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Right off the bat, Nick Frost undercut any potentially formal tone in his Kapow Comic Convention spotlight panel by answering the first question posed by moderator Chris Tilly with a self-effacing shrug. “When did you first realize you would become an actor?” “Never.” It was a telling remark, and as he detailed how he fell into his career, it was inspiring in a very real and accessible way. Like the vibe one got from Kevin Smith early in his career, there was a sense of kinship between Frost and the audience due to the sense that a scant few years ago, he might’ve been sitting with the fans, watching another actor.
Elaborating on the first question, Frost said, “After the first series of Spaced, I went back to working at a Mexican restaurant because I just didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was very good at doing nothing and found myself in this weird limbo. Simon [Pegg] and a few others knew I was funny, but it was after the second series that I looked within myself and thought of the fantastic opportunity I had been provided.”
Frost’s slightly unhinged but lovable turn on Spaced secured him a spot in the hearts of sci-fi geeks as he made a virtue out of his untrained but natural comedic charms to embody a familiar archetype. If Simon Pegg was the “every-nerd” hero of that sitcom, Frost provided the “every-friend” counterpart, the trigger-happy Chewbacca to a pop culture-obsessed Han Solo wannabe.
“I hate when actors say things like [puts on mock anguish], ‘I’m so shy,’” Frost said. “I wasn’t shy. I just never thought I wanted to do that. There are three scenes in Spaced where you can see me blushing because I’m embarrassed about acting.”
His wry and self-aware banter endeared him to the crowd, not that it took much to winner over attendees. Droves of fans lined up to see Frost, and the auditorium was filled with laughter and a sense of camaraderie a more aloof star might not have engendered.
The story of how he met his most famous co-star is typically mundane yet humorous in its unremarkable reality. Pegg was the boyfriend of a woman Frost knew, and they were introduced at a party where they attempted to outdo each other with impressions. There was a warmth to the tale as he described the meeting in glowing, genuine terms, describing his friend as someone who “is on the joke” or “gets the reference” before adding, “It’s fairly rare to meet someone like that, so if you do, make sure you hang onto them.”
Yet despite their frequent collaborations and pop culture-based friendship, Frost and Pegg differ in many ways. Later when the questions were opened to the audience, someone referred to Pegg’s appearance on Doctor Who, asked whether Frost had plans to follow in his friend’s footsteps. “No,” he replied. “There is something I want to clear up: While we are good friends, we don’t agree on everything. I never really was a fan of Doctor Who. The closest I get to being a fan would be Karen Gillan.”
That simple statement brought up an interesting point: Frost’s Spaced character, Mike Watt, is important to many of the attendees, and considering the trajectory of the actor’s career featured similar roles, fans feel as if they know him. But do they presume they know him more than they actually do? The question cropped up again when a fan asked whether Frost was a fan of Tintin before participating in Steven Spielberg’s take on the boy adventurer. When he replied no, the crowd was genuinely surprised.
Frost is, however, a fan of Spielberg, a subject he likes to talk about at length. The fanboy in him relishing the details of his encounters with the director, the actor was happy to discuss his experience collaborating with the Academy Award winner. “When you’re working with someone like that, you have to try and keep it professional and down the line,” he said. “If you go in all gushing and ‘I loved this or that,’ that creates an awkward dynamic. I mean, I wanted to ask Spielberg, ‘So … what was it like making Close Encounters?'”
It was after the widely popular and well-received Shaun of the Dead that Frost was first noticed by Hollywood elite like zombie maestro George R. Romero and fanboy-turned-cult auteur Quentin Tarantino. Despite his rapid rise to fame, the actor remains aware of the inherent dangers of showbiz. “I think it helped that I got into this business when I was older, so I was content in my ways,” he said. “You meet some lovely people, but you meet a lot of bullshit, too, and I guess that’s just the industry.”
Outside of his work with Pegg and frequent projects with Edgar Wright Joe Cornish, Frost has begun to move into other areas of acting, establishing his own identity. Next up is his role as a dwarf in Snow White and the Huntsman, a job that gave him a practical lesson in movie-making techniques. “There is some special-effects magic a lot of the time, but in other cases I was walking in a ditch while [stars Kristin Stewart and Chris Hemsworth] weren’t,” he said. That incongruous and less-than-glamorous image received a great reaction from the crowd, and Frost himself was noticeably tickled by the notion. “It’s nice to know that filmmaking can sometimes be that easy or rough,” he continued. “You dig a hole, film, and no one gets you out of that hole when the scene is done. It’s just a real job.”
Frost also shared with the audience an early encounter with Philip Seymour Hoffman — PSH or Phil, Frost joked — one that kindled the current friendship between the two. “While filming The Boat That Rocked, we were standing together for a long time, not really saying much, and I wanted to be a bit cheeky with him to, you know, break the ice. So I said, ‘Can I ask you a question?’ He said, ‘Sure.’ ‘Could you shut the fuck up about your Oscar?’ He really laughed at that.”