Student Blog: Interview with Racks Nieto

“I always wanted to be an actress,” Racks Nieto tells me. She is 6 hours ahead of me. She’s in London and I’m in Costa Rica. But even the Atlantic Ocean cannot come between our friendship. She remembers a documentary she watched recently, because a dancer was asked the same question. “She thought it was a weird question because it was like asking her why she breathes. She does. And I know what she means. I feel the same way about acting. It’s always is part of me. I do.”

I first met Racks six years ago in a school production of In the woods. She was the baker’s wife and I was a last minute addition to the cast, playing the prince’s steward. We were also simultaneously working on another musical, an interschool production of The set, even though we had both graduated from high school a long time ago (“but that’s another story, too bad” as the witch of In the woods would say).

Rack’s acting career began years before. “I was in Jack and the Beanstalk when I was in kindergarten,” she recalls. “I was the duck that laid eggs. Apparently people loved it because every time someone stole one of my eggs, I giggled.”

Student blog: Interview with Racks Nieto - A Costa Rican actress in London
Hanging out with racks after
an audition for a musical.

But performing isn’t her only passion, she’s also one of the most talented dancers I’ve ever met. When Racks was watching Intensify 2, a dance film released on her birthday, she thought, “I wish I could dance like that.” Her mother put her in hip-hop lessons soon after and she found she loved it as much as she loved performing. She was actually the person who encouraged me to start taking hip-hop lessons. We were both going to Place, a dance academy in Costa Rica, and we’d dance the night away and then we’d get pizza and iced tea.

The support of his family has always been essential throughout his journey. His mother even calls herself Racks’ “mom-ager” (because she’s basically his manager and mother). It was actually his “mom-ager” who told him about La Colmena, the musical theater school where I first met Racks. As an actress and dancer, it was only a matter of time before she discovered musical theatre, an artistic expression in which acting and dancing can be combined.

While Racks attended these musical theater classes, she also applied to acting schools overseas, and she eventually chose the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, London. I interviewed her about her study abroad experience.

How was your audition for Royal Central? Have you always wanted to go to this school?

For me, going to university was difficult. I had the drive, passion and support from my parents but we didn’t have the money. At first I was auditioning for schools in the United States and even in Spain, but it was expensive. I remember walking around London but I don’t remember thinking about it at first because I was so into the US and forgot they had the West End and it’s happening so many things.

But I found lots of great schools there and wanted to see them, so I planned a trip to London and visited the ones that caught my eye. I ended up with a selection of four schools that I auditioned for. I could do two per video, but had to make another trip to London to audition for the others.

The moment I walked into Royal Central I felt like I was at my school. I saw myself walking through the halls and knowing that this was where I wanted to learn. I feel like even though I struggled, everything fell into the right place in the end.

Student blog: Interview with Racks Nieto - A Costa Rican actress in London
Racks was at the Royal Central School
production of “The Wolves”
Photo by Patrick Baldwin.

Was it difficult to adapt to London?

Even though I’ve lived in different places, it’s always been with my family. Moving to London was my first time leaving home, country and continent. I checked all the boxes. My father came with me to help me get settled. But the day he left, I knew I was all alone. I never realized how much I loved my country until I moved. I left everything behind but I did what I loved.

One of the things that kept me sane was Andrew. He’s my best friend here in London and it was the first time he left his country, Australia. We were both from the ends of the world and we didn’t have anyone, so we kind of grabbed each other and supported each other. Sometimes we missed home, but it was okay because we had met.

Do you think community is important when creating art?

Yes. It’s such a competitive industry and you need to have friends, a community, your support. You will fight a lot and you need to know that someone has your back. If you don’t have a community, you can create one. But it has to be a symbiotic relationship and help each other. You can’t just leech on someone.

Speaking of andrew, Andrew Garfield is an alumnus of Royal Central. I know you met him in third grade. Tell me a bit about that experience.

The school takes a few successful alumni and they give them this workshop where we can ask them questions about the industry. That’s how I met Andrew Garfield. He’s the nicest guy, so humble and wise. He had good advice for us. He actually talked to us about having our own tribe. Your tribe is made up of the people you choose who you know will help you and tell you things when you need them and will always be there for you. It’s basically like a community.

What was it like being on a show during the pandemic?

I struggled a lot to get to college, then the pandemic hit and we don’t have an audience. I did my third year shows without an audience and without touching people. Fortunately, we made it work. We took a bad situation and turned it into something cool. At least because we were filming it, everyone at home could see it.

Our very first concert took place when the rules were very strict. We couldn’t be close to each other or touch each other. We had to take a COVID test twice a week. We had our own props that only we could touch. You had to be very meticulous about the things you did, but it was also difficult to act wisely. When you play, you have to follow your instincts and what is natural. But here, we had to try to talk to each other without facing each other, and I had to tell another character that I loved them without touching them. On the contrary, it teaches you that you have to be adaptable as an actor.

Which was your favorite show?

It was definitely punk-rock. It was fun and we all thought it was so perfectly cast. We loved working with our director, he made everything so easy and smooth. There’s so much going on and there are so many layers to your character. My character, Cissy, was definitely one of my favorite characters to play. I love playing a mean girl, it’s so much fun.

Student blog: Interview with Racks Nieto - A Costa Rican actress in London
Racks in his school production
of Punk Rock.
Photo by Patrick Baldwin.

Now that you’ve graduated, do you have any plans?

I graduated in December, but I haven’t quite figured it out yet. I have just come out of three intense years of training. I needed to breathe, but now I know what my plan is. At least for now I feel very motivated, which is a good thing, and I want to stick with it. I want to do new portraits and present myself with new material. Once I have all my stuff, I’ll sit down and email the agents like there’s no tomorrow.

I want to find an agent who will help me grow and with whom I will have a good relationship. I really want to audition. If I can’t find anything for myself, I’ll write or create something for myself. I want to dance again, be more active and use all my time to the fullest. When we were talking about Encanto and our friend, Isa, was like “I don’t know how Lin-Manuel Miranda did all of this. How does he find the time?” I think he does, he finds the time to do it. And that’s what I have to do. I’m going to make time to do all these things that I want to do It’s gonna be hard, I know, but when you’re fighting, there’s no easy way.

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