?

It was probably the best thing that ever happened to me, in retrospect. When people say, “This is happening for a reason,” you’re always like, f-ck you at the time—but actually, 80 percent of the time they’re probably right. I went from a school with that was all white people to a school that was 90-percent black, and from a school where kids were like, “Oh, what new car are you driving?” to a school where people hadn’t even ever been on a plane. And I think it really did shape who I am. Looking back, that was probably one of the best times of my life.

So, if you could spend a day in someone else’s shoes, who would pick?

Probably Kanye West. I just love him, I think he’s such a badass and a genius. He can talk all day. We would all be so lucky as to have as much self-confidence as him.

If you wore a uniform everyday, what would it be?

Basically what I’m wearing today. I always end up wearing skinny black or grey jeans or leather pants, little boots or Air Jordans if I’m in L.A. and a burn-out tee.

How would you spend your last day on earth?

Probably having sex. Go out with a bang, literally—right? While drinking sake. And maybe watching a good movie.



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