For those who don’t know Nicole Muñoz by name, you may recognize her face. The actress is a veteran in the television and film industry, with more than ten years of experience under her belt. All this at just 22 years old. While we have plenty of new material coming from the young thespian, fans can also enjoy her reprisal of Bella Parker in the highly anticipated Center Stage: On Pointe.
We spoke with the actress on the sequel to Center Stage: Turn It Up, her ever-growing career in the industry, and the best and worst of the entertainment industry.
Previously, fans of Center Stage: Turn It Up had the opportunity to get to know Kate Parker (Rachele Brooke Smith). This time, cameras are focusing much more closely on Kate’s little sister, Bella (Muñoz). “Since Turn It Up, Bella has grown up, shadowed by her older sister, Kate Parker, Bella struggles to come into her own,” says the Canadian actress.
“Tommy recruits Bella to try out for the American Ballet Company which she hesitantly does. During her time at the Company, through supportive friends and nasty teachers, Bella develops strength and courage while battling the doubts and fears that hold her back from reaching her potential.”
Muñoz is hoping this film will even further connect with fans of the Center Stage franchise. On Pointe delves deeper into her character than the first film, which Muñoz hopes will leave viewers with a better understanding of who Bella is, and give viewers a strengthened outlook on life’s difficulties.
“In this film, Bella gets to be the fighter. The viewers will hopefully be able to connect with Bella’s journey where she finds the confidence to push herself in life and in dance.”
As for the actress herself, she finds her connection is deepest with Bella as a young artisan searching for perfection in an imperfect world. When asked what trait of Bella she most closely relates with, Muñoz simply says, “Being your own worst critic.”
“It allows you to push yourself, to propel yourself forward into things you wouldn’t have even imagined being able to do,” she admits. Of course, this trait is not without its flaws.
“It can also be damaging. Genuinely loving and forgiving oneself is a very important thing that I feel gets overlooked quite often. Especially in youth, though I also see it in adults. Understanding that a growing mind and body needs love and that you, yourself, can provide it.”
Not only can it be damaging to one’s self esteem, striving for perfection can be career-limiting as well. Something the seasoned actress knows all too well.
“I am heartbroken thinking about how many of us at one time or another have stood in our own way because we thought we couldn’t do it, didn’t deserve it or wouldn’t be able to. That voice needs to be seen as a challenge not as the truth, it is the farthest from the truth. Bella learns to silence that voice, even momentarily, through dance and through friendships, support and expression. Dance is an outlet for Bella, for myself and for many others.”
Every now and then, fans of original films are handed sequels that fail to bring back some of the heavy-hitters in the casts. Luckily for Center Stage fans, Muñoz was more than eager to get back into the swing of things.
“I was not about to pass up the opportunity that was given to me. Since I was approached to reprise the role I was excited to collaborate and learn from all the talented cast and crew I knew would be coming on board. My co-star, Barton Cowperthwaite, was a blessing to work with. His drive was contagious and his talent is ever-growing and I am excited for the viewers to see what has been created.”
However, it wasn’t just the storyline or character that brought Muñoz back to the studio. The young actress tells us her time spent on set was an awe-filled experience, and a dream come true.
“I was young and happy to be working on a set. The machine, all of its pieces and how they come together is what excites me and always has. Being a part of the Center Stage franchise is something I am thankful for. I appreciate the doors it has opened as well as the platform it has provided.”
Looking at her background, it’s easy to see why Muñoz fell for a role fit for a dancer. Muñoz got her early start in dance, including jazz, hip-hop, and ballet, among others. For her, dancing was a natural part of growing up. One she treasures to this day.
“What I loved about dance was the team mentality, in your teens it is easy to feel alone, dance provided me with a solid group of people I knew had my back and I theirs. Spiritually, dance was healing and a safe way to genuinely express myself. To share stories and learn from others.”
Considering her career in dance started at such an early age (she was only 4 years old when she began!), there must have been a natural inclination Muñoz had for entertainment. That’s just what we found out.
“At four I think I was just having fun, enjoying the ride. Film was always a huge part and influence on my life, so it was only natural that as I grew older, I became more and more interested and passionate about the industry,” she says. “I genuinely love film and being a part of it. I am always learning and getting inspired. This industry holds a huge piece of my heart.”
Muñoz’s progression from dance into film and television seems to have been a natural one. It was never a decision to be made of whether or not to pursue acting. Rather, it was merely a new outlet in which she could express her creativity.
“These have both been very influential forms of expression throughout our history. Theatre and dance are subjects in which an endless amount of information is held. I am enthralled when reading pieces by Molière, Homer, Shakespeare, Voltaire and so on,” she muses.
“Film and dance provide a rich history from which we can learn and allow ourselves to be inspired. To me, that is a gift to cherish and not to take lightly so I am drawn to these because of all the things I can learn and all the moments I can share. It is important for us to share ourselves, otherwise, we don’t grow. Film and dance brings communities together and allows taboo topics to be explored. Film and dance are mediums in which we use to push the envelope.”
When hearing from Muñoz, you get the sense she is wise beyond her years, speaking about her craft with the grace and eloquence of someone with experience in the industry for many decades. It’s not surprising to learn the actress graduated high school with honors. But has she ever considered pursuing education at the collegiate level? Of course!
“I have thought about going to school, maybe to learn about other forms of self-expression such as poetry, language and writing. I find it important to know the history of the industry, no matter what industry you are in, so courses like theatre [and] film history really intrigue me,” she continues.
“Knowing where things began, learning about integral influences, foundations and creators of the industry is something I find very important and is something I like to do through books and lectures seeming as I am not currently in college or university. To me, educating yourself is about growth and respect for the craft.”
Not only is she enticed by the thought of returning to a classroom someday, Muñoz also credits class as her most-fond memory of her long and growing career.
“Being in class is my favorite part. The time where I get to explore the craft, develop and get messy doing what I love. Watching other actors discover things on stage and the moments when I get to do the same.”
Given her time in entertainment, her expanding career, and the many facets of the industry in which she has conquered, we had to wonder what is her take on the industry as a whole.
“The biggest reward is being able to work, learn from and collaborate with so many inspiring artists. Being able to share stories and affect a viewer. Creating a dialogue. As there are many rewards, there are many challenges as well. We can mention challenges like rejections, high levels of criticism, cynicism and how finance plays a big role in this industry,” she states.
As for the difficulties?
“The artistic struggle for inspiration, motivation and vulnerability and finding the deepest truth. All these struggles and how we chose to feed them, are all part of the process. They force you to work harder, dig deeper and to face your truest self which leads to insight and knowledge, and knowledge is power.”
With a heavy background in the arts and entertainment, it is difficult to imagine Muñoz doing any other career. But what if she had never achieved such a high level success at this early age? In what industry or occupation might she have found herself? For Muñoz, it was simply never a choice.
“I would still be doing [film and dance]. It’s impossible for me to picture not having these influences in my life. Film and dance play very important roles in who I am as a person. So, no matter what, I know I would find myself doing something creative and expressive. I feel forever intertwined in these industries and I wouldn’t be happier anywhere else.”
Center Stage: On Pointe premieres on June 25, 2016 on Lifetime at 8/7 c.
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