Nick Puga has one of those faces that make you want to smile. Even before you watch any of his guest roles or commercials you know he was put on this earth to entertain people. Nick was also one funny kid growing up. He used his comic gift to win over classmates in school and to amuse his family and friends. Entertaining people came naturally to Nick so there’s no wonder he choose a career in showbiz. NCISLA Magazine had the opportunity to speak with Nick regarding his upcoming guest star role in this week’s episode, Collateral. We found him to be a very engaging guy and a real charmer. Let’s find out more about Nick.
After watching your demo reels, I get the feeling you were a funny kid growing up and perhaps the class clown. Tell us about your background and how you got into the business.
Absolutely correct! I actually won the sixth grade class clown award! Everybody was getting a reward and they were trying to come up with something positive about everyone and the only thing they could come up with me is that I was the class clown. From a very early age around four years old, I wanted to put on shows for my family. I’m Chilean and grew up in Florida and we had a lot of visitors. Our house became like a hotel and part of what became routine is I would perform after dinner while they were eating dessert. I would do shows and imitations of Michael Jackson and Elvis. It was something I just did, I can’t explain it. I was influence by TV and it became a regular thing. I didn’t think it would be a career. But I was a very short kid in grade school and my protection would be to make fun of myself. I could do that better than anyone else around me. So that’s how I started winning friends, and stopped being picked on. It came naturally.
Someone actually convinced me in 10th grade to take drama lessons and that’s how I got serious and started doing plays. Both my parents weren’t too ecstatic about it and although they encouraged my performances after dinner they didn’t know much about the industry. I went on to a prestigious drama school in Miami that was very strict and maybe a little bit too strict because they wouldn’t let me audition for certain projects so I went to Florida International University in Miami.
I worked in Miami and things were going well but there is only a certain level you can reach, and although there are many shows and movies shot in Miami, the producers are not very open to having a local hire being a guest star and I realized the only way to do that was to move to California and become an LA actor which was in 2001. I had to start from scratch all over again and look for multiple jobs that would pay the rent and rebuild my career. You work for free on graduate projects from USC and to build your resume you try to perform wherever you can. The hardest part is doing multiple jobs at the same time, but I learned a lot.
U Tube was a big deal for me…it opened the door. It’s very difficult for actors and comedians to come up with their own material. I had some not great experiences with my content being used by other people. But when U Tube came out I realized I can create what I want and write and produce it and put it online and now I don’t have to worry about it being stolen because it’s all dated by computers and it offered projection. I was able to put it out worldwide and see what kind of responses you can get. The first thing I did was to make a music video…a hip hop, no-holds-bar assault on the epidemic of text messaging (The Sock Puppets). From there we garnered attention from some MTV execs and they invited us to be part of the MTV comedy showcase. Things started to turn for me at that point.
Besides acting, you are a voice over artist, producer, director and writer. Is there one area you enjoy over the others?
I love acting. It’s something I have to do. As far as directing, I think about it but I’m not ready yet at least until I have a lot more acting under my belt and more experience with great directors, like Kate Woods (NCISLA: Personal, Collateral) who is so great on the job. I feel like the more I can experience working with great directors, the more I can learn. That is my goal down the future is to be a director though. I do shorts now but I would like to do a narrative at some point. Voice over work I love too! That is a really fun job. I just did a pilot for Nickelodeon which I’m excited about. It’s called Cabrito and Chewy where I play Cabrito, the little goat.
You have been in some highly visible commercials. I image it can be very lucrative but how creative can you get and do you enjoy working in this area of the business?
I have been very fortunately to work repeatedly with the most talented commercial directors around. Most recently I got to work with Todd Philips on the Super Bowl commercial with Mathew Broderick. We did a spoof of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off for Honda. It’s a lot of fun and I am fortunate that I have worked as consistently as I have been. There are times they let me do my own thing too which is fun.
Tell us about your time spent on the set of NCIS Los Angles. What was the cast and crew like to work with? Did you enjoy the table read?
My character’s name is Dex Stevenson. He’s socially awkward but bright with computers and works more with a CIA agent in a consulting business that he runs. Working with the cast was super exciting. I’m a big fan of Eric Christian Olsen and he’s great with comedy and during the table read he just killed it. So it was a terrific experience to be a part of that because with table reads you always learn something new. Everyone was super nice from the get-go. They are just such a happy group and they bring you into the family immediately. They thank you for being there and the camaraderie is really great. I didn’t get to work with any of them apart from the table read, but I was really glad to be there.
You mentioned Kate Woods, the director for Collateral, what is she like working with?
Kate Woods is super smart and I was blown away by how many different scenes there are going on at one time and I was really impressed how she could just go from one scene to the next. She has a great sense of humor as well as keeping everybody up and working. Everybody on set seemed to just love their job, loved what they do and they just work hard and passionately.
You just finished shooting a major starring role in a feature film entitled After the Wedding. What’s it about and when can we see it on the big screen?
It’s a romantic dramady and independent film written and directed by the super talented Claudia Cifuentes. This is her first feature and my first in a lead role. It takes place six months into marriage and my character is a newlywed and a writer. For his birthday his wife gives him a trip to Miami to go down and try to finish his latest novel because she is really supportive of his career. While he’s down there he becomes emotionally intimate with a sexy bartender and he decides to reevaluate the state of his marriage. We just wrapped principal photography early September and it looks like it will be ready next summer to submit to Sundance and hopefully out the following year.
What’s next for Nick Puga?
I have a few other projects coming up that I can’t talk about just yet but always looking forward to the next job!
It was a pleasure to get to learn more about Nick and we enjoyed his appearance on NCIS Los Angeles! You can follow Nick on his web site: www.nickpuga.com or on Twitter: @nickpuga and Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/itsnickpuga.