Exclusive Interview: Lance E. Nichols On What Treme Means To New Orleans

Treme is rewarding fans with intense drama this season, and TV Equals was glad to get the chance to have a conversation with series cast member Lance E. Nichols about the show. During the interview, we learned more about what the role of Larry Williams means to Nichols, ironic twists that pepper his role and acting career and what the show means to the city of New Orleans. Treme airs on HBO Sundays at 10/9c.

What’s it like to have Treme picked up for a fourth and final season?

Lance E. Nichols: You know, it’s bittersweet. I’m very happy that we did a fourth season, but we didn’t get a full season, we got half of a season. So, we [come] back for five episodes, but I have confidence in the writers and the producers that they will be able to wrap up all the storylines…but I am happy that we did come back because it was kind of touch-and-go there for a second.

During this third season, what do you think of the fan feedback so far?

Lance E. Nichols: Well, I read a lot of the blogs. I read the HBO blogs and I also read the Nola.com blogs, and everybody’s saying that by far, this season is the best season of the series and they really wish we had two more so we could tell the story out completely like it needs to be told. I think this season is the best season of the three, too. There are very interesting things happening in each of the storylines and a lot of drama coming into a lot of the storylines now.

One thing that I read on the blogs is that this role, playing Larry Williams, is almost close to real life because LaDonna [Khandi Alexander] is a lot like your real wife. Because of that, how do you see the role?

Lance E. Nichols: Well, the parallels [are] that my wife was actually born and partially raised in Treme, in the sixth ward. The irony is not lost on me that I’m on a show named Treme, that not only takes place in the same town I was born, but actually the show has the name of the place in which my wife was partially raised in, so the irony’s not lost on me. In terms of some of the characteristics [of LaDonna]–she’s very, very strong willed, very opinionated, she has a heart of gold but don’t take no you-know-what off of anybody–that is my wife to a T. So I jokingly say that I’ve had 32 years of practice in preparing for this role, which is why…It almost just feels like I’m being paid to just live my life out (laughs). It’s really kind of funny, but I love it, because the chemistry between Khandi Alexander and I…is amazing, and it’s been that way since day one without any rehearsal. Basically, they put us together and said, ‘You guys are married, you’re in a relationship, make it work.’ And you can do that when you have people who are very, very committed to their craft.

When I found out your show-wife’s name as LaDonna, I was like, ‘That’s kind of interesting,’ because that’s my middle name.

Lance E. Nichols: Wow! Well, let me see what else is kind of ironic–when Khandi was on NewsRadio…and I was living in LA at the time, I got a part on NewsRadio, and the scene was with her. So we fast forward to two-and-a half years ago when we’re starting the first season of Treme and the first day on set and Khandi comes up to me and introduces her self to me and I said, ‘We’ve worked together,’ and she said, ‘On what?’ And I told her, and I told her what the scene was, she immediately remembered it. So it’s almost like we’ve come full circle after having worked together 15 years ago. She’s an absolute treat to work with. Absolute treat. Just always–there’s never a false moment with her, and I know that when I come, I better bring my A game because if I don’t, I’ll be embarrassed.

Lance Nichols

That’s really cool. So, how do think New Orleans has accepted the show?

Lance E. Nichols: Well, I think for the most part, people love the show. There are some people that say they…it’s not their story, but there are numerous stories here. The Katrina story is just not one person’s story, it’s not one community’s story. A lot of communities were affected by Katrina. So the thing I like about the show is that it takes a little bit of everybody and tries to tell their story.

You know, I think what a lot of people don’t understand is that we’ve kind of gotten over the physical scars of Katrina, [like] rebuilding, though there’s a lot of neighborhoods that still have abandoned homes. But it’s going to take years to get over the psychological and emotional scars of Katrina. And, of course, you know how it is in the media–Katrina is old news. Let’s move on to other things. But to the people here, Katrina is still very, very real. And every year in August, we’re reminded of that. We were reminded of that just a couple of months ago, when Isaac came in almost to the day when Katrina hit. So Katrina will never be old news for us here as residents in southeastern Louisiana. It will always be relevant to us.

I think this show has done a very, very good job of…encompassing the spirit of the city, of it’s people, and I have to take my hats off to David Simon, Eric Overmyer, Nina [Kostroff]-Noble–the executive producers of the show–because they cared enough to come here and talk to people and ask them about their story and ask them about the culture and come and experience the culture, the music, the food. In my personal opinion, this is the first and only show that got it right.

If you could guest star on any other television show, which one would it be?

Lance E. Nichols: Without a doubt, it would be Breaking Bad. I love that show. Bryan Cranston is just a brilliant, genius actor…I’m going to go ahead and put that out there–that’s the show I would absolutely love to be on.

(Photo Credit: Jackson Beal)