Saturday, September 26, 2015

Exclusive DB Congress Interview: Behind the Scenes with "The Mom" in Dierks Bentley's "Riser" Music Video

Single mom, Nicole Staggs, became inspired for her leading role in Dierks Bentley's "Riser" music video after meeting real-life riser mom Amy Thomas on location. "I gave her a hug and told her what an inspiration she was. Especially being a single mother, as well. I was very grateful I could spend that time with her and really get a sense of who she was."

The Travis Meadows/Steve Moakler penned song, portrayed in video form, takes a hard (black and white) look at a very real situation and how to be a fighter, get out aliver, a riser--survivor.

We asked Nicole to share with us some behind the scenes stories, how she landed the role of "the mom," and what being a Riser means to her.

DB CONGRESS: Back in 2007, you won big on the TV game show, “Don’t Forget The Lyrics.” Did you ever imagine you’d be acting in a music video eight years later?

Nicole Staggs: Omg...I sure did! That was so fun! I have been in a handful of videos since then. The year after I did "Don't forget the lyrics," I shot "Waiting on a Woman" by Brad Paisley. That was another video I was very honored to be a part of, playing the late, great, Andy Griffith’s wife. He passed that next year, so the video was even more special to me.

DBC: You’re also a model. Tell us about some of your work. What other acting roles have you played or any upcoming?

NS: I have been modeling since I was 20 years old and that lead to acting. I've done lots of runway (Dillard's, Belks, Victoria Secret Regional, etc.) and print (Zappos, Swisher Sweets, Dillard's, etc.). I have also done commercials (TN Lottery, Buffalo Trace, Walmart, Ford, Cool Springs Galleria, etc.) and have been featured in some TV Shows (Nashville, Boston Public, The George Barris Show, It’s a Miracle, etc.).

DBC: Nashville! Love that show--what episode/role did you play?

NS:  I was initially brought in for the pilot, to audition for the host of the Blue Bird, which was an ongoing, speaking role.  I made it down to the final audition and it was between myself and another girl. She got the part.  Then I was called in for "Sophia Roxanne"...a backup singer. This was potentially an ongoing role, but my part was cut short and I didn't shoot anymore for that.  I was called in once again for the Mayor's mistress, but I didn't book that either!  So, I'm hoping to change the rules and 4th time be a charm?!!  Lol! I think it was season 2?!  

DBC: Can you talk about landing the role in the Riser video and a bit about the interview process? Did you do anything unique to show you would be perfect for the role of the mom?

NS: My agent called me for this audition. I listened to the song before I went, but I had no idea what the video was going to be about until I showed up at the actual audition, so I wasn't really prepared. Wes [Edwards], the director, asked me what one of the hardest things I've ever gone through was, and I talked about my son, his diagnosis of autism, and getting to where he is today. I know my passion and emotion were very apparent when talking about my amazing son. He inspires me every day...both my babies do!

DBC: What were some of the challenges in filming? Any behind-the-scenes stories you can share?

NS: Having to change clothes for every scene! Because we were mostly shooting in parking lots and in the car, changing was a little bit of a challenge! Luckily I grew up playing soccer and am pretty good at changing tops without exposing myself. The crew had a pop up/portable changing room and they would throw that up in parking lots, as well! That was pretty comical!

DBC: Two weeks ago we interviewed Emma Vance, who played the role of your daughter in the video. What was it like working with her and the little boy? Are you a single mom?

NS: Emma was great to work with. She was very sweet and very grown up for her age! Bentley (little boy) was so precious! He was such a little trooper. Because we had to drive around for two full days to many different locations, I was responsible for both of the kids while they were away from their parents and that made nurturing them very easy. Real emotions came out...especially with Bentley getting hungry, tired, or antsy, and my motherly instincts kicked in. I am a single mother of a little boy and girl, so it was easy to pretend Emma and Bentley were mine. Emma was also such a big help with Bentley! It really seemed like she was his big sister!

Nicole and her real-life kids

DBC: How perfect that the little boy’s name just happened to be Bentley! What a coincidence!

DBC: Were you a Dierks fan before this? What’s your favorite lyric in the song “Riser” and why?

NS: I’ve always loved Dierks' music, but this one is definitely my favorite! "When I don't know what I'm doin’ I can fake it...I'll pray ‘til Jesus rolls away the stone" is my favorite verse in the song. That resonates so much with me, because I was there. I never wanted my kids to see me worried, sad or upset, so I always faked it around them when I felt that way....and I prayed a lot! Still do!

DBC: What scene in the video took the longest to make—how many takes? Did you capture any scenes in just one take?

NS: Honestly, none of the scenes took too long to shoot. Wes had cameras rolling on us 3 a lot, even when we weren't shooting specific scenes, so he could capture as much raw emotion as possible.

DBC: Did you meet the real life single mom Amy and her kids? What was your first impression?

NS: I did meet Amy and her kids on the first day of shooting at Safe Haven! When we were introduced, I gave her a hug and told her what an inspiration she was. Especially being a single mother, as well. I was very grateful I could spend that time with her and really get a sense of who she was.

DBC: One of your friends said “she really poured out her soul in this representation of a single mom” and we agree! You clearly displayed just about every emotion without saying a word—from worry to fear to determination to joy. From where did you draw your inspiration?

NS: Thank you! Being a single mother of two children, it was not too difficult for me to imagine being in Amy's shoes. While I was fortunate enough to have a home and a job after my divorce, there were still definite struggles that I faced, starting my life over. Thinking about those struggles, while not having a place to live or money to provide for my kids, really put things into perspective for me and allowed my real emotions to take over. I know how incredibly fortunate I was to have what I did. Amy was certainly my inspiration for this role and is truly the epitome of a riser!

DBC: Another friend gave “Kudos to Dierks for the song and kudos to you for bringing it alive and helping to make it real.” Did you get to meet and talk to Dierks? If so, can you tell us about that conversation?

NS: Unfortunately, I did not get to meet Dierks. He shot his part on a different day.

DBC: The song and video are serious in nature, but were there any funny moments you can tell us about?

NS: We definitely laughed a lot about how freaked out I was, shooting at the motel. I am super ocd when it comes to germs and this motel room was probably the filthiest room I've ever seen. I had my hand-sanitizer out and rubbing it all over myself and the kids! We also put one of the crews blanket down on the bed, before Emma sat down on it! Luckily it was the last shot of the day, so we all went straight home and showered! Lol!

DBC: Where were you when you saw the finished video? What surprised you the most?

NS: A director friend of mine saw it on The Guardian website and texted me about how great it was. I was at home and watched it on my iPhone! I think what surprised me the most was this being the first time ever that I watched myself on TV and didn't pick myself apart. This was the least glamorous role I've ever done (absolutely no makeup, no hair, no sleep, etc), yet I loved every single bit of it. It was so raw and real and I'm incredibly proud to have been a part!

DBC: Favorite scene and why?

NS: The same scene as Emma...when we were parked in the church parking lot and I look up to the cross…such a powerful message of faith and how God gets us through everything.

DBC: What does being a Riser mean to you?

NS:  A "Riser" to me, is someone courageous, strong, brave, determined and selfless. It's someone who does whatever it takes to get through the hard times and never gives up.

Director Wes Edwards said he "really wanted to do something that felt genuine and honest and a real story of a real riser."  You did it, Wes!  Nicole, Emma and Bentley were very convincing!

Watch the behind the scenes video here.

Riser, the single, is inching up the charts.  Please continue to request your local country radio plays this important, inspirational song!

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