Like any good Canadian, Nesta Cooper is sorry. Now, the 25-year-old actress doesn’t have anything she should be apologizing about, at least to us, but that isn’t stopping her. Why? Because although we’re on the phone to talk about See, the new Apple TV+ show she’s starring in alongside Jason Momoa and Alfre Woodard, it’s still a little too early to actually talk about the dystopian epic. “I wonder if there’s more I can tell you?” Cooper says, thinking out loud. “I’m probably always saying too much [about it], but I feel like people have been able to figure some stuff out through the trailer anyway.”
See is among the first batch of new shows launching with Apple’s new streaming service on November 1. In it, British Columbia-raised Cooper – who previously was in sci-fi series Travelers – stars as Haniwa, a twin who is born with sight in a world where humans are blind. (Her dad is played by Aquaman star Momoa, nbd.) We caught up with the actor to (sort of) talk about the show and being the OG fangirl.
OKAY, I KNOW THERE’S NOT MUCH, BUT WHAT CAN YOU TEASE ABOUT SEE?
So you already know the show is [set in a world] where everyone is blind, but these twins are born and they can see. I play the girl twin, and she’s kind of the more troubled of the two. She’s not the evil twin, but she is the feistier one. She’s a warrior, she’s defiant, she’s strong and she’s emotional. She’s a lot more like her dad, played by Jason Momoa. She’s got this roughness to her and looks up to him in a lot of ways. It’s definitely the coolest role I’ve ever played.
Actually, one thing I can say is that we shot all over B.C., and the shows off how truly gorgeous Canada is. I basically bragged to everyone, like, “Yeah, this is my home. I don’t know what to tell you.” Every landscape shot will just take your breath away.
THIS IS SUCH A HUGE PROJECT. WHAT WAS FILMING IT LIKE?
I was coming off this Netflix show Travelers, which was a lower budget Canadian TV show, and it was just a completely different experience. I went in trying to have no expectations, but it still threw for a loop. It was so big in every way, and there’s so much thing about with a premise like this. And of course, we wanted to be respectful to the blind community, so there was a lot of collaboration. Shooting in the winter in Canada wasn’t the most pleasant, but it was fun with the ensemble cast. I learned a lot, but especially from Alfre Woodard. She’s such a legend.
WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM HER?
So much. One: always know when it’s appropriate to say sorry. She said that I said sorry too much. And also when in doubt, breathe. She’s so leveled. If I was ever feeling anxious or overwhelmed, I would just look at her and she would put her hand on her belly and be like, “Just breathe.” It helped so much with everything, whether I was doing an emotional scene, or crew members were yelling about something, whatever.
AND WHAT WAS WORKING WITH JASON MOMOA LIKE?
He’s a super fun guy. He was very involved in all our fight scenes, so I learned a lot from observing him in that world. It’s where he feels comfortable and he’s so incredible at it. I loved watching him help choreograph those scenes.
WHEN DID YOU REALIZE YOU WANTED TO BE AN ACTOR?
I was pretty young, like 13. I grew up on Vancouver Island in a town called Courtenay with my mom and two sisters. There was, like, one other Black family in town. My family was super close. We would choreograph dances together, put on little plays for our mom, shoot music videos and pretend we were different characters from different shows. It was a very playful and creative space. I think it was also a little bit of a middle child’s syndrome for me, not getting enough attention. And I was so inspired by actors I loved on TV, so I just wanted to do it. Everything I did from then on was to save up money to go to acting classes. I worked at our local Tim Hortons, which I really loved, and then Ardene.
WHO WERE THOSE ACTORS YOU WERE INSPIRED BY?
Anything and everything. I was really watching a lot of WB/CW shows. One Tree Hill and The O.C. was middle school for me, and then Vampire Diaries and stuff like that during high school. I read a lot of young adult novels. When Twilight came out, I waited at the movie theatre for four hours for the midnight premiere. I did stuff like that. I remember having a vision board, and on it were paparazzi photos of Miley Cyrus walking with her mom, and a photo of Zoe Saldana. I was definitely an OG fangirl. It’s funny because now girls will reach out to me like, “You have no idea how much I love you.” And I’m like, “I do know.” That’s what’s so exciting about this. I could only ever dream that I’d be able to inspire other people the way I felt inspired during my entire childhood.
THAT MUST FEEL SO SURREAL.
It’s a mixture of wondering how could anyone possibly feel this way about me and feeling really cool. I get it because, maybe, I play the character they see themselves in, or the character they want to be like. I feel so close to them because I know that feeling so well. I was on Tumblr, I did all of this, I know the lingo. I’m just so incredibly humbled and happy and excited every time I meet a new fan. It’s still so new. I want to hug every single person that supports me.
Photography, Victoria Stevens; makeup, Emily Cheng; styling, Sarah Toshiko
For the latest in fashion, beauty and culture, sign up to receive ELLE's bi-weekly newsletter