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Nathalie Boltt, the deliciously evil Penelope Blossom on Riverdale, opens up on life, work and her passions

Nathalie Boltt as Penelope Blossom on Riverdale
Nathalie Boltt as Penelope Blossom on Riverdale. Pic credit: Dean Buscher/The CW

Nathalie Boltt is an exciting actress who utilizes her global travels to influence her characters and her impressive voiceover work. She is delightfully perverted as supervillain Penelope Blossom on The CW’s hit series Riverdale. This character has been listed as “Worst Mother…But the Most Watchable” by Rotten Tomatoes.

Nathalie Boltt originally hails from South Africa where she has a degree in dance and drama. She had the lead role in her native South Africa’s longest running hit drama series, The Need (Isidingo).

Having spent a lot of time in New Zealand, she also appeared in Bloodlines, When We Go To War and 800 Words.

Her world travels and skills as a mimic make her a heavily sought after voiceover actor.

She starred as Trudi Schmeikel in the award-winning BBC series George Gently. She won over a new audience in 2009 when she played Sarah Livingstone on District 9.

In 2016, Nathalie Boltt earned the role of Penelope Blossom on Riverdale and audiences have been obsessed with her ever since.

While this interview took place well before the tragic passing of her friend and colleague Luke Perry on March 4, she expressed her sadness on Twitter.

“Luke made people feel safe and valued and welcome. Luke made us laugh. He certainly made me laugh. He was gracious, kind; a gentleman. But most of all he was a fine, fine father and my friend. Thank you, Luke. We miss you. Stay close.”

She also stars on the YouTube series Origin and has recently appeared with Damon Wayans, Jr. in the CBS comedy series Happy Together and plays Ethan Hawke’s tortured sidekick in the high-octane Netflix action thriller 24 Hours To Live.

Nathalie Boltt is also a writer-director of the art house drama The Silk, comedy Vajazzle and web series Dropped Pie. The latter won her many awards and established her as a filmmaking talent to watch.

Philanthropy is important to Nathalie Boltt as she is an ambassador for Palm Oil Investigations (@POI), an organization dedicated to preserving rainforests for orangutan and other wildlife threatened by the burgeoning palm oil industry.

The charming and versatile Nathalie Boltt spoke with Monsters and Critics about her early life, her training as a dancer, her love of travel, what makes District 9 special, how she joined the Riverdale team, what she likes best about playing the crazy, yet fascinating Penelope Blossom, her thoughts on the #MeToo Movement, what she likes to do for fun and more.

Nathalie Boltt interview
Nathalie Boltt from Riverdale. Pic credit: The CW

Monsters and Critics:  So where are you originally from?

Nathalie Boltt:  I am from South Africa. Believe it or not, from Johannesburg. The murder capital of the world.

M&C:  And where do you live now?

Nathalie Boltt:  I live in Vancouver where we shoot Riverdale.

M&C:  Did you always want to be an actor?

Nathalie Boltt: Yeah. I was always a dancer or I always wanted to be in performance. And then I’ve changed to acting, I guess, in my twenties. Yeah, I always wanted to be on screen or on stage.

M&C:  What kind of dance did you study?

Nathalie Boltt:  Oh, everything. Ballet, tap, jazz, modern, song and dance, musical theater, contemporary, belly dancing, groove, and hip-hop. Everything.

M&C:  Now please tell me a little bit about your childhood and education.

Nathalie Boltt:  So, I grew up in South Africa and went to university there, so I have a degree in drama. Dance and drama. And actually in journalism. So that was my degree. And yeah, the rest of it is kind of world education. I traveled a lot.

M&C:  Where did you go to school?

Nathalie Boltt:  I went to Hyde Park high school in Johannesburg. And before that, I was actually at a German school. My dad was, so he sent me off to a German school. So I’m bilingual. Like a German immersion kind of thing.

M&C:  I usually ask this one more at the end, but you seem to be a world traveler. Where is the place that you’ve not been yet but want to go?

Nathalie Boltt:  I do love the equator. I’m going to get down to Latin America. I’d like to go to Costa Rica, and spend some more time in Mexico. Where else? Yeah, I need to explore America itself more, to be honest. But I’ve just spent time in Bali and Borneo out in Indonesia.

It was an absolutely incredible experience. And I really enjoyed the beauty, but also the people who are incredibly kind and gentle. And I’ll be going back there with my other project which is wildlife conservation.

M&C:  Oh, wonderful. So you also direct and it seems like you’re passionate about wanting more girls to become directors. Could you please tell me about that?

Nathalie Boltt:  We’re at a place now where women are tired of getting sidelined. I’ve been a filmmaker for many, many years and struggled for most of it. I’ve been told no for no good reason when you’re trying to start up a project or get funding.

I think with the #MeToo movement, and also the terrible statistics out there. Something between like 8 and 12 percent of films are directed by women. I mean, just look at the Oscar nominations. Again, no women nominated even though there were amazing films out there like Leave No Trace.

And it’s just not representative of the amazing storytellers in our society. I mean, women are the original storytellers. If you think of any child, the truest success is you started telling him stories from fairy tales and beyond and so it’s not like there’s any shortage.

And we bring often a female perspective. You know we have the female mind it looks at more deeply and being celebrated for its difference and its insightfulness and I think that’s where women really shine.

I think in a lot of the research I sense that women hold themselves back and I think the time has come to stop.

Nathalie Boltt talks about her early career

M&C:  Now, what was your first paid acting role?

Nathalie Boltt: My first professional acting role was in Red Water with Lou Diamond Phillips. I played a bank manager who wouldn’t give him the loan. [laughter] But he was a real sweetheart. He was really encouraging. I was so nervous. It was the first time I had done an American accent on screen as well, so I was all kinds of terrified.

M&C:  Tell me about your role in District 9.

Nathalie Boltt: District 9 was amazing you know. That was shot in South Africa but then it came to Wellington, New Zealand because Peter Jackson was the producer and they did a lot of the motion capture there.

And while they were doing that they basically re-edited the film and changed a lot of the storyline and they came to me and said, “Look, we got a whole new storyline and you’re from South Africa and we like your work, so we need you.”

I just had a baby and I said, “Nah, Nah, this sounds like its some B-grade shlock with something about aliens addicted to cat food. It’s going to be a complete flop.” So I said, “No.”

The first time in my career I said no because I was tired and I had a brand new baby and they came back about three times and I said, “Alright, as long as you make it snappy and hold my child.” [laughter] And the next thing you know it was a massive hit, one of the biggest hits of all the films that I’ve done and I think it’s a wonderful movie.

I still watch it and go that is an exceptional movie.  It is bizarre and so great and you can see I’d just had a baby when you look at it. I was just like a wreck. [laughter]

M&C:  I think you have the new mommy glow and exhaustion probably. [laughter]

Nathalie Boltt:  Yeah, yeah. Complete with a very weird hairstyle and enormous breasts. [laughter]

M&C:  What about Inspector George Gently?

Nathalie Boltt: Oh, George Gently was amazing. So when I traveled around the world I got a great representation in London and then moved to New Zealand and they called me from London and said, “Hey, can you come back? We’ve got this role for you with the amazing Martin Shaw.”

You know he’s like this god in the UK and beyond and they wanted to use my bilingual skills because they were talking about me being a bilingual German-English actress and so I got to actually do both on that.

And George Gently has gone on to win multiple awards and is very, very loved and the funny thing with that was — speaking of babies — I discovered I was pregnant on that show and a lot of time I felt incredibly ill and  we shot a lot of the scenes down at the docks of the Boston Fish. [laughter]

And the scenes were about pulling the corpse out of the water. So yeah, again, not my finest moment. I remember actually being green under the makeup and the props around me. [laughter]

Oh, the glamour.

M&C:  So which languages do you speak?

Nathalie Boltt: I speak English, German, French, a little Afrikaan, and I can do pretty much any accent you throw at me. I’m playing an Asian woman on my current voiceover job. I’ve done regional British accents, Italian, Scottish, Irish.

I do a lot of improv comedy and I use those accents as well. And I played an Australian outback crazy woman on the CBS show, Happy Together, with Damon Wayans Jr., so, yeah, all those accents as well.

M&C:  Now, what kind of voice over work do you do? I didn’t know that you did much of that.

Nathalie Boltt: I do commercials also but my favorite kind of voice over work is characters, so I’ll be getting in games and I play the hardcore South African mercenary, a little bit like some of the characters in District 9.

But my favorite role is DottyWots, which is a baby alien on the show The Wotwots and the Cadets, which is now taking China by storm. It’s the first co-production with China that has been allowed in. I play a little cute, fluffy, squeaky-voiced alien. I talk like this. This is my voice [laughter].

M&C:  Now, you play so many different kinds of characters from different places, how do you practice the accent to get them right?

Nathalie Boltt:  How do I learn the accents?  Yeah. I mean, I’m a very good mimic. I mean, besides the fact that I’ve traveled a lot and picked up a lot of different accents, I’m interested in how people sound. And there’s so much I can learn from the internet.

So I’ll be given an accent and I’ll go and I’ll research it and copy it. And then, it’s a kind of medical process where at some point you go, “Uh-huh, I’ve got it.” And then you can kind of switch into that accent and just do it. I think you have to have an ear for it.

With the American accent — I mean, this is funny because on Riverdale both K.J. and I, we’re from New Zealand at that point, and so you had two Kiwis, because I had taken quite a long time to learn the New Zealand accent, which is a very strange and challenging accent.

You had these two Kiwis both putting on an American accent. At the read-through of the pilot, he came up to me and said, “Oh, yeah, I’m from Aukland, New Zealand.” And I went, “Oh, I’m from Wellington, New Zealand.”

He’s like, “You don’t sound like a Kiwi.” And I said, “You don’t sound like a Kiwi.” [laughter] Yeah, so we do a little bit of extra work, the foreigners. We have to layer it on, do the acting but then do the accent as well.

M&C:  I’ve always found that the foreign actors, non-American actors tend to take acting more as a creative career than a method of gaining fame. 

Nathalie Boltt: I think it’s a huge compliment.  When you’re a foreign actor working in a non-native accent, you really have to think about your role, “Who is this person?”

You don’t really have the upbringing behind it, so you need to do the research and try and understand where the heck your person would come from. I mean, Penelope Blossom, when I worked with Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the showrunner and the director of the pilot, Lee Krieger, they said to me, “You’ve got to watch this Hitchcock film called Rebecca,” and Mrs. Danvers is the person whose character that we would like you to base it on.

And she’s this really weird old maid who was in charge who led the lead characters to commit suicide. So I had a fantastic reference, and I used that to kind of understand where Penelope came from even though I’m not American.

But yes, I mean, to answer your question, I think that some of the greatest actors in the world are American. But I think, often, foreign actors are appreciated for the work they put in to get that far and the risks that we take to come here.

It’s not easy landing in a new country and going like, “Hey, another actor.” [laughter] Because that’s exactly what you need to do.  And so, yeah, we fight for that, and we put in the hard work, and we don’t take no for an answer. And I think when given the opportunity to perform, you go for it. I like to think so anyway.

Nathalie Boltt on Riverdale

M&C:  Tell me about the process of getting the part for the evil and devious Penelope Blossom.

Nathalie Boltt: Well, I actually got it by mistake.  I got the wrong notes and the wrong pages.  I thought I was auditioning for Hermione Lodge. [laughter]

And so I did my audition and they came back and said, “Look, you went for the wrong part but we think you did a really interesting performance. So how about you dye your hair red, wear something different and say these words?” [laughter] And so I did.

They were very, very kind and loved what I did and probably how weird I was. Am – sorry – how weird I am. And then after a recall, they said, “You got the part if you want it.” So it was pretty smooth, to be honest.

I had earlier just arrived in Canada, and so, in a way, it sounds like it was a kind of god from the universe going, “Okay, you’ve taken enough risks, you’ve waited long enough and tried enough. And here’s your cherry,” so to speak. And yes, Cherry Blossom. [laughter].

M&C:  So how did you celebrate getting the part?

Nathalie Boltt:  How did I celebrate getting the part? I think I bought myself a lime green jumpsuit. [laughter] to go with my red hair.

M&C:  That’s one of my favorite questions to ask people because it usually involves a purchase or a boozy night.

Nathalie Boltt:  Yeah, yeah, yeah preferably both [laughter].

M&C:  Now, Penelope, is one of the worst parents on a show where most of these parents really aren’t prizes. What do you love about playing her?

Nathalie Boltt: I like to design myself as not only a twisted parent, but a real weirdo. And so that’s definitely where we’re going. I mean you can — everybody knows I’m possibly the worst mother in a line of very bad mothers and now I am also getting my own storyline which is coming up so we can look forward to that, and it’s even more twisted than you would expect, which I love.

It’s hilarious. And besides that, we already know that Penelope has an obsession with serial killers and likes to play with poison. I mean what more can you ask for? Also, she gets drowned in maple syrup whenever she doesn’t behave which is just the best [laughter].

M&C:  I’m sure that’s fun for you.

Nathalie Boltt:  Oh, it’s so fun. It was kind of cold, it’s weirdly chilling, but very good fun [laughter].

M&C:  Now there are going to some big reveals about her in the next couple of weeks.

Nathalie Boltt:  Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely and we’ve got wonderful scenes with Pete and Penelope with Betty. And I’ve got to say some of the best writing I’ve seen and my favorite scene so far.

I haven’t really had any run-ins with Betty and Betty’s definitely smarter than Penelope. We’re going to see that showdown and then there are also some little tricks that Betty’s not expecting.

So they’ve gone beyond with these next few episodes with Penelope and I think people are going to — the fans are going to love it, going to love to hate her once again.

M&C:  Alright, I look forward to seeing more about it. We’re fans! I should tell you that my former editor-in-chief has an actual crush on Cole Sprouse. We feel like dirty old ladies, but we can’t stop looking.

Nathalie Boltt:  [Laughter] You aren’t alone.  I’ll put it like that.

M&C:   Now what’s your favorite thing about being on Riverdale?

Nathalie Boltt: My favorite thing is that it’s a delicious show to watch. Just like you kind of said, sometimes you kind of go that’s too crazy, but because it’s hard to sort out into that niche of like, it’s a little bit musical, a little bit of drama, a little comedy, a little bit soap opera, and of course it’s based on the comics.

Riverdale gets to do what it wants. I really like that. You can throw a lot of madness into the air and it all looks so cinematic and beautiful that people go with it and they really do go with it.

We’ve got such a massive following it’s quite something. So, I have huge respect for the creators because who knew this show would just take off like this, it’s like nothing else.

So yeah, it’s a blessing being part of this and I look forward to whatever madness they bring to me [laughter].

M&C:  Well I’m also a big fan of one of your new projects, Origin. I’ve spoken with two of your castmates already and I think it’s really good. I hope it gets picked up for another season.

Nathalie Boltt: Yeah, me too. Yeah it’s absolutely stunning, isn’t it? They put so much effort into the post-production and I actually thought it got better and better with each episode. They were really intense performances, right? A really fun cast and I think there’s a lot they can do going forth.

And it’s based on the book, so I think there’s a certain storyline coming. Yeah, I hope my character returns as well because I’ve got that culturing lab box used, once again to manipulate people.

And it’s such a beautiful take on it. So there’s a lot of potential there. I think there’s quite a lot of competition in the online world with all the amazing quality content. So yeah, we’ll see I guess.

M&C:  Is there a role you want to play, but haven’t played yet?

Nathalie Boltt:  Now I wanted some more comedy. I would love to be the kind of crazy Toni Collette can pull off. Because I’ve got that in me, I guarantee you.

You know her scene in Hereditary. I’d like to do sort of a comedy version of Hereditary and pull off the crazy. Yeah, let’s aim for that. A comedic version of Hereditary. With Matt Bolton in the title role.

M&C:  Now tell me a little bit about your directing project that you’ve already done.

Nathalie Boltt:  Yeah so, I had been directing for quite a long time. And I’ve directed everything from RG short films in New Zealand, to crazy comedies like Vagazzle.

I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but it’s outrageous and shocking. And I worked series, and then I worked in movie directing of feature films. Next year, I’m also keen to keep working with the Warner Brothers family and direct that and Riverdale, and Sabrina going forward.

M&C:  Oh that’s exciting. Congratulations.

Nathalie Boltt:  Yeah. Thank you. Yeah, I mean we do what we can in this very interesting competitive world. But I think female directors and the female perspective is actually coming to the fore, and I hope to be one of those directors who shows a unique perspective on not just dramas, but comedies, and action, and horror, and every other genre. Because we certainly take a lot of it, and it’s our time I feel.

Nathalie Boltt talks about her personal life and passions

M&C:  You mentioned that you’re a mom. Is there anything you want to add about your personal life?

Nathalie Boltt: Yeah. I think none of these huge movies that I’ve done would be possible without people to come home to who are loving and supportive.

I’ve got a son called Jupiter. He’s just a little darling. He’s ten years old, and he’s incredibly attached to the lovingly crazy mother he’s got. He moves around the world with me, and he’s got a fantastic sense of humor, which I’d like to take some credit for, but I think he’s developed his own personality [laughter].

And my husband is the introvert to my extrovert, and he’s an incredibly humble and talented VSX specialist. And he does all the cooking, so that’s what keeps me alive because I sure as hell don’t. [laughter]

And sometimes I show him a project or a treatment or something, and he goes, “Oh, no please. That’s just crazy. Please don’t do that.” And then I go, “No, I’m going to do it.” And he goes, “Oh all right. I’ll edit it for you.”

He’s a wonderful editor.  We’ve got a small tight-knit family. The rest of my family lives in Switzerland and South Africa and all over the world. We have a little nuclear family and so far so good.

M&C:  I love that your son’s name is Jupiter. What a great name.

Nathalie Boltt:  Thank you. Yeah, he’s a little rock star.

M&C:  What do you like to do for fun?

Nathalie Boltt:  What don’t I like to do for fun? I like watching women’s wrestling. I like going to hip-hop and groove classes. I love watching talk shows. I’m quite an intellectual when I’m not acting like Penelope.

I’m fascinated by climate change and things that people do to overcome it. I’m fascinated by people who do ultramarathons and overcoming physical limitations. And I love a good dance within a good night club.

What else? I do yoga to keep me sane-ish. And yeah, you know, I’m always open to suggestions. There’s a lot of concerts that go on here and I like a good rock concert, to be honest. A good strong type of good rock concert.

M&C:  What kind of music do you like?

Nathalie Boltt:  I’m quite, quite varied, but if you look at, say, Rainbow Kitten Surprise, I’m into that. I’m into a Canadian band called Mother Mother. I like a bit of rap.

Yeah, I like to know what other people are listening to, and I like to listen to music that could serve some of my films. So I like to listen to the ear of a filmmaker.

M&C:  Is there any charity work that you’d like to mention?

Nathalie Boltt:  Yeah, absolutely. I’m an ambassador for Palm Oil Investigations, and I just went to Borneo to look at the deforestation up there in the indigenous rainforest.

And so I’m using my public profile to shine a light on how, if the palm oil barons are not stopped, we’ll essentially lose the lungs of our planet, which are our rainforests. Well, our forests in general but the rainforests are being essentially mowed down at an unbelievable rate for palm oil.

So I encourage people to always read their ingredients and avoid foods with palm oil in them. Very difficult, but it can be done until we can actually find a way of making palm oil sustainable, and at the moment it isn’t.

Yeah, I do talks at schools. I travel around Canada and the States speaking to schools about preserving rainforests and preserving wildlife. So that is my great passion. I call myself an actorvist — an activist.

Nathalie Boltt interview
Nathalie Boltt doing charity work for Palm Oil Investigations. Pic credit: Nathalie Boltt

M&C:  Actorvist, I like that.

Nathalie Boltt:  Yeah, thanks. And I connect my red hair as Penelope with the red hair of the orangutang, and that is like the poster child of the conservation work that I do because it’s critically endangered.

And so I’m trying to help. I get so much love on my social media, but a lot of them are like, “How can you be so evil on screen and such a decent person in real life?” And I kind of go, “No, well I’m also evil in real life.”

So it’s just who I am. It’s what I’ve always done. I think you’ve got a public profile and you know — you just feel good. Try and open people’s eyes to something that they didn’t know about the world, you know?

M&C:  How do you like your fans to connect with you?

Nathalie Boltt:  Instagram is really good for me. That seems to be how we work, and in the comment section, I always do my best to speak to people and answer their questions and have a bit of a laugh.

M&C:  Now, what’s next for you?

Nathalie Boltt: What’s next? Well, we’ve got the season 3 of Riverdale, and I am looking forward to what the writers come up with for that. And then I may be heading back to Bali and Indonesia to do some more conservation work and shine a light on the mistreatment of wild animals.

Maybe some animal rescue. And then I’ve got my feature film Holy Days coming up, which will be my feature film debut. I’m really looking forward to getting into the advanced development of that.

M&C:  Tell me about Holy Days.

Nathalie Boltt: So my short film is The Silk, which you can actually see at rodrigofilms.com/thesilk. It’s based on New Zealand’s most famous short stories by an iconic writer called Joy Cowley. And she gave me the rights to her very sought-after novel Holy Days which I have adapted for the screen and will direct and will be shot at least partly in New Zealand.

And I’m looking for some really great names to play three elderly nuns and then a little boy. It’s a road trip caper to the top of the highest mountain in New Zealand to find Heaven. Yeah. It’s along the lines of, say, Little Miss Sunshine. That kind of film.

M&C:  Sounds like an interesting project. Good for you. Now, what is something you’d like people to know about you?

Nathalie Boltt: Well, what I’d like people to know about me is that they — especially the fans — whatever they admire about me when they say, “Oh, we’re so amazed by the things you do,” I would like them to know that they can do this too.

I’m very much a person who believes in trying your best, never taking no for an answer, and taking the risks necessary to develop as a human being. And so whatever you think about me and how I have got to where I am, I think absolutely everybody else can, too.

As much as people hate Penelope, I think if they just take a little bit of time to hunt through my Instagram or read up about me, they’ll know that I’m actually quite a loving person and quite a lot of fun. Yeah.

M&C:  Well is there anything else you would like to add?

Nathalie Boltt:  I guess my final line would be a great big thank you to my fans for the thoughtfulness of all their comments and for really sticking with me and being so enthusiastic and humorous and fun-loving with me.

M&C:  And while you play an evil woman on TV, you’re deliciously evil in a wonderful way not on TV.

Nathalie Boltt:  Yes, I’m deliciously evil on Riverdale and I’m pretty evil, but in a loving way, as a mom.

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🙏🏼Luke 💜

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Nathalie Boltt can be seen on Riverdale on Wednesdays at 8 PM on CW and Origin streaming on YouTube.


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