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Nickola Shreli Talks ‘Low Winter Sun’ & His Own Feature Film ‘Landlord’

Wed, September 4, 2013 2:05pm EDT by Add first Comment
Nickola Shreli Low Winter Sun
Courtesy of Nickola Shreli

The network that brought you ‘Breaking Bad,’ ‘Mad Men’ and ‘The Walking Dead’ launched its first new series in two years earlier this month, ‘Low Winter Sun.’ spoke exclusively to Nickola Shreli, one of the stars of the gritty new crime drama.

Low Winter Sun is being compared to The Wire and we can see why! The hour-long drama, set in Detroit’s seedy underbelly,  follows the exploits of dirty cops and criminals. Nickola Shreli, who HollywoodLifers will recognize from Taylor Lautner‘s Abduction, plays one of those bad guys — though “bad guy” might not be the best thing to call him.

Read On For Our Q&A With Nickola Shreli

>> What can viewers expect from your character?

I play Gus, a first-generation Detroit ethnic fella who’s a loyal part of Damon’s (James Ransone) crew in their bid to rise for power. [He’s] a bartender/enforcer/all around nice-handy fella.

>> This isn’t your first time playing a bad guy. Do you like playing the villain?

Yeah. It sounds cliche, but you really get to say, ‘Forget it,’ and have more fun. But I will say that the characters in Low Winter Sun are not necessarily ‘villains.’ … They are all real people that are of this world dealing with their respective circumstances.

>> In Abduction you worked with Taylor Lautner. What was that like? Any fun on-set stories?

Taylor is a good kid; I really enjoyed our time Pittsburgh. He’s originally from Michigan, like me, and is a major prankster. He tripped me a couple of times when I wasn’t looking right before shooting! And we had some epic touch football games.

>> You’re shooting your own feature movie now called Landlord, which you also wrote. How did that happen?

I actually started writing it in the fall of 2010, during Abduction on my downtime. I had a dope little story I wanted to tell, and obviously I wanted to create a dope part for myself in the process.

>> What made you want to step behind the camera? Not all actors also have that drive.

It was definitely film school for me, with respect to learning how to write and how to be patient, as well as handling physical production along with all other headaches that come with producing a feature film. After a couple years of messing with it, I got it to a place that was shoot-worthy. I got a great director [Malik Badar, Street Thief] and producer [Ele Bardha] on board, and we said, ‘Let’s throw down and do it our way in our backyard.’ It went down in March of this year in Detroit.

>> What is the movie about?

Landlord is a multi-layered tale about a spiritually-conflicted, widowed landlord in an ethnic area of Detroit trying to survive while raising his daughter. He essentially steals some money from one of his tenants to fix some problems, but creates even bigger ones with the transaction. The tenant is a prostitute that happens to be tied to a ruthless pimp. It sets off a chain reaction that leads to the abduction of his daughter, the only thing he really has left.

>> Your IMDB profile says you were a ‘less-than-average student,’ yet you’re now a successful actor, writer and producer. What changed? Any advice for kids struggling in school?

That depends on how success is defined. I know a lot of cats with money and status that are miserable. I think that point leads to my advice for kids: Follow your heart. Identify a passion, or something that interests you; and more importantly, makes you happy. Pursue it and the money will come. Just give it an honest effort, and if it’s meant to be, it will be. Just know that some things in the real world are school-driven and some are not. So embrace school, try not to mess it up and understand its just a tiny segue on your way to a bigger plan. I live a very unstructured life, I’ve never really had a 9-5. But boy do I miss the the times where my biggest problem was getting to my first period on time. So embrace this school stage cause before you know it you’ll be a grown up with 99 problems trying to pass life.

WATCH: AMC’s Special Look At ‘Low Winter Sun’

— Allison Swan