IN PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS. Drawing a beautiful quote from Chuck Palahniuk’s “Fight Club,” Nick Wechsler tells how he fights to keep running on the arduous acting career track all these years. To Ronald Liem, the intelligent actor fesses up unabashedly about the dark side of Hollywood, his personal fears and the near-perfect happiness.
The saying that all that glitters isn’t gold aptly describes the real nature of showbiz. And Nick Wechsler is one honest actor who doesn’t beat around the bush in seconding that notion. Currently known as the good-looking and kind-hearted Jack Porter in “Revenge,” his journey in Hollywood has been a hell of a roller-coaster ride. Being in the industry for almost two decades, the Albuquerque native has quite possibly experienced all the ups and downs one could ever sum of a life before the camera. And that is why Wechsler is now, bearing no hidden agenda, paying it forward by confessing the real true story of what goes on behind the screen.
His role as Kyle Valenti in teen drama “Roswell” in 1999 started it all. It was the first big break Wechsler landed after making a big move to Hollywood from the relatively quiet hometown. He then guest-starred in a number of TV shows, including “Malcolm in the Middle,” “Crossing Jordan,” “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” “Lie to Me,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” and “Chase.” Yet it wasn’t until 2011 that Wechsler finally nailed a strong regular role that he well deserved in the riveting drama series “Revenge.” While the audience might only see his shining, genteel act on-screen, the years of persistence to make it work in the business has really shaped Wechsler, for better or worse, as a person. The conversation that follows truthfully reveals what the actor has preciously learned from his multidimensional life.Ronald Liem: Hi Nick, what have you been up to lately since we caught up last summer? Did you do anything special over the Christmas holidays?
Nick Wechsler: Not much, man. We last caught up in Bali, and I flew straight from there to New York to attend the wedding of one of my best friends, and then I was back in L.A. for a few days before heading to Austin, Texas for ATX, which is an awesome television festival there. It was in its second year when I attended, and they had tons of interesting panels. I also ran into a few old friends and made a few new ones. It was pretty great.
But we started production on season three [of “Revenge”] pretty much immediately after that. So I haven’t had time for much else, though I still play more dodgeball and attend more concerts than an average person. I spent Christmas with my family in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which was great, despite the fact that I was in Albuquerque, New Mexico. And I spent New Year’s Eve with some great friends in Utah for the fifth year in a row. We usually go skiing and/or snowboarding, but this year we added skeet shooting to the list—not at the same time. Apparently, you can get in trouble for that. I could have used that information before I shot Skeet Ulrich on the “Bonanza” run [laughs].
RL: Speaking of “Revenge,” the new season is about to premiere here in Asia. Tell us a little bit of spoiler.
NW: At the start of season three, Jack is attempting to abandon his plans for revenge against Conrad in favor of investing in his child’s life. The first scene between him and Emily is one of my favorites of the whole series, so watch for that. It sets the tone for the much of what follows for the two of them. Jack is a furious shambles and he can’t seem to bring himself to be anything but cold to her because of her hand in that. But it’s hard because now that he knows who she really is; he’s freer than ever to experience his love for her, but his anger prohibits any expression of it. We will see him get drawn reluctantly back into her plans. We will see him face off with Aiden, the only person who poses more of a threat to Jack’s love for Emily than Jack’s own heartbroken rage. There’s tons more, but if I tell you, ABC will stop having their pages toss feed into my cage.
RL: Your character, Jack Porter, seemed to have a sad tragic twist. Last season he lost the mother of his baby and his brother. How challenging is it for you to play a tortured character?
NW: I find it easier to play someone tortured and a bit damaged, someone who has had a harder time in life, than it is to play someone totally content and fulfilled, or someone who is straightforwardly charming and likable. I relate more to characters who are broken or have a bit of darkness in them. I would actually argue that most of us could relate better to characters like that because they feel more realistic to us than the one-dimensional visions of perfection that we distract ourselves with.
RL: So, what is the hardest part of your job exactly?
NW: If I am being honest, the hardest part of my job is having enough confidence to carry me through the lean times in my career, or even just through a difficult time on set. Just getting out of my own way and off my own case is the hardest part. I could give a more palatable answer, but it wouldn’t be as true. And I suppose I think it’s worth saying, because I would rather have people know the truth that this business can kind of wear you down, and you will probably always struggle with your confidence. If you don’t, you’re not human. So I can put a brave face on this, but what’s the point? The truth is: Darn, it’s hard sometimes, but you just gotta do it anyway.
RL: But you’ve been in showbiz for almost two decades.
NW: Two decades! I’m suddenly acutely aware of my mortality, so thanks for that [giggles]. Well, for a long time, I was never quite sure what casting directors were looking for. Whatever my look was, I guess it didn’t match my personality or delivery, and it rendered me “interesting” but largely unsuitable for the roles that I went in for. It meant that, if I worked, it was mostly as a guest-star and was never terribly frequent. I also had long stretches without work, and those are hard on your spirit. They kind of take the fight out of you. I was down to my last 30 grand before I got “Revenge.” That was scary, knowing, as an actor, that I had no skills that applied to any other area of life and that if I wanted to re-enter the workforce, I would have to completely rebuild myself. I mean, I have obviously kept going, so I suppose that’s the ultimate lesson, but I would be lying if I said that the constant rejection and the resultant self-doubt and insecurity aren’t a hindrance, and that it isn’t something that I don’t continue to struggle with. Clearly.
RL: Looking at what you’ve been through, what advice would you give to someone who is about to embark a career in Hollywood?
NW: Don’t do it. But, if you refuse to listen to reason, then, as I said before, find other sources of emotional income. And while you’re at it, find other sources of actual income. Satisfy yourself creatively via other outlets, as well. Act for free and work freaking hard. Also, and I’m about to sound like a D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) officer, don’t bother with drugs. I say that because they are too accessible here, and this town is full of impressionable, young people, and you can get woefully off-track and lose sight of your goals if you go down that road. So, just stay sharp. This, again, is only if you stubbornly insist upon pursuing a career in acting.
RL: So if you were not acting, what would be your back-up plan?
NW: If I had any idea, I probably wouldn’t still be acting. I actually have thought about this before to the point where I started taking courses at Santa Monica Community College because I was interested in being a therapist. I still have some interest in it. The only problem is it just sounds like a lot of work. Like, eight years of work, if I’m lucky.
RL: What kind of characters you’re most interested to play?
NW: I would love to play a character like Kenny Powers from “Eastbound & Down” or Max Fisher from “Rushmore,” or Royal Tenenbaum from “The Royal Tenenbaums,” or David Brent from “The Office,” or basically any of the characters from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”
RL: Why these characters?
NW: I am fascinated by arrogance and ignorance and lack of awareness. I have always wanted to play a character with those qualities. I have an interest in other types of characters as well, like Barry Egan in “Punch-Drunk Love,” but I think I am most drawn to the stuff I mentioned before. While I wouldn’t say I feel worthy of playing those characters in those movies, I do love them and would love to play those types of characters.
RL: In the next five years, where is your career heading to?
NW: I would mostly like to do comedy, I think. I mean, look, I will do anything that I am moved by. I don’t have any particular film goal. I just would like to do things that make me laugh or tearfully relate. I can say that there are characters and films that have done that for me—have moved me and made me laugh—but they have already been made and I wouldn’t be right for those roles. I just hope, one day, to be a part of something like that, something that moves me. Something like, “The Master” or “Fight Club” or “Punch-Drunk Love”—stuff like that.
RL: Tell me, what is your idea of perfect happiness?
NW: I believe you can have moments of near-perfect happiness, of pure joy, but I don’t know that you can have a lifetime of perfect happiness. Though, perhaps, that’s not what you meant. Anyway, I can tell you about thoughts I have that make me happy: the idea of my family and friends being well. The idea of being healthy and feeling fit and funny and confident. A general sense of fulfillment in key areas of life. Checking things off the list. Am I and are my loved ones healthy? Am I reaching my goals? Am I being good to people? Am I loved and loving? Am I creatively and sexually and emotionally satisfied?
RL: What do you think you need to do to attain it?
NW: Optimism or the ability to delude yourself. But what’s the difference? There is a line in “Fight Club:” “I ran. I ran until my muscles burned and my veins pumped battery acid. Then I ran some more.” The point is, you have no choice, you have to keep going, you have to find a way. And you will.
RL: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
NW: My eyes. I have never liked them because I can’t shoot lasers out of them [laughs]. I mean, I do think my greatest burden is my lack of confidence, so if I could lift that darkness or if I could remove the blindfold of personality dysmorphia, I would have an easier time getting around.
RL: Last but not least, what’s your life’s greatest achievement?NW: I like to think—and I could be wrong—that if I were gone, people would miss me, and I like to think that’s because of the quality of our friendship. Making these beautiful connections in this short life, that means more to me than any job I could get or money I could make. Being a good friend (and I could still be a better one to certain people). Loving and being worthy of love is my greatest accomplishment. My greatest accomplishment is something a puppy can do.