Nikki Leigh stars in blackpills’ grindhouse-style series A Girl Is A Gun, as well as the movies Chocolate City 2: Vegas and Open Marriage on BET and Lifetime, respectively. Pop City Life interviewed Nikki about her A Girl Is A Gun character Santa Fe, acting opposite Denise Richards, her favorite shows to binge-watch, and more.
A Girl Is A Gun has been described as having a 1970s-esque “girl power” flavor, and some similarities to the original Wonder Woman and Charlie’s Angels definitely come through while watching the show. Did you approach the role of Santa Fe through that lens, or did the genre parallels develop organically as you were filming?
Nikki Leigh: Wow, I love hearing the show described that way! Our director [Mathieu Tonetti] wanted us to feel like this was timeless, so not a lot of thought was concentrated on the time period while filming. However, the idea and feeling of “girl power” definitely was! Santa Fe’s character doesn’t start off as a badass. She has to find her strength, like all of us do, so I developed my strength as we shot. Although I have to say that my first scene was one of the most badass ones. I was in a black jumpsuit, black knee-high boots, and a mask, pointing a gun. This made me instantly more in love with the power of this show and excited for the development of my strength.
You have a bachelor’s degree in sociology. How did that inform your understanding and portrayal of Santa Fe as a woman fighting back against a misogynistic, patriarchal society?
It definitely made me understand that Sante Fe had to fight harder than she ever had before. If a woman wants recognition and respect in such a society, she must be the most confident and self-aware person in the room. She should stand out with a confidence that not only is self-aware but undeniably projects to others. From school, I learned … how sometimes the man isn’t even consciously aware that he has a dislike of women, but yet has a huge insecurity when it comes to competing with one. This allowed me to make certain choices in the character that I am very proud of.
If you encountered Santa Fe in real life, do you think you’d get along with her?
Yes, I do. She is very caring and looks out for her girls. In the beginning, she doesn’t even know what she is capable of, and I love that. This unawareness and shyness shows the contrast that we can all have within. Also, she really is tough and I know I want her on my team!
Your co-star Denise Richards has had a formidable presence in film and TV over the past couple of decades. What was it like to work with her?
It is an honor to work with someone so familiar with the business. Having a veteran on set and having the privilege to watch someone so comfortable in front of a camera was very educational and inspiring.
Zooming out from A Girl Is A Gun, your acting credits include soaps, TV (with and without a live studio audience), and films. What similarities and differences have you noticed? Do you have a preferred medium?
Well, budget will always vary between mediums and even between projects of the same medium, [and] timelines are drastically different. I shot an episode of a studio television show in front of a live studio audience in a few hours, but we practiced all week; with filming, I have shot a whole movie in two weeks and others in a month or two. I love working, so unless I am a series regular on a show, I prefer working on a movie because I get to be shooting longer.
You’ve had a busy year so far that included the releases of A Girl Is A Gun and the Lifetime movie Open Marriage. What’s coming up next for you?
Not only did those come out, but BET just put out a movie called Chocolate City 2: Vegas, which I shot two years ago – a year before my first lead role. I found out that they were premiering it the day of! This business is truly unpredictable. I am also proud to announce that this fall, I have a Turkish comedy film coming out where I play the lead female and Steve Guttenberg plays my father. It was an amazing movie to be a part of, and the best part is that I learned Turkish for the role! It’s a crazy story but very memorable and rewarding.
A Girl Is A Gun will soon be available to watch on blackpills, a new streaming service that’s perfect for binge-watching. What are your favorite shows to binge-watch and why?
I loved binge-watching This Is Us! It is such a gorgeous way to weave together all these different lives. I think I am most attracted to the realness of the show and the emotion. If you make me cry, I am hooked. Another show I have binged is Breaking Bad! I think a lot of people binged that show because it was so intense and always left you at the edge of your seat. One last show I can think of that I catch myself binging is Naked And Afraid. Again, real life! I love the bravery and the reality these people have to go through – naked. They have to put aside the worry of being exposed and focus at surviving. Intense!