Up-and-coming actress Nicole Elizabeth Berger stars in the film RUNT, which made its World premiere at The Mammoth Film Festival towards the end of February. The indie film chronicles the life of Cal (Cameron Boyce), a teenage boy who showcases his no holds barred attitude after some disturbing incidents occur. Berger, who stars opposite the late Cameron Boyce, as Cecily, befriends the protagonist and ultimately becomes the driving force in Cal’s life which leads to him to question the severity of his violent streak. During its festival circulation RUNT won the Audience Award for Best Feature Length Film!
In addition to RUNT, Berger has kept busy and stars in a recently released film called Clover, which came out in April on VOD. She takes on the role of the movies namesake, who she expresses is a much more complex character than Cecily and is immersed in a world of gangsters and crime lords.
FANDOMIZE discussed the rising stars’ projects, talked about starring alongside the late Cameron Boyce in Runt, how she’s adjusting to life during quarantine in The Big Apple, and her plans once New York City is allowed to return to some sense of normalcy.
Check out our Q&A below.
MCKENZIE MORRELL: Go ahead and tell the readers a bit about RUNT, a film that premiered at The Mammoth Film Festival at the end of February/early March.
NICOLE ELIZABETH BERGER: RUNT chronicles the plight of a misguided group of teenagers who must all learn to cope with change after being let down by the adults in their lives. I play the character of Cecily, an artistic loner who befriends Cal (the role played by Cameron Boyce) and later becomes his alter ego as a catalyst who drives him to reconsider the magnitude of his violence, yet a friendly face to turn to in unforeseen circumstances. The film is based on Cal’s innocent relationship with Cecily, his tumultuous association with his belligerent “best friend” Borgie and the incessant bullying of one of the egotistical high-school jocks. A critical question in the film is, do two wrongs make a right? The answer depends on who is responding. Anyone watching the film will see that Cal is headed down the wrong path towards worse consequences than anyone would predict.
MM: With everything that’s transpired since then, it must have been a relief to know that the movie was able to be seen in the festival circuit since two short weeks later– COVID-19 decided to wreak havoc on the world.
NEB: “Wreaking havoc” on the world is an understatement from the vantage point of someone living in New York City. I am grateful for my experiences at Mammoth Film Festival. Cameron Boyce’s parents, Libby and Victor, and his sister, Maya, came to support the film and cast and to see Cameron in his last film before his untimely death. This was the first time that I had a chance to meet Cameron’s family and for them to see the film. The two together made for a surreal encounter. When the film won the Audience Award for Best Feature Length Film, the producer (Carl Rumbaugh) made the decision on the spot to give the award (i.e., a woolly mammoth frozen inside a glacier) to Libby and Victor providing them with a tangible recognition of their son’s great performance in the film.
MM: In RUNT, you star opposite the late Cameron Boyce. Many people have said that this was a project that he was very proud of. Can you talk about your experience with diving into this project and how it impacted you in terms of your blossoming acting career.
NEB: Cameron and I were both very proud of this project. Before filming RUNT, I knew Cameron as a Disney star (as Luke on Jessie and as Carlos in the Descendants), but when I saw him transition into a dramatic role like Cal, requiring him to be highly serious and pensive, he exceeded all expectations. I learned so much from Cameron’s work ethic that I will carry with me. As the film progressed, an emotional connection between Cal and Cecily became apparent. By the end of the film, Cecily became the more dominant character, leading the two of them to make good, perhaps not perfect, decisions. When I finally got to watch the film at Mammoth Film Festival and see Cameron’s portrayal of Cal on a large screen, it brought back many memories of the months we spent filming together.
MM: What are you doing to keep busy during quarantine? Any hobbies or talents emerging from self-isolation…
NEB: My family and I are following the strict “stay-at-home” and social-distancing guidelines, ensuring that we avoid contact with anyone who may have COVID-19. As I look out the window at the MET, there are virtually no people to be seen. I spend much of my free time practicing piano and learning new classical pieces. I look forward to the time when I can sit with my piano instructor and move forward in my studies. I also enjoy learning about astrophysics, which combines the laws of physics and chemistry in order to analyze objects in the universe. I often find myself listening to Neil deGrasse Tyson’s lectures and reading his articles. My high school, like almost every school in a major city, has shifted entirely to distance learning and online classes. While it works well for academic classes, Zoom video conferencing has its limitations for drama classes and piano or dance lessons. We do the best we can. Springtime is a beautiful time of year to be in New York City, and the self-quarantine takes away the opportunity to enjoy Central Park, limits bicycle riding through the Park, and isolates me from my friends and other performers. The retired head of the drama department at LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts — the school I attend — distributed her list of 50 great films and great performances during the past 50 years. One of my goals is to watch as many of these films as I can while staying indoors due to the pandemic.
MM: Are you a fan of thrillers? What would you say is your go-to genre when having a movie night with friends or family.
NEB: I am a fan of thrillers and documentaries and both of them are my go-to genres for an evening with family or friends. My favorite film is Black Swan, which stars Natalie Portman. This thriller/drama film gave Portman the opportunity to excel in both ballet and drama and reach extraordinary levels of both. The film also reinforces the importance of music to acting.
MM: You also have another film, Clover that premiered on Video on Demand April 3. Can you talk about that role and the movie rundown for those who haven’t gotten a chance to see it yet.
NEB: Clover highlights the story of two bumbling brothers and their attempt to secure a deal to pay off their debt to a crime boss. I play the movie’s namesake, Clover, who may seem like an innocent teenage victim immersed in a world of gangsters and crime bosses, but she is a much more complex character. She witnesses her father’s murder and is often referred to as a “mobster-in-training,” but there’s much more to the story than it first appears. The film is full of twists and turns that go from very funny to violent. The movie does a great job balancing these two moods and ultimately creating a very entertaining story. Some have called the film a “crimedy” — a blend of a crime story and a comedy. The film opened in early April on VOD streaming. It was supposed to have an 11-city theatrical release, but the theatrical release had to be postponed due to the stay-at-home rules imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
MM: Use 3 emojis to describe the movies to the readers.
RUNT Movie: 🐶🔫💑
Clover Movie: 🍀💰🔫
MM: How do Cecily and Clover differ in terms of personality– did you find any similarities when playing these two different characters?
NEB: While Cecily is self-assured and independent with a sense of gumption, Clover is astute, insightful and packed with sass. Both characters offer a bit of comic relief to otherwise heavy topics, while still maintaining an assertive persona. Cecily and Clover both come from troublesome pasts and are learning to cope with their new life circumstances.
MM: It’s the zombie apocalypse– what three fictional characters from TV Shows are you taking with you on your ride or die squad.
NEB: I would take Meredith Grey from Grey’s Anatomy, Jesse Katsopolis from Full House and Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks. In a hypothetical situation, Dr. Grey could assist in an emergency surgical case. Jesse could add a bit of comic relief during a harrowing time. FBI agent Dale Cooper could apply intuitive and analytical skills to a given circumstance from a different perspective. Together, they could help overcome the spread of COVID-19 and bring 115,000 people to a Billie Eilish concert at “The Big House” (Michigan Stadium) in Ann Arbor.
MM: Favorite form of social media?
NEB: I like Instagram the most among social media platforms, because it is primarily based on photographs with brief captions leading to a conversation about a person or topic of interest. I feel very strongly that it should not be used as a means of criticizing anyone or saying things that you would not say to someone face-to-face. Cyber-bullying is entirely unacceptable. I also have Facebook (Nicole Elizabeth Berger) and Twitter (@NicoleEBerger) pages, but my clear preference is Instagram (@officialnicoleberger). I pride myself on having a strictly professional account, although my sister and I do love taking pictures on Snapchat together!
MM: Name one show that you are obsessed with that you think is underrated.
NEB: I love the TV show, Twin Peaks, from the early 90’s. This story follows the murder mystery of the evidently blameless Laura Palmer (a typical high-school teenager), who was led astray resulting in her untimely demise. Between the captivatingly charismatic characters and the absurdly comical dream sequences to the plot itself, this show is definitely worth watching!
MM: I’m going to go ahead and throw in my signature question… if you were to concoct a donut based off of your personality in real life– what type of donut would it be and what toppings would be on it.
NEB: If I were to concoct a donut, it would be made in the shape of a ring with a sphere (like a Dunkin Donuts Munchkin) placed inside the ring so that the donut resembles Saturn and its ultraviolet auroral ovals. The color scheme would include deep reds, coral orange and pale blue, and it would be an apple cinnamon-sugar donut with frosting based on these colors.
MM: Any upcoming projects we can look forward to? Or anything you’d like to add for our readers?
NEB: I just finished several short films and hope that after the film industry is back in business and the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us, full films or TV shows will be based on these engaging stories. Although the festival circuit is uncertain at this time, Ali’s Realm was chosen for the New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center, New York, and Five Teenagers Walk Into a Bar was chosen for the StoryMode Independent Short Film Festival in Pueblo, Colorado. I am also working on some new musical numbers with my friends. While so much is on hold today, I am excited about the future. At the beginning of 2020, no one would have predicted the turn of events thus far in the new year. I am looking forward to being able to travel again and catch up with my friends in Europe, Australia and across the US. I am ready to start work again.