So there I was, calmly sitting at Cape House in Brooklyn with a friend, watching the Warriors put a beating on the Rockets, commercials start to play during a time out, and suddenly I’m watching Nico Hiraga do the Roger Rabbit across the screen. It was an ad for a new movie called Booksmart—I had no idea, I don’t often watch TV or follow movie releases. I immediately shot Nico a text, “Dude, are you in some new movie called Booksmart?!” “Yessir!” Came the reply. Well, I wanted more info, another IC skater is hitting the big time. I ran into Nico in Hawaii randomly last January (he was visiting his girlfriend out there), I’ve heard that his Lakai colorways always sell out (his new Cherry Blossom shoe just dropped), and now he’s in a full-blown A-list Hollywood movie. Read our conversation below, or if you’re stuck in traffic or sitting on a train, we’ve included a Soundcloud file.—Blair Alley
Photos courtesy of Nico and Booksmart
You’re in a major movie dude, I didn’t hear anything about this until I saw the trailer on TV during the NBA playoffs! I see a movie trailer and you’re dancing across the screen. I texted you like, what’s going on dude?
That’s a trip. I had a couple people hit me up about that. Like, “I’m watching the playoffs right now, what the fuck, you’re in a movie dude?”
Well plus that’s insane commercial time, during the NBA playoffs. So the movie’s gotta be big time. It’s got a huge budget obviously.
Yeah, Olivia Wilde directed it.
Yeah, what’s her work history? I’ve heard the name but I’m not a movie buff.
She’s a big time actress. She’s in that movie TRON, did that movie Alpha Dog, so many hits, she’s just a beast actor. And she’s married to that dude Jason Sudeikis.
Oh, I was gonna ask you if you got to hang with him. That dude’s hilarious.
Yeah, he plays the principal in the movie. Olivia directed it, it’s her debut. My manager hit me up, and…
Yeah, my manager hit me up…
What’s this, you got a Hollywood manager?
Yeah, my boy Austin, he manages me from One Entertainment. He sends me auditions and stuff.
How long have you had a manager?
I’ve had a manager for about a year and a half now.
How did you get a manager?
My godfather Russell used to be in the industry and had a couple connects, and he set up the meetings with me and all these managers that worked at One Entertainment. They picked which ones I vibed with the most and my boy Austin turned out to be my manager. He holds me down, he looks over contracts before I sign them, you know, all that. If anyone hits me up to shoot, or any new sponsors or anything, I send them to Austin. He does some skating stuff too, he helped me look over my Lakai contract.
So did you have acting experience? Or was the movie looking for a skater who could act, or an actor who could skate?
I’ve done a bunch of short films with Mikey (Alfred) actually.
Oh yeah, Summer of 2017.
Yeah, and Mikey was actually a big deal in helping me get that role because he’s good friends with the casting director Allison Jones. I had a callback and she had me go into a room with her and Olivia. Allison hit up Mikey, like who should we get for this role? Mikey was like, Nico, 100-percent. I’m grateful he did that for sure.
Illegal Civ is getting you guys Hollywood roles, that’s crazy.
There’re a couple clips in the movie where I skate, and I’ve got that pink IC board, and I’m just flashing it.
That’s so sick. So Beanie Feldstein is one of the main characters?
Yeah Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever, they are both angels dude, and they’re fucking hilarious in the movie.
I was watching the trailer today, because I didn’t know anything about it, and I know Beanie is Jonah Hill’s sister, and the trailer has skating in it and it reminded me of Superbad. So I’m connecting the dots, is all of that related?
I’ve been doing a lot of press interviews and a lot of people do think it’s like a female version of Superbad. I kind of thought that at first, but it has a lot more specialties to it. It has a lot of woman empowerment to it, it’s real dope seeing all these female figures onscreen killing it. Olivia’s inspirations were all the movies she grew up on: The Breakfast Club, Clueless, Fast Times at Ridgemont High. She wanted to make another teen banger that when kids watch it, they can relate to it.
And it’s been so long since Superbad, you can do another funny teen/high school movie to a new generation that didn’t see Superbad, or wasn’t the right age for it.
It’s funny you mention Clueless, because in Clueless, the skater is a total dumbass/stoner. I’m wondering if the skaters in Booksmart are the cool kids, like if times have changed.
Yeah, me and the homegirl Victoria, we play the skaters.
Right, I was gonna ask you about her too, she skates for Baker or Deathwish? She’s a legit skater, I’ve seen her skate.
Yeah, she’s rad, she’s a NoHo skatepark local. So we did the movie together and we play the two skaters in it. I think the characters that everyone plays we were able to connect to on a more personal level. I can relate to the dude Tanner I play, he’s like the tie between the jocks and the skaters. He’s kind of an asshole at first, and I’m not like that in real life, but he’s kind of a dick, and he’s kind of fried, but he’s not a super big stoner or anything, but he just likes to party and cause mischief.
Well that’s how it is nowadays, the skaters aren’t the polar opposites from the jocks anymore. Everyone across the spectrum skates.
Everyone wants to skate.
And so you get so many different personalities in skating. It’s not like it used to be where the skaters were mostly the outcasts. But dude, I was cracking up when I saw your name is Tanner, how did you get the whitest name they could come up with?
Well in the audition process, I actually auditioned for the roll of this dude named Jared.
Damn, that’s not much better than Tanner.
He’s like a big nerd.
Ah, you can’t be playing no nerd.
They liked my audition, so they had me do another for the character Nick. Jared didn’t fit, so they flew me down to the office in LA. So I auditioned for Nick, and that was actually in front of Olivia and Allison and I had to take my shirt off during the audtion.
Nick is like the big jock dude. I had to get all brolic.
Do a bunch of push ups before your audition.
Olivia really liked it, but Nick wasn’t perfect either. She gave that role to Mason Gooding who absolutely killed that role. I guess we vibed together, and she gave the roll of Tanner to me, who is Nick’s best friend. Nick, Tanner, and Theo are the trio of dudes, kind of the jocks, misfits, little hoodrat kids.
Sounds like IC. I saw that Will Ferrell is one of the executive producers, did you get to meet him?
Nah, that guy is super incognito. I didn’t meet Will Ferrell, I don’t know if any of the other cast did. I didn’t see him on set or anything. It was definitely a huge honor to have him be one of the producers on it. I definitely wanted to meet him.
What school did you film at?
In the movie, it’s called Crockett High School. But I’m trying to think, I remember being in the school and looking around for famous skate spots. I think it’s like 20 minutes from like Santa Monica. It’s nice, a big ass campus, super rad lockers, like a traditional high school.
It’s funny in LA, there’s so much movie history at a lot of schools that also have skate history. Like oh yeah, Natas skated here and they also filmed Grease here, you know?
Yeah, it’s a trip. It’s really rad to have those two cross paths, skate films and Hollywood films.
Since I got you on the phone, I wanted to ask you about the Lakai Cherry Blossom colorway shoes.
Oooooh, yeah dog!
I’ve always heard that when you get a colorway with Lakai, it always sells really well.
Ah you already shnow what it is! Lakai, those are my people, those are good people. A couple years ago I turned am for them, signed the contract, did the whole shebang. That entailed with me being able to put some of my own ideas in my shoes. Give some of my style to some of the clothes. We put out the Owens, some slip ons. They were lavender and one was baby blue. Those did fire too man. It’s a trip when people skate my shoes. What the hell? I’ll show up to Soma skatepark and see multiple people wearing purples. I’m like wow.
I heard it was a best-seller.
Yeah, it was good, for sure. After that, I was like holy shit, they sold out. I was like, okay, people are really fucking with the vision. I want to really tap into my Japanese heritage. I worked with Aaron Hoover and Craig from Lakai. I wanted to make a cherry blossom shoe. We made it so the branch was squiggling through the Lakai flare. The first samples they sent over the phone, on a group chat, and I was like, “Oh my God!” I like shit my pants. It was so sexy looking. We need to add a Japanese red dot on the back of the shoe, we need to make it sexy on the other side of the shoe too. I’m incredibly stoked on that. A few days ago Craig actually hit me up and told me they sold out. I was like, whoa, that was quick.
The video with you and Ando is hilarious.
Oh dude, oh yeah. My boy Nakota, he’s great at directing. If it’s raining out, we’ll make a skit on Instagram, he always directs them and always comes up with the ideas. So Kota came up with the idea for this shoe, like why don’t we make it look like a Kung Fu scene? At first, I was questionable about it because I didn’t want people to think it was racist or anything. We managed to pull through with that because I’m Japanese, and there’s a white dude there, it might have been a little fucked up. I wanted Kota to be the sensei at first, but he was like, nah we need someone more burly, a little more big, he was like, we need Ando. I was like, copy, aite. I hit up Ando, he was free the day we filmed it and we just knocked it out. It’s in the tea garden in Golden Gate Park. The place closed and 30 minutes after it closed, we found a cutty place to film it in. A park ranger was like, just so you know, we’re shutting this down, but you can have five more minutes. So we knocked out as many shots as we could. A lot of the clips in there are one take, the first shot we got, we were like fuck it.
I was going to say, a lot of Lakai commercials have been directed by Spike Jonze and Feds. Were you feeling any extra pressure filming a Lakai commercial?
I didn’t. Feds and Spike fucking murk it, they destroy it every time. It’s always so good. I think Lakai is known for its advertisement. It didn’t cross my mind at first, I was just like this is another Instagram one-minute video, Kota will direct it. Now it’s like, oh shit, this is one of Lakai’s first ones not directed by Spike or Feds. If I would have thought about that before, I would have been, oh this needs to be top-notch, Ando you need to take acting classes for a week.
It’s better that he didn’t.
Yeah, Ando killed it.
Booksmart comes out May 24. Nico’s Cherry Blossom Lakais are still sold out.