Despite the fact that she's played countless different roles on stage and on screen since she was six years old, actress and activist Nadia Quinn has always stayed true to who she is and where she comes from. She also sings, writes songs and scripts, and is one of the minds behind The Make It Fair Project, which pushes for gender equality in the entertainment business. Read on to learn more about this energetic and gorgeous red head, who is living proof that we should never stop learning and pursuing out passions.
Can you tell us about your upbringing and how that has shaped you into who you are today?
I think there are three defining things about my upbringing that shaped me the most. First, my family moved around the US a lot while I was growing up. I lived in Wisconsin, Washington, Michigan, New Jersey, California, and Arkansas all before I was 11 years old. I was “the new kid” over and over again. Moving so much taught me to adapt quickly to new situations, and definitely strengthened my fearlessness and sense of adventure.
The second thing is that I am the eldest of 5 girls. It was a pretty fun and crazy way to grow up, and is a huge part of who I am.
Thirdly, our Dad moved to America in the early 70s from Amman, Jordan to go to college. He had very little money and had never been to the US before. He put himself through engineering school working as a busboy and a waiter, met our mom, and started a family. Middle Eastern culture has always had a huge influence on my life, and I learned respect, honor, family values from my dad.
Tell us about the moment that motivated you to pursue acting full time?
I’m not sure that there was a moment. It’s always been in my blood and bones, and I’ve known this is what I wanted to do for as long as I can remember. I was in my first play when I was six years old, and I always did theater in school. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love performing.
If I had to isolate a moment… it would be my first trip to NYC with my high school drama club when I was 16. I was stunned. I felt like I was home, and I knew that I had to get back to NYC as soon as possible. A month after I graduated from college, I put on a one-woman show to raise money for the move, packed a U-Haul with my two best friends, and drove to New York City. I’ve never looked back.
When taking on an acting role, how do you prepare?
The first thing I do is read the script several times so that I'm very familiar with the language. Then I memorize. I have learned that I can’t do much else until I know the words to the point where I don’t have to think about them at all. It’s different for every part, of course, but once I know the words I can really begin to figure out where in ME this other person lives - what of myself I can bring to the part, and then what other things I can layer in to make the character full and deep and interesting. Sometimes it feels very natural and easy, but other times, it takes more thought and research.
What is your dream role?
I have so many dream roles!
- A spy/detective/bad*ss a la Clare Danes in Homeland
- The protagonist in a rom-com/buddy film a la Drew Barrymore or Sandra Bullock
- Something set in the 1960s. Anything. I have such an affinity for that decade and am dying to do a period piece where I can live out my 1960s dream life.
“Be curious. Be open and willing to put yourself out there. Take a class and keep improving on your craft, you can always learn more and get better."
How did The Make It Fair Project come about?
My pal Patricia Noonan approached me after the Oscars that year. She’d been taken aback by how male-dominated the awards were and did some research on the statistics surrounding gender equality in the entertainment business. It was pretty shocking - men certainly dominate the numbers and it takes effort and awareness to shift those tides. She wanted to create something that brought awareness to the issue, and I had the idea of writing an original song/piece that was both funny and informative. We put some feelers out and this incredible group of women came to us out of the woodwork. Everyone stepped up, took on different jobs, and then worked really hard to make it happen. It was the most efficiently run set I’ve ever been on because of how well our team worked together: Adrienne Campbell Holt, Crystal Arnette, Zoe Sarnak, Emily Tarver, and Erica Rotstein - each one of them a MISSBISH.
What is your mission with Make It Fair?
#Makeitfair is a call for gender equality in the stories we tell, the wages we earn, and the future we shape. The goal is vast and so, as artists, we decided to do what we do best: create. Our video involves a cast and crew of more than 70 women, underscoring the wealth of female talent that often goes untapped. As we move forward, we will continue to raise awareness, ask tough questions, celebrate female talent, connect female artists to opportunities, laugh, create, and broaden the scope of the stories being told. We encourage you to use the hashtag #makeitfair to ask questions and spark conversations within your network.
What are some of your favorite things to do on a day off?
I am addicted to the sunshine and the ocean so if it’s beach weather, that’s probably where you’ll find me. I spend a lot of my free time writing, and watching TV and movies - I find that when inspiration isn’t striking, the best thing to do is to absorb other art that I love. I’ve also been learning the Mandolin. My husband and I write and sing together - I can’t seem to stop starting new bands - so I’m constantly trying to up my music game.
What advice do you have for aspiring actresses?
Make your own work. Create something every day. Don’t expect people to give you opportunities and find satisfaction in the things you can give to and create for yourself. These days, you can film a movie on your iPhone, so do it. Be curious. Be open and willing to put yourself out there. Take a class and keep improving on your craft, you can always learn more and get better.
When you are lucky enough to get a job, show up on time, memorize your lines, listen well, and be pleasant to work with. That stuff matters and goes a long way.
What can we expect from you in the near future?
Big things, I hope! I’ve been writing a musical for the past five years and it’s finally nearing completion. It’s a hilarious comedy about 6 friends who go camping in the woods and everyone dies. Hopefully, you will see that on a stage sometime very soon. I’m also writing two TV pilots and developing some films. I have been very lucky to find some fantastic collaborators, and somehow have several pots simmering on the stove. Something’s gonna boil soon, we’ll see which one's first.
What does MISSBISH mean to you?
MISSBISH to me is the fierce warrior goddess inside. A woman who inspires others and takes the wheel of her own life. Someone who supports, loves, and fuels herself and others. A MISSBISH is a super-duper BAD*SS LADY.
Who is your MISSBISH and why?
I have to declare a four-way tie between my sisters: Audra, Noelle, Grace, and Ameara. They inspire me every day. They are my family and my tribe. They work hard, play hard, dream big, and each one is a kind, loving, and supportive human in their own totally unique way. Oh, and our mama, Maureen. The Queen MISSBISH who brought all five of us into this world and shaped us into who we are.