Acting isn't new to Nigel Ash -- he's studying theater arts at Rogers Middle School for the Creative and Performing Arts -- nor is film work: He and his three younger brothers write and direct their own home movies. But last October, the 13-year-old Hazelwood resident scored a speaking part in Universal's home-video release, The Haunting Hour: Don't Think About It. The recently released tweener horror-comedy, adapted from an R.L. Stine book, was shot partially in the Pittsburgh area.
How did you get in the movie?
I was at school and my teacher called me over. She said, "Hey Nigel, I want you to call these people -- they're looking for actors to play in this movie." So I called the number, and they gave me the time to go, and I went there and auditioned. There were a lot of people there; it was so packed. A whole lot of kids were there, so it was loud.
Were you nervous?
I do a lot of auditions for school, so I wasn't that scared, but I was still a little bit nervous. They gave me a cold read and asked a little bit about myself. Then the next day, they called me back, and I did the same thing in front of the director and the scriptwriter. A couple days later, they called and said, "We want Nigel to be Ralph."
This was the first professional movie you'd worked on. Was it how you thought it would be?
I was basically thinking: There's going to be a camera, there's going to be people, and they're gonna tell me what's going on, and I'm gonna go ahead and act it. But it wasn't like that. I actually thought that there wasn't going to be a lot of takes. And there was a hundred, there was like millions. But I didn't really mind because that's where I wanted to be.
How's it been at your real school since you did the movie?
At school, I don't really brag about the movie. I stay humble, I stay grounded. People have been pretty cool about it. They came to me right after they watched it, and said "Nigel, I saw the movie. It was so cool." And some people were trying to get me to do this or that, but I was like, "Nah, I gotta get to my schoolwork."
So acting is your career path now?
I wanna act. That's my home away from home. Stage, in front of the camera -- that's where I want to be. I feel so comfortable up there. As soon as I'm there, it's like "Nigel is away" -- and I'm the person I transform into. [During the film shoot] the whole time I was on camera, I was Ralph.
It must have been great seeing yourself in the movie.
I was so proud of myself. I kept saying, "Nigel, you are in a movie." Then I said to myself, "I can't just be doing nothing. I have to go out there and do something."
What do you have in mind?
I'm trying to do something good for Hazelwood. A lot of people say that Hazelwood is bad. It's not bad. There's a lot of good kids and people out here. So another thing I'm hoping to do for Hazelwood is to have an under-age club. There's people like me who want to go see nightlife, or have a DJ or dance, but we can't go because [most places] are over-18.
It's great that at your age you have so many plans. What advice do you have for other kids?
Stay in school, keep working, stay focused. There's times I have been off the path, and my mom and dad and brothers, they put me right back on my path. If you go off on the wrong path, you're gonna mess up.
Now that you've broken into films, who are you planning to work with in the future?
I really want to work with Denzel Washington, Terrence Howard, Mark Wahlberg and Will Smith.
That's awesome -- aim for the top.
I'm looking out there. I'm going to get an agent soon. This is a big step. It's exciting. Whatever you want to do, go for it. Don't sit back and wait.