At 57, Nikki Bryce found her calling.
She’s sure of it.
The Port Moody resident has had too many jobs in sales to know it’s not what she wants to do for the rest of her life.
All along, she said, she would have rather pursued a career in the arts.
But she was trying to make ends meet while growing up in Ontario and working in Alberta, often holding up to three jobs.
She found a few creative outlets along the way, helping out with foundations and non-profits groups to spread the word about — and raise funds for — their arts causes.
She described it as like “throwing spaghetti to a wall,” hoping something would stick.
In Calgary, she signed up for the CHEERS Project and learned under Derek Wilken who guided her to be a certified comedy trainer.
Still, much of her career called her to B.C. and, in 2001, she pulled up roots and made Port Moody her home.
Again, Bryce tried to keep her finger in the arts scene.
She took voice classes, co-produced Pride Ball Vancouver, emceed at events, marketed fundraisers and, in 2006-’07, co-ordinated the Port Moody Festival of the Arts.
She also launched Garma Consulting to help clients with public speaking.
But in 2010, she had to put her ambition on hold to care for her mother-in-law, who had dementia.
During her limited downtime — and to clear her mind — Bryce painted with acrylics and watercolours, and became a member of the Port Moody Art Association. She also dabbled in community theatre.
Two years later, after her mother-in-law passed, Bryce felt lost. She took a job selling hot tubs but wanted something more meaningful.
She played Valerie Vickers for the Coquitlam-based Stage 43 Theatrical Society, in its 2013 production of Murder on the Rerun and, a few years later, as Woman 1 in The Women of Lockerbie, for Lock and Key at the Vancouver Fringe Festival.
Around that time, she met a couple in the film and television industry — Taylor Hewstan and Stephen Geaghan — who recommended Bryce hire a casting agent after seeing her talent.
At a Vancouver fundraiser, Bryce also became friendly with Vancouver actor Jay Brazeau who took Bryce under his wing. He suggested she train with top professionals in the field and helped her to make connections.
The first acting gig that her agent, Claire Myers, set Bryce up with was a new stage play by Adelina Suvagau. Box of Freedom, which ended last Sunday at the Vancouver Fringe Festival, won Bryce kudos for her performance of the character Gabriela.
There were sold-out crowds nearly every night of the run, she said, and even the general consul of the Consulate General of Romania came out for the final show.
“I had women come up to me afterward and congratulate me,” Bryce said. “They said I portrayed their culture so well. It was a wonderful feeling and I was truly honoured.”
Now, Bryce has her sights firmly set on film and television work.
Again, she said, she’s getting good feedback judging by what agents and directors are saying: They’re casting her as the tough but kind-hearted grandma.
“I’m working my butt off and studying very hard to be a full-time working, paid actor,” she said. “I’m taking people’s advice and auditioning all the time. I’m 57 and I’m not taking risks but I am being courageous. I’m unwilling to allow less of my life.”
She added: “I feel like my artistic explosion, as my former art teacher Eileen Harder put it, is in full blast. And I feel like I’m really close to breaking through.”