True masters of their craft often get their start in childhood. Such is the case with Marc Anthony Nicolas who, through hard work, perseverance, and an exceptional level of talent, made his dream of working in Hollywood a reality. And he has not only made it happen, he is a roaring success story par excellence.
Often captivated by the process and practice of television and film making as a child, Marc Anthony Nicolas is a pioneer in these fields as an adult and it is all because he identified his passion early and worked towards making it a reality relentlessly. In a discussion wherein he identifies that fear often holds back many people from following their passions, Marc Anthony Nicolas talks about the difficulties inherent in reconciling what you want to become with what is expected of you as an individual in society.
Noting that the hardest part is often taking the first step, implicit in this discussion is that the path of passionate and deliberate choice is always preferable to safety, security, and grinding stability. Spending a considerable amount of time working his way to the top echelon that he now enjoys, Marc Anthony Nicolas is emblematic of the concept of “making one’s own luck” in this world. Undaunted and undeterred, his determination to create the life he wanted. Reflecting on the road that brought him here, Marc Anthony Nicolas helps outline for us what it means to be a Filipino producer, the importance of family, and how remaining grounded throughout it all has helped him harness his talents to optimize and maximize his professional successes. We conclude our discussion with some insights into who Marc Anthony Nicolas is as a person, what inspires him, and what is one thing he would change about the world if he could.
Let’s go back to before you broke into the entertainment industry. Was your dream always to work in entertainment?
My dream was to work in the entertainment industry. When I was 7 years old, I would run home after school and watch television. I didn’t watch it for entertainment purposes. While my neighborhood friends were outside playing hopscotch, jump rope, and basketball… I was glued to the TV screen. I was fascinated by television shows. I was dissecting the lighting, set décor, wardrobe, and dialogue! One day, I asked my mom, “Why are their names at the end of television shows?” My mom explained, “Those are the directors, producers, and all the people that created that show!” I responded, “Mom, just watch! My name will be at the end of shows when I grow up!” Little did I know I was manifesting something so great at the age of 7 years old!
What does it mean to follow your passion? A lot of people saw it, but not a lot of people do it.
A lot of people are afraid of following their passion because they are afraid of failure. Passion is the ultimate form of happiness! For me, my passion is in television, and I can’t picture myself in any other field.
My mom wanted me to become a pharmacist. Like all Filipino and Asian parents, they want their children to have a career in the medical field. In my 20’s, I wanted to please my mom and I was hired as a pharmacy assistant at Kaiser Permanente. I was terrible as a pharmacy assistant (laughs)! I would talk to the sick patients and ask them how they are doing. I would answer the pharmacy landline and listen to their stories over the phone. I always got in trouble for talking a lot (laughs). If there is a chance of any human interaction, you bet, I’ll be asking these strangers questions and listening to their stories. Now, I’ve learned that follow up questions and listening to stories are important traits of a producer.
How did you transition out of the pharmacy?
After working 5 years at the pharmacy, I knew that career wasn’t for me because I was so unhappy. I quit the pharmacy and I got a job at a pizzeria as a server. My life was living off tips and some nights, that didn’t go my way. One night, I had a party of 20 people that I had to serve by myself for 3 hours. We were understaffed and I did my best to take care of them and attend to their needs. I took their order, refilled their drinks, and made sure they were ok. I didn’t add the gratuity on the bill because I gave them excellent service. When I saw the receipt, they left zero tip! I felt worthless! From taking prescriptions to taking food orders, I felt defeated. At that moment, I knew that the restaurant industry wasn’t for me and I had to make a change.
Marc Anthony, did you have any experience in television before sending your resume to production companies? What was your first job in entertainment?
While I was working at the pizzeria, I sent my resume out to major networks, production companies, and television shows but I was always denied because I had no television experience. Looking back, the rejections were redirections. One day, my co-worker (Lindsay) quit the restaurant and I asked her, “Where are you going to work?” She responded, “I got a job as a production coordinator for a reality show.” I said, “That’s amazing! Please think of me if there is ever a PA (production assistant) position job available.” Weeks passed and I got a call from Lindsay and she informed me there was a PA job.
You slept in your car for six months while working as a PA. Do you believe taking risks such as the ones you took prevent people from reaching their dreams?
I interviewed for the job and I was hired at minimum wage as a PA. I worked from 5AM to 5PM. The job was my foot in the door into the entertainment industry but there was a problem, it was approximately 100 miles roundtrip! I was spending the majority of my paycheck on gas. I knew that to save money, I had to sleep in my car. It was hard especially in the winter months, but I knew I had to do it if I wanted to make it in the industry! Take risks in life. Without risks, there will be no outcome.
Marc Anthony, you got your big break in show business while working on MTV.
The reality show ended and I was in need of a job. One of the producers who I worked with saw my potential and asked me if I wanted to work with her as her casting assistant on shows like “NEXT” and “Parental Control” on MTV. I said, “Yes!” With my “gift of gab” (laughs), I went up to people at beaches, parks, clubs, etc. and persuaded them to audition for the shows! I excelled as a casting assistant and quickly got promoted to a casting producer.
How did you get your start with MTV and lead your big break to The Tyra Banks Show?
One day, I was sitting in my office, and I answered the phone and the person on the other end of the line said, “Hello, this is “The Tyra Banks Show” and we’re looking for Marc Anthony Nicolas.” I replied, “This is he.” They said, “Hello, Marc Anthony, the talk show executives would like to meet with you. They heard of your casting and booking skills and would love to set up an interview!”
Long story short, I was hired as a producer on the popular daytime talk show. I moved my life to New York City. I never visited New York in my life so I was a “kid in the candy store.” Everything was new and exciting! At “The Tyra Banks Show,” I learned everything about the talk show world. I learned to produce segments, fashion runways, human interest guests, musical acts and more! I loved every minute of my life! I was in it, to win it!
Marc Anthony, your passion and drive to succeed are the reasons you are now a media mogul. Looking back on the path you traveled, what was the most difficult part of reaching your dream in the entertainment industry?
The most difficult part of my life was losing my mother. While I was working at “The Tyra Banks Show” in New York, my family told me that my mom had stage 4 breast cancer and she was in hospice. Working in the pharmacy, I knew that hospice wasn’t good. My career was taking off, but I knew I had to leave the talk show. Family first! The next day, I packed my bags, shipped my belongings, and moved my life back to Los Angeles to be with my mom. She passed away 2 weeks later. When she died, a part of me died too and I fell into depression for 6 months.
What is a typical day like for you on the set of The Talk as a producer?
I finally got out of depression and got back on my feet. I landed a job on “The Talk” on CBS in Los Angeles and was hired as a producer then got promoted to a senior producer. Now, I’m the supervising producer! I’ve been working on this talk show for 13 seasons and I love working here. We have our production meetings usually at 7am and have stage rehearsals thereafter. From 9am-10am, we brief the hosts on the segments for that day. We adjust the scripts if need be. At 10:35am, we have our pre-show meeting to make sure everything is buttoned up. Then at 11:00am, we go live! Yes, we are a live show so there’s no room for mistakes. Then, I’m back in my office to work on my next segments for the week. It’s a fast-paced job but I love what I do and can’t imagine myself doing anything else. Our talk show is a well-oiled machine and everyone who works here is truly amazing!
As a Filipino-American, is it important to you to be a role model to other individuals from Asian backgrounds?
I’m the first Filipino producer on The Talk on CBS and I’ve been at this daytime talk show for 13 seasons. It’s very important for me to be a positive role model to the Filipino and Asian community. I am here to represent so I must work harder and smarter to get noticed. With that said, I have won 2 Emmys and I’ve been inducted into the “Asian Hall of Fame.” In addition, I was awarded “The Outstanding Filipino American” award at Carnegie Hall and named as the “75 Most Influential Filipino Americans.” These awards are not for me, but they are for the Asian community and every child that has a dream.
As a media mogul, what are your plans for the future? Do you plan to create a new television show or continue to focus on The Talk?
I’ll continue to work on The Talk. One of my dreams is to write a children’s book. It’s been on my vision board! The book would be to inspire and “believe” in yourself. “Believe” was my mom’s favorite word so I want to incorporate that into the book somehow. Being a children’s author is all new to me but like any dream, you need to be uncomfortable to learn and grow.
Marc Anthony, how is a day in your life?
The first thing I do in the morning is to pray and be grateful and thankful for all that I have in my life. I meditate. Then, I drive to work and listen to motivational speeches to help me build a positive mindset for that day. I work for 8 hours. After work, I usually like having dinner with friends or ordering Postmates and watching TV at home.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I love to do karaoke but I’m a terrible singer (laughs)!
Choose one of your favorite quotes and write it here.
“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
If you had the power to change just one thing in the world, what would it be?
Changing the world seems impossible and many people think it’s not possible to achieve. For me, helping others will help heal others. It’s as simple as that! If you see a stranger in need: help them. If you see a coworker struggling at work: help them. Help the elderly. Give whatever you can to the needy. Simple acts of kindness can go a long way. Smile! Be helpful. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed so be present, live in the now, and be that positive change in the world.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Follow me on IG: @marcanthonynicolas