As a classically trained dancer, vocalist, and actor, NK Gutierrez is truly the epitome of a modern day renaissance woman.
From independent films, to a well-received turn as Joanne in the hit musical RENT, to gracing the pages of Kohls and other catalogues. Gutierrez has dabbled in all facets of entertainment and even had her work showcased on HBO Latino as well as The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Her latest endeavor is a short film that she not only stars in, but also wrote, entitled The Last New Year. The film is currently on a festival run and thus far has screened at such prestigious festivals as the Martha’s Vineyard African-American Film Fest, Cinema On The Bayou Film Fest, and the Charlotte Black Film Fest
N’Digo recently caught up with Gutierrez to talk about career and The Last New Year ahead of its upcoming debut at the 22nd Annual Black Harvest Film Fest.
When you were growing up did you always know you wanted to pursue entertainment?
I did! I wanted to be a singer growing up, never an actress. Though I did participate in Thespian activities throughout Middle School and High School, it wasn’t until toward the end of my college career that I finally started moving confidently into my artistic purpose.
To what do you attribute your ability to dive into so many creative arenas?
I believe it was my mother’s willingness to let me dive head first into anything that intrigued me. I tried every sport (most unsuccessfully), extra-curricular activity, and art program that was within my reach. I grew up in a fiscally strained, single parent family, yet my mother always made a way. And my grandmother, Nanie, always encouraged my creativity through fashion. Since we didn’t have much, the clearance rack was, and still is, my best friend. The confines encouraged my creativity.
What was your first “big time” gig that gave you butterflies?
A modeling gig I did for an Oprah show entitled, “How to look Good Naked”. Just being in that studio was enough to induce tears of joy. That was a GOOD day! Then they interrupted the actual broadcast because there was a campus shooting the day it aired. I never saw myself… Whomp, WHOMP!!!
Tell us about your latest project, your film The Last New Year?
TLNY is a comedic short film about a girl named Alyssa, played by myself, who hasn’t gotten laid or been on a date in nearly 3 years. When Alyssa decides that she must end this drought her bestie, Shayna, played by Adrienne Walker (, who recently became the new ‘Nala’ in The Lion King on Broadway,) helps her to reclaim her inner ‘Peen Queen’.
How long was the process from conception to the final product?
From start to finish, The Last New Year took me three years to get done.
What does it mean to you have a film you conceived entered into the Black Harvest Film Fest?
It’s truly a dream come true. The team that heads up this festival is SO incredible. They are warm, encouraging, and so supportive of my creativity and I feel so blessed that my Chicago premiere is in the MOST incredible venue for film in the city, the Gene Siskel Center!
What’s your dream role and why?
It has always been a dream of mine to have a recurring role on an episodic. I just love the idea of growing with a character over seasons. My favorite thing to do, especially now with the ease of access through streaming like Netflix and Hulu, is to go back and watch the pilot of my favorite shows and see where these characters started versus where they are in the last season. I love seeing actors find their rhythm, and I love being a part of work that stretches you over time, I feel it’s the closest you can get to theatre, my first love, on-camera!
Who are three actors/creative types that have greatly influenced you?
My mentors Morrocco Omari and Adé Akisanya, without both of whom TLNY would not even exist. They have been my guiding forces and biggest fans. And of course Oprah! We all have a million reasons to love Madame O’, but what I appreciate about her the most is her willingness to expose her weaknesses so that her stumbling blocks may serve as another’s step stool. I have learned so much from the mistakes she’s admitted to making over the years, she has been my biggest mentor from afar.
Best advice for those aspiring to be in the entertainment industry?
Work HARD. Run your OWN race. Be FAITHFUL to your vision. Beyoncé wasn’t built in a day!
Name something about yourself people would be surprised to know?
I’ve been a professional makeup artist for over 18 years!
Favorite quote or affirmation?
“Imagine what you would attempt if you knew you could not fail.”
What’s next for NK Gutierrez?
TLNY webseries. People want to see more of Alyssa, and I think they should! I’m also finishing up a script I’ve been working on for over 9 years called Las Palabras. It’s a foreign language feature based loosely on my life and the struggle with my identity as an Afro-Latina in a small Kansas town. And also there’s The Soul Salon! I’m the host of this incredible show that started about 5 years ago as the brain child of my co-Executive Producer, Yowceph Ben Israel. We are a lifestyle and entertainment show that features artists from right here in our backyard who excell in food, art, and music. All the episodes can be found on our YouTube Channel, The Soul Salon TV. Stay tuned for some NEWNESS coming soon.
The Last New Year plays at the 22nd Annual Black Harvest Film Festival as a part of the Shorts Program: Love African-American Style on Friday Aug 19th at 6pm and Saturday Aug 20th at 8:30pm at the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute located at 164 N. State in downtown Chicago. For more information on NK please visit www.nkgutierrez.com and visit www.thelastnewyear.info for the latest and greatest happenings with the film.