Sunday, September 14, 2014

Nikki Pederson propels children to national visibility in movies and television

It was during the premiere of CBS’ inaugural broadcast of “Thursday Night Football,” on Sept. 11, 2014, that a handsome young man stood, adding raw vegetables into a home blender, waiting and waiting for a few ounces to emerge. Looking at the national TV commercial spot for V-8 Juice, anyone from Bryan-College Station had to be screaming out loud, “That’s Michael Lane, our Michael Lane!” As Variety reported, CBS and the NFL Network “combined to draw 20.8 million viewers.”

Last year, Lane was featured in a national commercial for Kay Jewelers, and he also managed to propose to his future wife, Caritia. When Michael and Caritia married last night in Huntington Beach, CA, Nikki Pederson was there celebrating with the happy couple, as she had been instrumental in Michael’s training and acting career in California. It was as if Michael’s baton had been passed to her by MA Sterling, artistic director of Brazos Valley TROUPE, to have Nikki take Michael to that all-too-famous but very hard to reach, “next level.”

Last week the Wareing family, formerly of College Station, were in Toronto, Canada, for TIFF 2014, the annual opening event where Garrett Wareing is featured in his first film, “Boychoir,” directed by Francois Girard. The film focuses on Garrett as “Stet,” an 11-year-old child who is angry at the world after his single mom dies. The reviews for the film have been nothing but sterling.[Editor's note: Eventually this film was purchased by Hallmark for broadcast on their TV network but has not aired as of 2017.] This exceptionally talented, charming and brilliant young man credits Nikki in his IMDB biography in a manner that demands a direct quote:

After a meeting with famed talent scout Nikki Pederson of Nikki Pederson Talent, Garrett accepted an offer to enroll in IMTA 2013 where he earned numerous awards, including 2013 Pre-Teen Male Model of the Year, as well as garnering the attention of a significant number of agents in Hollywood. Nikki has been instrumental in the guidance of Garrett's career and has made a profound impact on his life.

Garrett is the central character to the film starring (both) Oscar and Emmy winners Dustin Hoffman and Kathy Bates. This is the same Dustin Hoffman who was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2012 and has Oscars for “Rain Man” and “Kramer vs. Kramer.” Of course, Kathy just picked up another) Emmy a few weeks ago for “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie and her Oscar was for “Misery.”

Everyone remembers Bates’s most fun role in “Primary Colors,” for which she won a Screen Actors Guild Award. And any Baby Boomer worth his or her salt knows Dustin Hoffman’s breakout role in “The Graduate” (Plastics, my boy, plastics!”). Also in the film of which Garrett is a vital part is Josh Lucas, whose movies include “A Beautiful Mind,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” “The Lincoln Lawyer,” to name a few.

And these brilliant and talented people are there in the “ultimate classroom.” Also in this film are Kevin McHale, Eddie Izzard, and River Alexander. Garrett was chosen for his role out of thousands considered. Thousands. From College Station to Hollywood in less than two years, thanks to Nikki Pederson and her ability to spot talent, train talent, and then make sure they find the very best, most highly reputable management.

In a related story, the wonderful relationship between Nikki Pederson and the entire Wareing family (parents Rooter and Ginny, and their children, Garrett, Mackenzie, and Mason) is detailed. What’s relevant is that three members of the Wareing family were selected for “Boy Choir,” as Garrett’s beautiful and talented actress sister, Mackenzie, plays Stephanie On Sat., Sept. 13, flipping over to the Disney Channel to catch another episode of “Austin & Ally,” you’re watching Raini Rodriguez, costarring as Trish De la Rosa, and you have a “V-8” moment.

That’s another Nikki Pederson Talent Alum! When Nikki took Raini out to Hollywood to compete in the IMTA national acting competition, the adorable young lady blossoming in talent impressed talent manager Susan Osser, who signed Raini and has done a superb job in booking her for movies. It started with “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” with Kevin James; Disney’s “Prom” and now Raini is filming the “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” sequel. That’s Nikki Pederson’s alumnus.

Just two days earlier, while watching a MOFY Marathon on USA Network, you’d have seen Bryan’s Rico Rodriguez, who plays Manny Delgado, son to supermodel/actress Sofia Vergara and distinguished actor Ed O’Neill’s Jay Pritchett. Just last month Rico was on hand for his fifth Emmy Awards ceremony where he was part of the ensemble stagebound to receive their fifth Emmy for “Best Comedy Series.”

Rico, in addition to being Raini’s younger brother, owes his opportunity to what happened when Raini and her whole family went into Osser’s office for a meeting, but it all started with Nikki. One of his first television roles was on NCIS, in the season 6, episode 19, “Hide and Seek” playing Travis Buckley. Rico was 10 years old at the time, and NCIS was then as it is now, television’s Number One Scripted Drama. Two young children in the same family, making their way in Hollywood, part one. Another favorite episode of “NCIS” is from season 8, titled “Freedom,” where the corpse of a U.S. Marine reservist is discovered in his backyard by dogwalkers, and one look at the opening sequence and you yell out, “That’s Matthew Florida!” as you see his character, Kyle Severin, onscreen. “He is one of Nikki’s kids,” you think. Florida also played Ford Decker on “Days of Our Lives,” he’s the voice of Arrow in Tom Clancy’s “HAWX 2” video game and he’s currently voicing “Raif” in the animation comedy “Oishi High School Battle” and has an increasingly strong resume, with lots more to come.

Disney star Tiffany Thornton is another Nikki Pederson talent alumnus and she recently came to Nikki’s new acting studio in downtown Bryan to inspire and talk with her current students about the process and the training of what it takes to make it to Hollywood. Recent Texas Aggie graduate (and newlywed) Michael Green got his SAG card as he was booked for a national television commercial for K-Mart, directed by Spike Lee. Three guesses where Green found his training? That’s right.

Many students also benefit from the outstanding California-based training from another of Nikki’s trusted colleagues, Patrick Baca. Nikki insists on bringing in only the most outstanding, trustworthy team members to work with her young trainees.

So, with that predicate, who exactly is this woman who has made all these dreams come true for young people from Bryan-College Station happen? She’s Nikki Pederson of Nikki Pederson Talent, and she’s a businesswoman who is committed to children reaching their goals, if they have the skills, talent and qualifications to make it, and if they are willing to do the work to get there.

When you first meet the College Station native Nikki Pederson, you are taken aback somewhat at the aura of a woman that simply glows when she speaks of “her children.” For the past 15 years, Nikki has parlayed an innate ability to coach, train, demand and expect young aspiring actors, models, and singers into a bevy of results.

She is not, let it be understood, a person who will accept any child for a fee, who trains the wannabe’s and the never-gonna-make-it’s brought to her by anxious stage parents who think their child is “gonna be a star.” She will not shine you on, because she won’t take you unless you have what it takes, but she can deliver the message gently with kid gloves.

One personal story from Nikki’s childhood is sufficient to tell you where, how and why she does what she does, in 70-hour weeks where shadowing her for even a day is exhausting. When Nikki was a young girl growing up in College Station, her dream was to be in front of audiences, doing something that would bring them joy in entertainment. Blessed with model-like good looks at an early age, Nikki lacked only the confidence to shoot for the stars. Her father, Russ Coleman, was an accomplished singer and had entertained audiences, but singing was not what Nikki wanted to do.

When Nikki shared her dreams, in a quiet voice, with her mother, she didn’t get the encouraging answer she was seeking. Instead she got a variation on the “cold, cruel world” speech of walking uphill to school in the snow, both ways, hard-knocks life of Hollywood and was essentially encouraged to get that notion out of her head, promptly. Young Nikki was crushed. As she grew up and finished high school the young beauty had a bevy of friends, was pursued by the neatest guys in class for dates, and yet, her secret dream didn’t die. It just stayed buried deep inside her, but life and circumstances combined to bring that dream back into the forefront of her mind.

Nikki began working with IMTA, the International Modeling and Talent Association, and she would take on young students in her Woodlands, Texas studio and train them in sessions such as “Kids on Camera,” where budding actors had actual on-camera experience and the chance to rehearse, train and review their progress.

Through the years of “paying her dues,” Nikki had a chance to see the best and the worst in talent scouts, modeling executives, agents and artist representatives. In that time Nikki was encouraged to branch out on her own, but she didn’t quite feel ready to take the plunge and be her own talent scout and skip the middle part of IMTA, a group for which she still maintains the highest regard today. It was through IMTA that she met and was mentored by Al Onorato, a man of whom she states, “has the highest integrity” of anyone she’s ever met, noting “I’ve been blessed by our friendship and I cherish the opportunities I have to talk to him about everything.”

Pederson’s model training included head shots with professional photographers of top Hollywood studio pedigree and her public speaking programs gave her pupils excellent exit skills, if their goals were only to be able to speak confidently in public. Students (like Garrett, Mackenzie and Mason Wareing, to name three) would commute from College Station to the Woodlands to study with Nikki and her team.

As she’d spend substantial time away from her home in the Woodlands to work with students in Bryan-College Station from time to time, Nikki built a family of believers in a dynamic group of local women known in the community for their good works simply as “The Princesses.” The queen, of course, is Cherry Ruffino, an effervescent do-gooder and real estate mastermind. Then you have academic dean and singing sensation, Karan Chavis, who spends her barely existent spare time working with Nikki’s students who want to sing as part of their full-talent package. [Editor's note: One of Karan's students was Courtnie Ramirez, who would become a finalist in the 2016 season of NBC's "The Voice," yet another example of how Nikki Pederson and Karan Chavis know talent and help foster it whenever they can.]

Mary Mike Hatcher, hometown beauty and longtime radio talent cum national sales manager for Bryan Broadcasting, is another of the shining stars in the group, and often the chief ringleader for all kinds of fun as the ladies frequent local charity functions en masse and collectively support so many good causes that they comprise a “special interest group” of their own accord. The lovely and charming Sharon Merrill completes the royal entourage and keeps them flowing on a smooth course. Someone has to!

These five women together have believed in one another, from the day they each met. They’ve had each other’s backs if one finds a setback in their paths, and when you just can’t find one good thing about your day, a princess will step in and fix that for you. And when life was at an important crossroads for Nikki, you know now who to thank for seeing that she not only reached her own dreams of starting her own talent agency but who were the first in line to congratulate her. An important quote comes to mind:

“Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you, no matter what.”

Ultimately, late last year with the gentle encouragement (or all-out strategic movement) of “The Princesses,” Nikki relocated her headquarters to the Bryan-College Station area of Texas, where she’s established a tremendous and beautiful studio in the heart of historic downtown Bryan.

And with that as a predicate, Nikki Pederson today is still in the background of the world behind the scenes, making big things happen. It’s never about Nikki. It’s always about “her kids.” God did not bless her with one or two children. Instead, she says, “He made my dreams come true by allowing me to be a part of the lives of these very special young people who are following their dreams. If I can just make a contribution to them by believing in them and working for them, that’s why I’m here.”

So don’t look for Nikki on her own IMDB page. Instead, you can find her on Facebook for yourself and see many of her alumni and current students there. And when you see them on a giant IMAX screen, in a Broadway play or on your television each week, she is there. Her children rush to thank her for believing in them, for “being there” for her, and in being an integral part of her family, as all of the parents adopt her as part of their extended family. And to think it all started because one talented, beautiful little girl had to reach deep down inside herself, with faith, and do what everyone else said wasn’t going to happen. Robin Williams said it best, “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” They do, every day, in Bryan-College Station, Texas, thanks to Nikki Pederson.

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