There was nothing more exciting for Rachel Nichols than to play Tamara, Conan’s accomplice and eventual love interest, in Conan the Barbarian. She jumped at the chance to play a smart, capable woman who breaks the mold of typical fantasy heroines, a character that is not only profound and tough but if given the choice of fight or flight she would absolutely fight.
In an exclusive interview Nichols candidly spoke to us about playing a strong female role, working with co-star Jason Momoa, and her two Hollywood crushes.
Movies.com: Have you been able to experience the chaos of Comic-Con?
Rachel Nichols: This is my first visit to Comic-Con and it’s overwhelming but it’s also so exciting. I think it’s really invigorating to see the fans and how they prepare with makeup and costumes. It’s all about the details and you think to yourself, “This is so cool that people are so loyal and so excited.”
Movies.com: It’s not often that we get to see a beautiful strong female character. You’re pretty much Conan’s counterpart in the film and you’re not afraid to go toe-to-toe with him. What was the training process like?
Nichols: I love everybody that we worked with and we had a great time. We had a very lovely DP that even on my worst morning made me look lovely. I do have kind of a history with action with Alias and G.I Jones and I love learning fight sequences, playing with swords and shooting guns. I work out a lot because I love to eat but for this movie it was really fun. I had never done sword fighting before so I had to learn how to that. Jason and I trained, he would train way more than I did but I would train occasionally next to him. I learned how to ride horses. I do all the riding in the movie, there’s one stunt where my character jumps onto another horse so I didn’t do that.
Movies.com: Was it the physicality that attracted you to this project?
Nichols: I like her character because they didn’t make her just the girl who is wrapped in chains crying. She’s got this innate instinct to fight and she doesn’t know where that comes from. They really allowed her to develop and be a proper character.
Movies.com: Were you always as active?
Nichols: Yes, I’m from Maine and we only had four channels as a kid: CBS, NBC, ABC and PBS. We didn’t have a VCR until way late. I was in the great outdoors and my mother would encourage us to go out and play. My brother and I were really active kids. I played sports not particularly well but I tried. I was a good jumper so that was my one thing that I was really good at.
But when I got to New York and got Alias, Valerie Waters became my trainer and I almost passed out the first day she trainer me because I hadn’t worked out in forever, I hadn’t have the best eating habits. After about six weeks of training I thought, “Oh, I’m in this for life.” It really helps reinvigorate so now I work out all the time.
Movies.com: Do you ever get intimidated when you start training?
Nichols: There are always two groups in every film that I love. It’s always the camera department and the stunt guys. They are always so much fun and always really cute and really nice. You can feel intimated but you just have to bite the bullet and think, “I’m awesome.” But it can be intimidating when you’re learning a new skill and you’re surrounded by people that are professionals.
Movies.com: What was Jason like?
Nichols: He’s a gentle giant. He’s really easy to work with. When I tested with him originally I thought, “Wow this guy is great.” And then I saw him two months later in Bulgaria and he was huge. I remember we went out one night and as a joke he picked me up but he could have picked me up with his pinky. He was that strong. It’s really impressive. He’s beefing back up because he’s got a movie with Sylvester Stallone.
Movies.com: What’s next for you?
Nichols: In the middle of August I’m going to Cleveland to do a movie that Rob Cohen is directing called I, Alex Cross. It’s with Tyler Perry and Matthew Fox. I’ve never met the boys. The movie is about law enforcement, I don’t know how much I can say. I don’t want to get into trouble but it should be fun.
Movies.com: Are we going to see you in comedies?
Nichols: I would love to, I would so love to do a movie where I don’t have to sweat, I don’t have to bleed, I don’t have to get totally dirty, I don’t have to be totally and utterly completely bruised, I don’t have to die, or kill anyone. I would love to do a rom-com even a regular comedy where I get to be the super dork you’re seeing right now. Somebody out there please!
Movies.com: Who would you like to co-star with in a comedy?
Nichols: Oh my god, I have a thing for Jason Statham. I think he’s just sexy, sexy. Oh, oh, Daniel Craig. Give me Daniel Craig. People are going to kill me but I think he’s the best Bond. I’m a big fan.