Interview: Nicole Signore – By: Liam Sweeny
Written by Liam Sweeny on January 12, 2023
Everyday we live and breathe free air, eat gluten free hot dogs and get triple-pump sugary abandon at our local coffee shop. And we’re able to do this with nary a thought because of the unsung work of thousands of dedicated folk. And when we sit down to watch our favorite movie, we might be blissfully unaware that a different kind of unsung hero, buried in the credits, made it so.
One such hero is the 518’s very own actress, photo and stunt double Nicole Signore. Here credit list is a mile long; I checked. With a ruler. She has supported some of your favorite actresses, and has graced the screen with some pretty heavy hitters on her own.
I sit with Nicole and we discuss tai chi, judo, and other cool words.
RRX: You have done a lot of stand-in work. I’m not sure my readers fully understand the nature of stand-in work. Correction: I don’t understand it, and I do read my articles, so I guess that counts. So what exactly is “stand-in” work? Is it the same as stunt work, or are is it something broader?
NS: I’ve worked in many ladders of the TV and Film Business most my life and really got serious about it since I’d say 2007 when I joined the unions.
Stand-in is something I’ve done a lot in addition to acting and modeling. To answer your question yes A stand-in is broader then a stunt double, however, a stand-in position can sometimes lead to a photo doubling or stunt doubling position on a set. There were a couple times I started off as a stand -in and was promoted to a stunt double contract.
In comparison a stand-in to a stunt double; a stunt double will take the risk of doing more dangerous actions for an actor like high falls, car chases, combat scenes and other special abilities where a stand-in is someone who may look like the actor or actress and is responsible for helping set up lighting and blocking the scenes. A stand-in is used as a type of model for the main actor so the main actor doesn’t need to be present on the set and can get ready and save production cost while the crew sets up and lights the scene with the stand in. Stand-ins, aka “second teamers,” are also used a lot more these days in video games and in the new reface AI software applications and to rehearse lines with the main actors, or in table reads as a replacement when the main actor are not available.
Sometimes, working as a stand-in, you are also asked to photo double an actor or actress and production will use parts of your body, hair or image from a distance, example: like driving a car from far away for an actor or using the back of your head, hair or any body parts.
The perfect example of a stand in or photo double would be in the movie ‘the Crow,‘ where a lot of the shots of the late Brandon Lee were picked up by his stand-in/photo double after the actor passed away.
RRX: Your passion is historical productions and period pieces. As you know, we just had “The Gilded Age” filmed here, and we’ve had “Age of Innocence” filmed here. This area welcomes that kind of project. Did the history and architecture drive you to this passion, or was there something else?
NS: I think over all I’m just a time travel, sci-fi, and history nerd, but I would say yes – the 518 history and historic architecture has contributed to my interest growing up in the 518. This area is rich in history – I do not think people even realize home much history is here. I’ve often thought about starting my own YouTube channel where I travel around New York talking about history and places to go and things to do to better educate people on that history “Nikki from NY” has a ring to it; what do you think??
But yes I love historic homes and architecture as well In fact, I just bought an 125 year-old Victorian multifamily in the Mohawk Valley and I love it! I love the attention to detail in the wood work and the shaker cabinetry, the wrap around porches and multiple balconies, the hard wood floors, tall ceilings and large windows. Real-estate investing is also another one of my aspirations. I have always loved the building style and quality of building materials of that time period. People really took pride in their work and the attention to detail and it’s very beautiful to photograph.
I think Over all, though, my love for history came from my late grandfather. He used to do a lot of research for the late historian Larry Hart when he was alive, and we would go to the library in Schenectady together and do research on microfiche and old newspaper articles we do that as grandfather and daughter bonding time. My grandfather owned a Tydol gas station over on Nott Terrence in Schenectady, and ironically, where his gas station used to be is now a museum.
My grandfather was very much in love with old cars too. I recently started a collection of old vintage Ford Mustangs to honor him and to use as picture cars in period films. So far, my little red 1983 fox body Mustang has been in about five films and my Shelby Mustang has been in a couple. In fact, I received my Screen Actors Guild card working as a team captain and precision car driver under Bill Young’s stunt driving team in the movie SALT filming here in Albany with Angelina Jolie on 787.
RRX: So two movies to illustrate many more. “Kill Your Darlings,” with Daniel Radcliffe, you played Page. And “Benedict Arnold: Hero Betrayed” with Martin Sheen, you played Jamima Warner. When you’re on set with actor with that kind of name recognition, is there more gravitas to what you are doing, or is it “a show like any other?”
NS : When I first met Daniel Radcliffe we were in the hair and makeup trailer together sitting next to each other he came up to me and was like “Hi, I’m Daniel” I was like “I know!” and he laughed. At first, it’s a little hard to not be star struck, but after a while you get used to it. They like it if you just treat them like anyone else and not fuss over them. I spoke to Daniel about a play I was doing at the time while being a theater student at Schenectady County Community College called ‘Loves Fire.’ I was performing in that show and also driving into NYC to shoot ‘ Kill your darlings.’ Daniel said “Oh, I’d love to go to the show where is it?” I said Schenectady, upstate NY and he was like “Oh I’d try to make it upstate, but I may not have time.” He was really cool. I know if he had time and he was closer he would have totally come to the show, that’s how cool of a guy he is.
There is a lot more security on set for you as an actress when you are working on a scene with celebrities. You feel a since of importance, or if you are wearing a wardrobe, you always have a production assistant, hair and makeup, or wardrobe person following you a round and spraying your close with cans of air making sure you are picture perfect. And then you wrap, you take the period clothes off and get sent on your way in your modern clothes and it’s a brain rush like “Oh I just leaped back to the future it’s 2022. Now you go back to your everyday life. It’s modern music and modern cars, modern phone, modern everything. I’d much rather spend my Sundays cruising around in vintage clothes and in my vintage cars pretending it’s 1989.
It is really cool when you are on a first name or nick name bases with actors though, or you can stay in touch with them on social media, grab a slice of pizza, grab a drink, do a yoga class, go roller skating with your down time on sets with them. They are people, just like us. As a stand-in you have lunch with them 21-30 days during production, then you go home and you see them at the academy awards on TV; it’s mind blowing, really. It really is. You see them out at a film festival or event and they remember you like oh “hey Nicole.” It’s a really cool feeling
RRX: To top everything else off, you’ve done a lot of stunt work, photo doubling, fight directing. You’ve “been” Juno Temple, Elizabeth Olsen, Mena Suvari, Chloe Sevigney, and countless others to the mid double digits. Can you run me through how you prep? Do you take into account their personal mannerisms, or is it all action?
NS: Yes, I do study their body language. Not so much for stand-in work, but for photo doubling and stunt work. For example, when I was stunt doubling Mena Suvari in the fish tank scene for ‘What Lies Below,’ which was shot in Lake George, I had to watch the monitor and rehearsals closely, in specific detail, how she would move her body and her legs and replicate my body exactly how she moved and get the timing of the movement of my body with hers. It’s like playing the drums or dancing; she screams in the scene and it’s ‘move my leg twice to this word or scream and move leg twice to that.’
I’ve had to have my hair cut or colored like them too to help make hair and makeup’s job easier. If I know I will be doubling one actress more then another I will prep by working out to similar work outs as them, maybe gain or lose a few pounds as well. I will watch interviews of them, because interviews are the best where they are naturally themselves, and not acting as another character in a movie, to see how naturally animated they are. I think I am naturally a chameleon anyway though, so if I hang out with anyone long enough I will start speaking like them and moving like them and acting like them naturally; it’s a strange quirk I have. Sometimes an actress will have an inch or two on me in height so I will stuff my sneakers with Dr. Scholl’s pads to give me the extra inch I needed to book the part during the aesthetic test audition, because they don’t like you to wear heels.
Really it all comes down to the actress and who she likes if she chooses you. If you double them a lot and they feel comfy around you and know you then you are in. It’s the professional bond you have from previous shoots. You are there to make their work and lives easier.