A drive by chat with “P2’s” Rachel Nichols

At 27, actress Rachel Nichols has graduated from Columbia, walked the catwalk in Paris, and kicked ass alongside Jennifer Garner on ABC’s “Alias.” At a movie theater near you, Nichols can be seen taking on her latest challenge: trying to establish herself as a big name actress.

In the thriller “P2,” Nichols plays the role of Angela, an ambitious executive working on Christmas Eve. But just as she thinks her holiday is about to begin, she finds herself stranded on the second floor of a parking garage. Her car won’t start, her cell phone loses signal, and the exit to the slams shut. Within minutes, security guard Thomas, played by Wes Bentley, has handcuffed her to a chair in his office.

The Miami Hurricane recently spoke with Nichols about the film, her career and how Hollywood has relieved her from pressure to be thin.

The Miami Hurricane: “P2” wasn’t too glamorous to shoot, huh?
Rachel Nichols: Glamorous, no? It was two months, underground, shooting nights in a working parking garage. I was in a garage, usually handcuffed, sometimes covered in blood and barefoot.

TMH: Your character Angela is a driven woman. How do relate to her on that level?
RN: Oddly enough, she’s very much the person that I always thought I would be. I went to school in New York, majored in economics and psychology. I always thought, that’s what I want to do. Clearly, I’ve taken a different path. But as far as acting or any career for that matter is concerned, to be successful, you’ve gotta want it.

TMH: Were you creeped out by your costar Wes? He seems really freaky in the trailer.
RN: When they told me they were going to hire Wes, I was thrilled. I met him and immediately really liked him; we became best friends. And then honestly, when we started shooting, he scared the shit out of me! He would turn on a dime into this person Angela fears and it was very easy for me to be petrified of him.

TMH: How did “Alias” affect your career?
RN: Before I was hired to do season five, I had seen every episode. I kept it a secret from the producers when I went in to meet them. I didn’t want them to think they were hiring a deranged fan. The visibility of the show was obviously very high. And I got to do a lot of cool stuff between the fighting and the killing and the foreign languages. It was a really fun time.

TMH: How do you feel as a woman in Hollywood and as a former model? Have you ever felt like, ‘Oh my gosh, I really have to meet the expectations of studio execs’?
RN: It was a lot worse for me when I was modeling. It had been suggested to me to lose weight when I was modeling in Paris and that’s something that I did. I didn’t do it the healthy way because I don’t really think there is a way to get as thin as I used to be. When I moved into acting, it was kind of a relief because I could be more of my natural size. Since I’ve become an actress, I’ve always taken really good care of my body, I’ve tried to eat healthy, and work out. But I’m pretty sure everyone feels the constraints of Hollywood, and that’s why I like to see people break the mold. I find that really encouraging.

Nick Maslow may be contacted at nick@miami.edu