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Nicole Paggi: Dream to Reality: ABC’s “Hope & Faith”

Dreams really do come true. It’s proven every Friday night on the hit ABC television comedy, Hope & Faith, when actress Nicole Paggi plays 15 year-old Sydney on the series co-starring Kelly Ripa and Faith Ford. She plays the girl next door that every young woman in America would love to be like. Yet for Nicole Paggi, a stunning beauty in her early 20s, is living the dream she has had since she was a child of being an actress. Austin-native Paggi has studied acting in both Los Angeles and New York and is considered “the girl to watch” in many Hollywood circles. An avid fashion devotee, she was recently spotted at designer Nicole Miller’s spring runway collection and shows her own great style while on camera, too. We caught up with her to talk TV, fashion, and of course, what it’s like to be in front of millions of viewers every week playing a teenager younger than her actual years.

Lance Avery Morgan: You’ve practically won the Hollywood jackpot by landing a role in a TV hit so soon after you’ve started in the business – how does that feel and is it a tough workload for you?

Nicole Paggi: It feels great. The series is such a great stepping stone. I really love all the people I work with on the show. Since we are a weekly show, it is not really a grind – we are in rehearsals for three days and we shoot for the following two days.

LAM: You are working with some pretty popular actresses – Faith Ford and Kelly Ripa. What have you learned while working with them?

NP: They like to have fun at work. The most important thing is that they create such a fun, relaxed working environment. Faith is so skilled and likes to experiment with different approaches to acting. Kelly is one of the nicest people. She had never worked on a half hour sitcom before and she just goes for it every week. There is no diva mentality, thank goodness.

LAM: You’ve worked with Diane Keeton before – what was that like working with such a legend?

NP: It was my first job when I was on a show called Pasadena. Diane directed and did casting for the pilot. When I auditioned for the lead role (which Allison Lohman eventually got), she was giggling during my serious moments and felt I would be perfect for best friend’s role instead. Getting that role was both surreal and perfect – can you imagine? My first day on set of my first job, and I am working with Diane Keeton!

LAM: You’re television character is a teenager and you’re in your early twenties. Is that difficult?

NP: Playing a 15 year-old definitely has its challenges. I have to sort of forget everything I’ve learned over the years and become naïve again – where everything seems new and fresh. For instance, a younger girl’s voice is different. It has high energy and I have to get that back every week for my role.

LAM: Who are some of your favorite Texas celebrity men?

NP: Definitely Tommy Lee Jones – I just love him. He is so talented, funny, relaxed, and confident in his film roles.

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LAM: Speaking of men, are you dating anyone our readers may recognize?

NP: I am. I’m dating Michael Weston, who is an actor that’s appeared in several projects. He’s appeared on Six Feet Under, the Helter Skelter mini-series and the film, Garden State. We met through a fellow actor friend almost two years ago. We’re both actors, so we’re both neurotic!

LAM: Los Angeles has some great fashion – tell me what your “look” is these days.

NP: I like to have fun with fashion. I am very low maintenance. I like to be comfortable, first and foremost. Everyone dresses pretty casually here. I like to pair a casual outfit with some nice heels, and a nice bag. L.A. is definitely more trendy. In Texas, I felt like I had to wear something nice when I went out at night. Here I can be more casual.

LAM: Fashion designer Patricia Field, who handles the wardrobe for Sex and the City is with Hope & Faith. How has that been for you - has she affected your own style on the show, as well as your personal style?

NP: She is so talented. She has such a great eye and she has encouraged me “to free up my style and have no rules.” She creates unexpected, yet beautiful ensembles for my character that I really love. Wardrobe for television is important and the clothes literally transform a character.

LAM: How do you stay balanced – in LA people tend to schedule their lives around yoga appointments – how do you keep it balanced?

NP: I’m not the most consistent – I do things sporadically. I try and do something different every day – like exercise and run.

LAM: Any advice for our aspiring actor readers?

NP: It’s hard for me give advice like that. If you think you that you can do it, then go for it. You have to be passionate and talk to as many people to help you work toward the right direction. Also, take acting classes and jumping into is important.

LAM: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

NP: It would be too not worry so much, to be more relaxed. Stop trying to control is important. So, be relaxed in life, work, and relationships.