Awkward Phase

Charlotte Nicdao was a weird kid

“I was kind of a weird kid.”

Charlotte Nicdao never planned on being an actor.

The actress, who plays lead engineer Poppy in Apple TV+’s Mythic Quest, once had completely different career aspirations: she wanted to play jazz for a living.

“I was training to be a jazz musician when I was 15. I wanted to be a singer,” Nicdao tells Inverse. “So I was listening to a lot of Ella Fitzgerald. But I was also all about John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Keith Jarrett. Those were like my favorite bands.”

As luck would have it, Nicdao’s creative journey took an unpredicted turn when she discovered she liked performing in front of a camera. And on Mythic Quest (which hails from Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s creative trio Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day, and Megan Ganz), Nicdao isn’t just holding her own — she is absolutely thriving.

“I've always loved this kind of television: this sort of like, cozy-like dysfunctional family-style workplace comedy,” she says. “It’s all really exciting.”

To celebrate the May 7 arrival of Mythic Quest Season 2 on Apple TV+, Inverse spoke with Nicdao to get a better understanding of what makes her tick, her red phase in high school, and “Asking Jeeves” about goo.

Amy Sussman/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

What kind of kid were you?

A precocious one. I think that I wanted to be an adult from about the age of four. By the time I was a teenager, I fully thought that children were ridiculous and that I was far beyond that.

What was your favorite band when you were 15 years old?

I was kind of a weird kid. I was training to be a jazz musician when I was 15. I wanted to be a singer. So I was listening to a lot of Ella Fitzgerald. But I was also all about John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Keith Jarrett. Those were like my favorite bands.

What piece of clothing did you wear too often in high school?

I went through a very embarrassing phase where I tried to tie my entire identity to the color red. And I literally only bought red clothes. And if you look at photos of me in high school, I am always completely dressed in red. It was very strange.

What is your first memory of the internet?

Ask Jeeves? We had a big clunky PC in my house. The thing that I remember asking Jeeves most often was how to make goo. You know, how to make a little potion and put glitter in it, and stuff. I have no idea why. But I would type that into Ask Jeeves and then I would go and make myself a sandwich. And then I would come back and by then the answers would have loaded.

What is the truth about love you believed when you were 15 years old?

I was very pretentious. I didn't really think love existed. Which is different than now. I'm a full-on romantic but I think when I was 15 I was like, “Love? Please.”

What high school teacher did you like the most and why?

I'm trying to think. Look, I actually did have a bunch of high school teachers that were really cool and taught me some cool stuff. I can't think of one particular one because now I'm just thinking about how I was a difficult student and wondering if any of those teachers would think of me as fondly as I think of them.

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What do you consider your first professional big break and why?

It was a show called A gURLs wURLd. As I said, I was pretty tunnel vision, training to be a musician, but my dad does some acting work. And his agent put me forward for auditions every now and then if she didn't have anyone on her books that fit the brief. And so I audition when I was 17 for this show. It was scripted, it was like a kids comedy, I guess. And I got the lead role. I lived in Melbourne, Australia, and the show filmed in Sydney, Singapore, and Hamburg in Germany.

And so for my final year of high school, I did my final year of high school by distance, and I traveled the world and shot this TV show. In my mind, again — I can't stand myself — I thought it was a funny joke. I was like, “How funny is this? I'm on TV now.” And I came back and immediately started to go back to uni to do jazz. And it wasn't until a couple of years later that I was like, wait, actually, maybe I really like acting!

What do you consider to be your first professional failure?

Well, actually, I had gone back to uni. I was still auditioning every now and then. And I auditioned for a show that I thought I was made for: the character was written as Eurasian which, at that point, I never ever, ever saw. And I basically got the role. They were having me do chemistry reads with other actors, and I completely messed it up. They gave it to someone else. I cried for two weeks. And then I was like, wow, I guess I really care about this. And it was kind of the thing that made me decide I should be an actor.

What is your can't-miss prediction for the year 2030? And why?

Oh, we just start going backward in time. Like we hit 2030, and we just go into reverse. And live life backward.

Wait, I thought you said, “miss prediction.” So I was like, what is something that's kind of camp? Like a prediction that would never happen.

Well ... hopefully, we can get out get our stuff together before then.

What do you think your 15-year-old self would say about your latest project?

She'd be like, “Why aren't you a jazz musician?”

No, I actually think that my 15-year-old self would not be able to believe that this is the life I'm living in the job that I get to do, and honestly, the reason that I wanted to be an actor is because I've always loved television. I've always loved this kind of television: this sort of like, cozy-like dysfunctional family-style workplace comedy. It’s all really exciting. And, you know, one of my favorite shows, when I was that age, was Community. And now I get to work with Danny Pudi and Megan Ganz.

I think if you had told me that at 15, I would have probably freaked out.

AWKWARD PHASE is an Inverse series with interesting people talking about the most relatable period in their life. The interview above has been edited for clarity and brevity.

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