SCANDAL: FRINGE’s Jasika Nicole on Playing Kim, Fandom Response, and the Possibility of Returning
May 2, 2013 by Marisa Roffman
For five seasons, Jasika Nicole was woefully underrated (and underused) on FRINGE, so when she appeared on SCANDAL last week, television viewers got to see a whole new side to her: Nicole’s character, Kim, was revealed via flashbacks to be Huck’s wife…and the mother of their son. Unfortunately for Huck, his bosses didn’t approve of his family life, so they kept him in isolation until he was brainwashed into forgetting he had a family.
But with Huck suffering a nervous breakdown (and repeatedly murmuring the time when he last saw his wife and son), it sure seems like it would make sense for Kim to appear in the present day. To find out if that’s on the horizon, I spoke with Nicole about her experience on SCANDAL, passionate fandoms, and more…
How did your role on SCANDAL come about?
Jasika Nicole: It was a big surprise for me because I didn’t audition for it. My manager just called me one day and said, “We have an offer for you for SCANDAL.” They said, “We want you to be a part of this episode.” And they only sent me the scenes I was in, they didn’t send me the whole script — and they didn’t end up being the actual scenes, they were just a rough idea of what the scenes would be. So I read the scenes, and I was like, “Oh, I get to fall in love and be pregnant and have a baby and then get heartbroken — that sounds awesome! Let’s do this!”
And I had never watched SCANDAL before. I had seen the pilot episode, but this was when I was living in Vancouver [where FRINGE filmed] and we didn’t have a DVR up there, and so it was really difficult to stay on top of television shows that weren’t on Netflix or something, just because our schedule was all over the place and I couldn’t tune in every single week. So I watched the first episode, and I was like, “Oh, it’s pretty good.” But I thought it was just going to be a regular, procedural, story of the week show. So I never saw another episode.
So I booked SCANDAL, and I was like, well now I gotta watch the show. I would say by episode four or five, I was 100% hooked on it. It was so awesome, because I had this idea of what the show was, and it was totally not that show. There is definitely a procedural element to it, but there are all these side stories that are really engaging. And I really love the Olivia Pope character. I want to slap her and hug her at the same time. It didn’t take long for me to be completely hooked. And Claire and I were watching two or three episodes a night. [Laughs] We were so into it. So we zoomed through the first season, and I think I had gotten into a couple of episodes of the second season by the time I started filming. So that’s always a weird thing, when you know what’s going on in the present, but you’re catching up. But it was such a good show, I’m glad I got cast in, because I feel it might have taken me a while to sit down and watch the show if I hadn’t gotten an episode. And I absolutely love the show; it’s my favorite show this season. I really love it.
It’s kind of incredible, because this is a show that was so under the radar in season 1. But because ABC showed patience with it, it’s become one of the biggest hits of the year in season 2.
JN: Yes! I love that they really did give it a chance, because you can’t start every show gangbusters and showing your cards. There’s something that has to build and make people want to keep watching it and tune in every week. I heard that the first season the ratings were only okay…it wasn’t as big as it is right now. So if they had just canceled it, the public wouldn’t have been exposed to this really awesome, dramatic storyline. And these incredible actors, my God. Some of the people on that show are just unbelievably talented. It’s such a good ensemble.
Was it weird going to a show as a guest star after being a series regular for so many seasons?
JN: It wasn’t very difficult to be honest. It was different because you’re in the middle of this cohesive unit and you don’t know anybody and all the faces are new. But at the same time, production almost always operate in the same way. So coming off of FRINGE, I just felt like I was doing the exact same thing, but with a bunch of different people. It was a really easy transition to make, but thankfully everyone was really friendly and welcoming. And that was what I was most nervous about: will I fit in with these people?
Well, SCANDAL creator Shonda Rhimes is a huge fan of FRINGE. Was there some geeking out on her part when you guys met?
JN: I didn’t know because I’m not on Twitter, so I had no idea she’s a fan! So the whole time after I got offered the role, I wondered, “Hm, I wonder how I’m getting on this show? Maybe one of the writers watches [FRINGE]?” So when I showed up for the table read, it was my first time meeting everybody, and Shonda walks into the room and made a beeline for me and gave me a huge hug and was like, “I’m such a fan.” And I’m like, “What are you talking about, a fan of me? That’s insane! You’re like the second-most powerful woman in television, you can’t be a fan of me!” [Laughs] And she was just so sweet and lovely to be around, and everybody on the show was really warm and welcoming. Particularly Kerry [Washington (Olivia)] and Guillermo [Díaz (Huck)]. They were really welcoming and fantastic.
What was it like working with Guillermo? Huck and Kim had to be instantly believable — not to mention we had to root for them and specifically feel sympathy for her — whereas on a show like FRINGE, you guys had years to build those relationships up…
JN: I hadn’t watched the show before I went to the table read — there was a week between the table read and filming, so I caught up [a bit in that time] — but when I showed up for the table read, I hadn’t seen the show at all, except for that first episode last year. So I go into the room, and I sit down and Guillermo comes up to me, and he has a big grin on his face, and he’s like, “I hear you’re playing my wife!” [Laughs] It was so sweet. He’s actually a FRINGE fan, too. I think he had watched the entire series and I think he’s on his second rewatch now, which is so funny. So he’s like, “I love your show, I’m so glad that it’s you that’s playing my wife.”
And sometimes it just takes a connection to create a whole world of a relationship, and he was just so sweet to me, he sat down next to me, we chatted for just a couple of minutes, and then we went down to reading the episode. And by the end of the episode, both Guillermo and I are crying, and I’m like, “This is ridiculous.” I don’t know this show, I don’t know these people, and I am crying at this episode, because it was so moving. You didn’t have to know Huck’s character to be heartbroken by the circumstances he found himself in. So that was really all it took for me — someone who gave me a hug and was happy I was there, and knowing he was totally willing to be vulnerable makes you comfortable to put yourself in that position, too.
So, that was the only amount of time we spent with each other before the first thing we did — [the scene] where he comes home from overseas, that was the first thing we shot. Which is kind of great, because that’s the first time they’ve seen each other in a long time, a real element to someone being in the military and then going away for a while, and then coming back and having to get back into sync with them because it’s been so long. And after that, it was just easy as pie.
[Guillermo] is the most friendly lovable person in the world. And everybody on that crew loves him. Everywhere I went, everybody was like, “Welcome to the show, we’re so glad you’re here. Have you met Guillermo?” They love him. He is the crew favorite, hands down.
When they offered you the episode, did they say anything about bringing Kim back soon to dive back into Huck having a wife and a son? Or are they keeping you on your toes?
JN: [Laughs] They said, “Here’s your episode. Good luck!” That’s it. After I read it, I was like, they have to bring this character back. Not because it’s me, but this storyline is so beautiful and so sweet. And both of these characters need some closure. So I could definitely see if they would want to bring her back, for at least one episode. Because I feel like she deserves to know he didn’t abandon her or die. She has absolutely no idea what happened to him and that breaks my heart. And I think that breaks anyone’s heart who watches the episode. But again, they haven’t said anything to me about coming back in the future, so…I’ll keep my fingers crossed because I’d love to see the storyline through. Even if that doesn’t happen, it was such a fantastic experience to be a part of it just one time.
I mean, they threw in that line about Huck not abandoning her like her father. You’d think this poor woman needs to know he didn’t leave her willingly. Not to mention, he disappeared right after he showed her the guns he had hidden in their home…
JN: She knows some shit went down, so she’s probably hurt that he didn’t trust her enough to be open and tell her what’s going on. So that’s knife in the back number one. So then when he just leaves and doesn’t get in touch with her and she has no idea if he got hurt, or he just couldn’t take it anymore, like she said, “Please don’t tell me this is a drug thing.” So obviously, with his behavior and his weird job hours, she was probably thinking something was going on, and just didn’t want to…she probably didn’t want to know because ignorance is bliss, and she wanted to keep her nice little family together. She has survived, and she’s a single mom, but she has a job, she’s not living on the streets or anything. So that’s a good thing. But I feel like Huck has fared far worse than she has, poor thing.
As a television viewer, I can’t imagine they’d totally drop that arc. Huck has a family!
JN: Claire and I were talking about it after the episode aired because she wouldn’t let me tell her anything about what I was doing because she didn’t want to get spoiled and I was burning up inside dying to tell somebody. So after she finally watched it, she was like, “What do you think will happen? Do you think they’ll bring her back?” And I said, you know what the craziest thing would be? And here’s my only thing about SCANDAL: they have not done any backstory on Harrison, and I know it has to be coming because it’s such an awesome character and I love the actor that plays him, but what’s his story? What’s going on with him? It hasn’t happened yet. So I said, “What if he’s secretly seeing somebody, and nobody knows he’s got a girl, and the girl ends up being Kim?” And [Harrison's] like, she’s a single mom and she comes out of the woodwork.
That’s so very SCANDALous.
JN: Or maybe GREY’S ANATOMY because it’s so over the top and ridiculous.
Let’s be honest, they’ve rigged an election, they’ve killed people …there’s some crazy shenanigans going on over at SCANDAL. I’m still surprised these guys haven’t ended up in jail yet!
JN: [Laughs] Oh my God, you’re so right, it’s kind of amazing.
I’m surprised Olivia doesn’t know about Kim — she seems to know all!
JN: I’m dying to see what happens. And even if Kim doesn’t come back, some kind of closure where Huck goes, “You know what? She’s better off without me.” There has to be something like that. There has to be a little button to it.
Given how massive the SCANDAL fanbase is, what kind of reaction have you gotten since your episode aired?
JN: It’s really weird to be suddenly immersed in a different fandom you’re not a part of, because I thought our fandom was pretty intense…the FRINGE fandom was my life for five years, and that’s the first television fandom I’ve ever been a part of. So, I don’t know. I guess I thought that FRINGE fans were special — and they are special — but every show has them, and I guess I didn’t really fully understand that.
But maybe they don’t all them the way SCANDAL does and FRINGE does. SCANDAL is a huge show, and really, really big in social media, and people are always talking about it. If I was on THE GOOD WIFE, or something, I may not have had the same interaction with fans the way I did with SCANDAL. But oh my gosh, my [Tumblr] inbox was blowing up and I got a ton of new followers. [Laughs] I was like, “I hope you guys like crafting and stuff, because it’s pretty much all I post!” It was really surprising, in a really good way.
But it was really nice, people who were FRINGE fans, who were die-hard sci-fi fans, were writing me and saying, “I’m going start watching SCANDAL tonight; I want to catch up for your episode.” And then people writing and saying, “This SCANDAL show is good!” Logically it makes sense, but seeing it actually happen in reality was so fun where people really do follow your career, and really do want to see the other projects you’re a part of. So even if you’re not on something they would have found by themselves, they end up enjoying it in some kind of way. So I think that’s good.
You’ve certainly found yourself in the middle of two of the most passionate fanbases on TV!
JN: [Jokingly] Next time I book a show it’s going to be disappointing. “Where are all the accolades and people celebrating this?!” [Laughs]
SCANDAL airs Thursdays at 10 PM on ABC.
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