Fans of mysteries set in the modern American high school are pleased to hear about the recent release of the second season of Freeform's popular series Cruel Summer. So is Nile Bullock, the actor who plays the recurring character Jeff from the series.
Nile joined Wealth of Geeks to discuss his blossoming acting career with his roles in Cruel Summer and Disney's recent hit movie Chang Can Dunk. On top of that, Nile is a talented musician and shares details about his newest album that you don't want to miss.
A Budding Passion for Entertainment
Maya Capasso: When did you first discover your passion for performing?
Nile Bullock: My first love for the arts was most definitely dance. Everything revolved around dance for me. I grew up in a family of artists: my mom is a singer-songwriter, and my dad is a jazz bassist. So I was moving my feet ever since I came out of the womb. My parents put me on to Michael Jackson, Prince, and James Brown. So I grew up around a lot of good music and found inspiration in many multi-talented powerhouses. My parents threw me into training for dance. Right away, I realized this was something that I would want to do.
Along that line, I started to pick up singing as well. From there, I grew into acting. Acting wasn't something I felt as a kid. My parents said, “Hey, you should try this out and see how you feel about it.” And I ended up falling in love with it. Dance sparked my love of performing, and then everything else came after.
MC: When did you know you wanted to pursue music and acting professionally?
NB: At one point, my parents threw me into an open call for management with Edge Talent. I ended up getting in, and that's what triggered my step into the acting world. Before that, I had never picked up a script or went on to audition. But the more and more that I did more work, auditioned, and took classes, that's when I realized that this was working and it was something that I wanted to see grow and develop.
With music, It's funny. I dabbled with it over time. Singing was a big part of my life. But I wasn't doing much of my own writing and producing my own music like I am now. It wasn't until the last two or three years that I started embracing music more. I started working with friends I went to school with and researched how to produce my own stuff. Over the years, I developed a love for R&B, rap, and hip hop, pushing me to start experimenting with it. Soon enough, when I wasn't acting, I was working on music. Now it's something that I'm trying to lift off the ground. I'm taking my music just as seriously as acting.
The Big Break
MC: What was your first big acting job, and what was that experience like?
NB: It was my very first guest star role. At the time, that was one of the more meaty roles I had picked up. It was for one episode of Chicago Med, around my senior year of high school. I remember it being like a time when I was trying to figure out, “Okay, what's gonna be my thing?” I had always been super invested in acting, but I felt like it was when I booked that role when I was like, “Okay, now we're starting to get somewhere.”
I had to fly out to Chicago, which was a great experience. That was my first time traveling for TV. It was super dope. There were many people in the cast that I had worked with before, doing readings or smaller productions. It was dope being able to go to another city and see the culture and be in another environment. It was a challenging episode for the role that I had to take on. I appreciated the push to invest more of my time and focus into my craft. Shout out to Chicago Med‘s cast and crew. They're all great people.
Nile's Journey in Chang Can Dunk
MC: How did you learn about Chang Can Dunk, and what was the auditioning process and landing the part like?
NB: I heard about Chang Can Dunk through my management company. They sent me out on an audition. And it's funny, I'm not gonna lie to you, Chang Can Dunk was something that I brushed off at the time. It was a more minor role than I was aiming for at the time. But I hadn't done a lot of films at the time either. I did not think I would get the part, and then it ended up coming through for me.
It's a super dope movie in general. It was super raw, and it opened up a lot of meaningful conversations. It gave a lot of props to the Asian American community. The film did an outstanding job of capturing Asian American culture. It was a super raw film.
It was a funny role for me playing the role of Owen in that film because I played a straight [jerk] in that film [Nile laughs]. Like, my character was a dirty, [disgusting] person. But I like roles with a challenge, so it was fun. I always find it exhilarating when I get to play roles completely different from who I am as an individual. It was my first Disney film. It's funny because growing up, I always thought I would love to do Disney, it was like my muse as a kid. It was great to be a part of that production.
MC: You played Owen, one of Chang's high school bullies. What was it like to portray Owen on screen?
NB: I haven't played a lot of bullies in my life. I have played a handful of delinquent or rough characters. But not people I would necessarily put in the same category as a high school bully. So it was interesting to play with that. Everyone has dealt with bullying in some form, so being able to go back and channel that energy of when I had to deal with people like that in high school helped me grow my craft as an actor.
After they watched the movie, some people hit me up and were like, “Wow, this is different from what I've seen you play in the past.” It shows my versatility. I'm big on versatility in both my acting and music. So it was fun to bring that character to life. I like to play mean characters even though I'm truly not a mean person if you know me. Being able to play with that and put that mask on was fun.
The Rawness of Chang Can Dunk
MC: What was the most exciting thing about being involved in creating Chang Can Dunk?
NB: The overall rawness of the story. When I got to sit down and watch the film, it was not what I expected. It was so freaking raw. I don't watch a lot of Disney films and feel emotional. There's definitely been some childhood films that I've watched that have struck me. But as an adult, there's not always a whole bunch of things that hit me there. But when I watched this movie unfold, I was like, “Wow.”
It has many layers, especially with the character Chang and his relationship with his mother, and trying to prove a point and make a statement. The whole film feels like it's going in one direction, and then it doesn't. It was just super dope to be a part of that and work with all of the great actors and actresses on the project. Chang Can Dunk was also my very first big movie in general. So it was a blessing to be a part of that experience.
What is Cruel Summer All About?
MC: Season 2 of your newest TV series Cruel Summer premiered on June 5. What is the premise of the show?
NB: For those who have seen Cruel Summer Season 1, the second season follows a similar format. It's one of the coolest series I've ever watched or been a part of. I don't want to give too much away, but it follows the friendship of two girls who go through many trials and tribulations. There's a mystery going on; friendships are being ruined, secrets are kept, and love triangles form.
Season 1 has similar grim themes like kidnapping and family secrets. It's about two girls with a huge secret and how they're going to cover up whatever that secret is. I encourage a lot of people to tune in. Cruel Summer is one of my favorite series that I've binged. I don't binge-watch many shows because I have a lot of extracurricular stuff going on. We see many new faces in Season 2—actors who are powerhouses.
MC: Where does your character Jeff the filmmaker come into play?
NB: Jeff is such a mysterious and unique character. Being able to play Jeff was such a blessing because I saw so much relativity in Jeff in the character that made so much sense with what I was dealing with in my life. Jeff is a complete film geek. He always has his camera on him. He's taping everything that's going on in the friend group, every event, every party, every moment. His camera is constantly rolling. And he has huge aspirations to be a director, so that's something you will see in the show. He's the shy one in the group, but he's supportive and invested in everything that's going on.
That's one thing I liked about him and where I connected to his character. I'm super open, but I can also be a big introvert. Similarly, Jeff has a lot of layers and complex emotions that you see him go through during the show that shapes him as a character. This is the longest-running role I've had on a show so far. It was great to have time to build those layers between each episode.
The show was being written as we were recording, so it was super cool to go back and rework something and play with the character over time. Jeff is a fun character for me to play, and many people will find him relatable.
Drama and Intrigue in Cruel Summer's Newest Season
MC: What do you hope viewers of Cruel Summer will take away from watching Season 2?
NB: Season 1 raised so much awareness on so many different topics. It talks about kidnapping and what it's like to grow up in certain households where parents are present or aren't present in the lives of teenagers. It talks about the LGBTQ community too. Season two also contains similar themes that can help people learn something new about the world.
Cruel Summer is educational on a lot of different topics and is super relevant to the times that we're in right now, especially with the things that kids are dealing with online, in school, and within the household. It's grim at times, but I love that drama and suspense, so I hope people will walk away with a sense of awareness. You have to tune in and watch because it will be a banger of a show.
Nile’s Musical Inspiration
MC: On top of your impressive acting career, you're also a successful musician. What is the inspiration behind your music?
NB: My biggest inspirations artist-wise from my childhood were Michael Jackson, Prince, and James Brown. In my household, I didn't come up around as much rap and and new age melodic rap. That was more something that I had to go out and discover myself. So when I got into high school, my inspirations became Kendrick Lamar, XXXTentation, Juice WRLD, Chance the Rapper, SZA, Zendaya Coleman, and so many other artists.
When I started to get in and around my friends who made music, they saw me singing and dancing and were like, “Bro, why not record something? Just try it.” So when the pandemic went down, and I had more free time, I was like, “We ain't gonna be sitting around. We're gonna be in the studio.” So I started getting into production and beat-making and watching more artists perform at concerts.
MC: I know you've worked with some big names in the music business, like Bianca Bonnie, LORDE, and Kanye West. Can you tell me any incredible stories about your experiences working with them?
NB: Kanye has to be the craziest one. [Nile laughs]. First of all, I respect Kanye… I can say that respectfully. That whole day was insane. I was doing backup vocals for him on a show. It was super last minute when I got the call to do it. It was insane meeting Kanye! He was super calm and chilled for the most part. Seeing him was like, “Whoa,” you know?
He was all about getting that performance out; it was one of the most fun experiences for me performing on stage. That was the first time I could say I worked with a bigger name in music and going forward, I would love to get in the studio with Kanye.
Working with LORDE was also insane. LORDE is such a kind, beautiful soul. She was involved in the performance and ensured that everybody was doing their part. She was super sweet.
Keep an Eye Out for NBTalented's Upcoming Album
MC: You released your debut album, 333, in 2021, and your next album Cyclone is slated to come out sometime this year. Can you tell me a bit about your new album and how it1's similar/different to your upcoming release?
NB: My last album, 333 was my first approach to finding my sound and experimenting with a whole different genre of music. This next album will reflect that same thing, but it's coming a hundred times harder than the last project. I've had time to explore the depths of my artistry.
One thing with me in music is it's tough for me to stick to one sound. I love a lot of different genres. I love hip hop, I love melodic rap, I love R&B, and I love alternative rock. That's something you'll see blended in more with this next project, which is super cool. Shout out to my boy Ryan Matthews Productions. He's the engineer who produced pretty much the whole project and my last album too. It's going to be something special. It's got a lot of hype. It's got a lot of chill stuff on there. It has music for every different emotion. That's what I want to explore going forward. Be on the lookout for it. It's coming soon.
Following the Path Art Takes Him
MC: Do you have any dreams, plans, or goals for the future that you'd like to share with our readers?
NB: I want to continue to inspire and educate people through my art in general, no matter what avenue of art that is. I would love to see music pick off the ground for me. I want to develop more listeners. I would love to go on tour one day. I could sit here and talk about what I see myself doing in the future, but you never know what will pick up first. You never know who's watching. So I want to continue to grow in my artistry and be able to just give back to the world with it. I want to make my mark on the planet. You will definitely see a lot more of Nile Bullock, aka NBTalented, on your big screen and in your playlists.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.