Syracuse native Nick Basta’s latest on-screen role is coming at a critical moment in the 2020 election.
Basta appears in new Amazon original movie “The Glorias,” starring Oscar winners Alicia Vikander and Julianne Moore as feminist icon Gloria Steinem, chronicling her life from childhood to a writer, activist and organizer for women’s rights worldwide. Basta plays the New York editor to Vikander’s Steinem early in her journalism career.
“You can’t associate yourself with those crazy women,” he says when she pitches a story on abortion.
“I am one of those crazy women,” she responds.
“The Glorias,” directed by Julie Taymor and also starring Janelle Monae, Bette Midler and Timothy Hutton, was released Sept. 30 on Amazon Prime Video. It’s no coincidence that a politically charged biopic comes less than five weeks before Election Day.
“It was on purpose that they timed it with the election,” Basta said in a phone interview with syracuse.com | The Post-Standard.
Women’s rights are a hot button topic and the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has raised concerns about the future of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark ruling that legalized abortion. President Donald Trump has nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative who has opposed “abortion on demand,” to fill RBG’s seat.
“It really starts with reproductive rights and women being in control of their own bodies and a large part of what Gloria stood for,” Basta said. “It’s not about pro-abortion, it’s about pro-choice.”
Basta has appeared in more than 30 movies and TV shows, including “Law & Order,” “NCIS: New Orleans,” and “True Detective.” His more recent roles are based on real history, including “Turn: Washington’s Spies” and the 2019 Harriet Tubman film “Harriet.”
Basta’s character in “The Glorias” is a composite of several people that Steinem knew early in her life, but is largely based on Clay Felker, who co-founded New York Magazine in 1968.
“I didn’t find that out until after I auditioned,” Basta said.
For an actor, playing a real-life person is just like portraying a fictional character, he said. One thing he really liked about the editor character is how it evolved over time.
“In the beginning he’s sort of a ‘Mad Men’ type who doesn’t really believe in women’s rights,” Basta said, but he eventually becomes one of Steinem’s biggest supporters.
Basta grew up on the East Side of Syracuse, attended Holy Cross School and acted in his first play at Nottingham High School. He graduated with an MFA from American Repertory Theatre at Harvard and has acted professionally for more than 20 years.
Today he works as an actor, writer, director, and a lecturer at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, but he still keeps in touch with his hometown.
“Shout out to Dana Balter,” he said, referring to the Democratic candidate who’s challenging Rep. John Katko, R-Camillus, for the 24th Congressional District. “She’s a super woman.”
Basta’s upcoming roles include the Hallmark Channel holiday movie “USS Christmas,” where he finally plays a nice guy.
“I’ve been playing a lot of villains,” Basta said.
His character is a Christmas-obsessed seaman who helps a Norfolk reporter find love with a naval officer when they discover a mystery in a cruise ship’s archive room. “USS Christmas,” also starring Jen Lilley (“Days of Our Lives”) and Trevor Donovan (“90210”), premieres Nov. 28 on the Hallmark Channel.
Basta is also developing “Perfect: The Yogi Berra Story” with Howard and Karen Baldwin, who produced the Oscar-winning Ray Charles biopic “Ray.”
“I grew up a Yankees fan and there’s never been a movie about Yogi Berra,” Basta said. “Greatest catcher of all time.”
Basta says his dad, who still lives in Syracuse, even “sort of looks like” Berra, who won 10 World Series with the Yankees and was an 18-time MLB All-Star.
Basta adds that writing is a good way for actors to create a job for themselves, though he wouldn’t play Berra. He’d want to play Don Larson, who pitched a perfect game for the Yanks in the 1956 World Series.
“I teach part-time, and I tell students… start writing a soon as you can. It’s the fastest way. If you write your own lines, you’ll get there faster,” Basta said. “Write your own material to get your own story told.”