Nicole Brady is best known for her work on 7News, where she's served as a morning anchor since starting at the station in February. But sharp-eyed film lovers may have caught a glimpse of her in two recent movies, including Hell or High Water, an excellent Jeff Bridges flick that was recently nominated by the Golden Globes in the Best Drama category. And next month, she's expected to pop up in Gold, an adventure yarn starring Matthew McConaughey.
How has a local TV journalist landed screen time in multiple Hollywood flicks? Before coming to 7News, Brady says, "I worked for KOB in Albuquerque. And there's a lot of film-industry activity in New Mexico, a lot of film and TV production."
True enough — and the reason has everything to do with New Mexico's aggressive pursuit of Hollywood dollars. As state film commissioner Donald Zuckerman explained in a recent interview about how Colorado can stop losing huge movies to other states, New Mexico has allotted $50 million per year in incentives for film and TV productions and offers a 25 percent rebate on money spent in the state. By comparison, Colorado gives a 20 percent rebate on in-state expenditures but only has $3 million to spend.
Colorado's incentives have attracted numerous independent flicks; earlier this month, the state offered a $300,000 rebate to Freak Power , a $1.85 million independent movie about writer Hunter S. Thompson's run for sheriff back in 1970 to be written and directed by Bobby Kennedy III, grandson of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy. But recent blockbusters such as The Magnificent Seven have shot in New Mexico even though Colorado scenery would have worked just as well because money goes so much further there.
The producers of Hell or High Water made a similar decision despite the fact that the action of the film, about bank robbers played by Chris Pine and Ben Foster being pursued by Bridges's ornery lawman, takes place in Texas. As noted by Brady, "There's a scene in a bar, and they're watching the TV in the background, and they needed a reporter for that scene."
New Mexico casting directors "have gotten used to using TV people for things like that," Brady continues. "A few other people from KOB have been in TV shows and movies over the years. But I had to audition. I remember going in, and there were non-TV reporters there, local actors. But I read, and I think they wanted a real TV reporter to do it, because I got the role."
Brady's bit was shot in To'Hajiilee, a community known to fans of Breaking Bad; a classic 2013 episode is named for it. The town is "just west of Albuquerque," Brady points out, "and I drove out there to the filming location — this kind of dirty, dusty area. I shot my lines the way the script was written, and then they said, 'Why don't you just say it the way you would if you were reporting on it?' So I just used the basic facts and then got to kind of make that one up."
At the time Brady spoke with Westword, she didn't know which version was used. "I have two little kids," she says, laughing. "I never get to go to the movies anymore." But she knows she made the final cut thanks to friends with more film-going opportunities. "They recognized my voice before they realized it was me," she reveals.
Her scene in Hell or High Water was shot last year, as was the one for Gold, which stars McConaughey as what Brady describes as "a prospector, a guy who is kind of a scam artist until he actually finds a gold mind in Indonesia and his fortunes change." In that one, Brady portrayed "some kind of financial-news reporter. It takes place in the ’80s, so they had me in ’80s hair."
Back in 2013, however, Brady got a chance to stretch out a bit further as an actress for Spare Parts, a George Lopez-Jamie Lee Curtis movie that was released last year. "I've seen that one," she allows. "It's kind of a family movie about a group of immigrant kids in high school who started a robotics club and beat out Harvard and MIT with this underwater robot they created. I got to play a kind of announcer at the event, and even though it was a smaller movie, it was more extended filming for me. The sports anchor at my station [JP Murrieta] and I were the announcers for this awards ceremony that shot for two days at a local high school with a pool."
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Once upon a time, working journalists were castigated by media critics for playing pretend reporters in fictional settings, but that ethical ship has sailed; Anderson Cooper is one of many real-life news figures to appear in Batman vs. Superman, for example. Brady has no qualms about the practice. "It's been fun," she says, "and I'd definitely love to do more if the opportunity came up again."
Problem is, those opportunities are currently a lot more common in New Mexico than they are in Colorado. Continue to see trailers for Gold and Spare Parts.