Rising Star Eden Nathenson Of ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ On The Five Things You…

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Rising Star Eden Nathenson Of ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ On The Five Things You Need To Shine In The Entertainment Industry

Credit: Faye Thomas

Consistency is key. You’ve just got to keep on trying. Keep on plodding on. We talked about rejection before. I remember, there was a time that I felt a bit down about the decision I made. All my friends had gone off to university and lots of them were going to med school and they had their very specific path. “I’m going to do four years, move on, blah, blah, blah, and become a doctor” and that was fantastic for them- but taking the more arty route is scary because there aren’t any guarantees. There is not a step by step that works for everyone. So, I remember feeling a bit afraid, then just thinking to myself “People are all on different journeys and it’s a different time for everyone. All I need to do is work hard and keep my head in the game.

I had the pleasure to interview Eden Nathenson. Eden was born in London, England and grew up between the UK and the USA. She began her acting career at the age of 8. Apart from her work in Disney/Marvel’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Eden has worked in both short and feature films, television, and at London’s Royal Court Theatre.

Good morning, Eden. Thank you so much for joining us. Our readers would love to get to know a bit about your background. Can you share your origin story with us? Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Yeah, for sure. So, I grew up in North London with my mom- I would see my dad on the weekend- but within that, my stepdad was living out in Tulsa, Oklahoma. So, I would spend a lot of time in the US as well as in the UK. I feel like I’m sort of the definition of transatlantic, because I would go out there, get an American accent and come home. My English friends wouldn’t understand me going back and forth, back and forth- and also to California because I’ve got a lot of family out there. So, I was very flip floppy in that department and I’ve been doing it ever since I was young. Then in terms of career, I think because my mom is so driven, I’ve always since I was little, been thinking- “What do I want to do? How do I want to make it work?”

I flirted with the idea of being maybe an archeologist, or even a soldier, or lots of bizarre things. I thought, “Oh, you know what- why don’t I just pretend to be all of them?” That was sort of the moment I had the “ding.” Acting is a great idea! I sort of fought with my mom for a bit to try and get the acting to happen, because she knows that it’s a difficult industry. She knows that it can be tough on your self-esteem and I think she just wanted to make sure that I genuinely wanted to do this, rather than doing it because she was in the industry. So, I started working professionally when I was about eight or nine and at that time I also got super-into martial arts, which is the other love of my life. So, I started doing Shaolin Kungfu and then I transitioned to Shotokan traditional karate, which I’ve been doing for a whopping 12 years now. Other than that, it was pretty normal., I went to secondary school in college, which is the English version of high school and graduated. I had some time off to go on set in the middle of that and then a couple of years later, you have me here today.

Amazing. So, you probably have a lot of interesting experiences. Can you share with us, either the most interesting, or one of the most interesting stories that’s happened to you so far in the course of your acting career?

I did a play back when I was 14 at the Royal Court Theater in London and I think just by virtue of the fact that I was quite young- and it was an awkward period in my life anyway- that I got a lot of huge learning experiences from working on that project. Definitely the most interesting one came from that experience. At the end of this play, I would come off stage and would do a monologue to the audience. I saw someone in the audience and I was like “Oh, I feel like I recognize that guy.” It turned out that it was Alan Rickman and he came up to me afterwards and started speaking to me and, I was really nervous but I asked for some advice from him, I think it’s because he had the Harry Potter films going on at that time, so he was working with a lot of child actors. He said, “Eden, make sure that you do something else.” At that time, I didn’t really understand what he was talking about, but now I totally get it. He was referring to making sure that I live a life and have a life so I can bring those genuine experiences to the characters I make. As I get older and more and more driven it is a really good thing for me to remember. I still make sure that I’m doing my martial arts and all my other stuff so I can use what I get from living to make a real-life character. So that was amazing and God rest his soul- he was a fantastic person to meet at that period of time for me.

That’s a great story. It’s been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Do you have a story about a mistake that you made when you were first starting and then the lesson that you learned from that?

Yes. Funnily enough, it was also this same play. As I’ve said, there were lots of learning experiences. What would happen was, all my characters would be on stage for the entirety of the play. I would sort of sit off-side for the times when I didn’t have dialogue and, at one point, I think I sort of overshot my landing towards the wall and just knocked off a lamp- like a real, fully functional lamp into the audience! It broke, luckily not on anyone just on the floor. For a split second, it was really amusing and then I was like “Oh no, I can’t break character. I’ve ruined the play. Everyone’s going to think this is terrible. Because it’s a lamp flying off stage!” I was so in my head about it, that when I got to my next scene, I completely blanked, forgot my lines- which I’d never done before- and had to sort of just make it up as I went along.

But the funny thing from the experience was afterwards. I was really beating myself up about it. I had some friends who had come to see it and they came back afterwards to talk to me. They were like, “That was amazing. You know, it was great! Thank you!” I was like, “But what about the lamp guys?” And they were like, “The lamp wasn’t part of it?” I realized that maybe they were lying. I don’t know. Maybe they hadn’t noticed it at all. So, I learned two big lessons from that. Number one- the show must go on, lamp on the stage or not. Secondly- confidence! Half of it is just blagging it. The first step towards confidence is just believing in yourself. So, from now on I’m a little bit more confident in what I do, even if I make a mistake and knock a lap. It’s all good because half the time people don’t even notice. [Laughs]

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person that you are grateful towards who helped you to achieve the success that you have today? And if you could, share a particular story about that?

Yes. So this one’s probably going to be obvious to you, but it’s my beautiful mother. She’s been a rock in my life, outside of my career and inside it. As I said before, she was very wary of letting me enter the industry because she knows firsthand how difficult it could be. But when she realized how dedicated I was and how much I really loved it, she’s just been so helpful with the support. Also, I learned to act from her. She runs her own acting classes. I would sit through those acting classes since I was little and that’s how I learned to act. So, not only have I got my ability to act, but also she’s helped guide me in my career.

I would say one specific story that’s a little bit embarrassing on my part but I was very little, so it doesn’t really matter. I did this TV show called Combat Kids when I was nine or so- pretty young- and it was the first time I’d properly been on set. I was on set for three months and it was all very exciting. It’s easy to lose your head when you’re a kid and everyone is treating you as the “talent”, and because it was England it was rainy. I had people holding up umbrellas for me quite often, and I remember one time it began to rain. I just turned to my PA and I was like “Could you all hold the umbrella for me?” I saw my mom’s face and she was like, “No, no, no, no, no! Eden, you can hold your own umbrella for yourself!” It seems like a little thing, but that’s just the thing- she helped me keep my head screwed on entirely, and made sure that I was navigating a really tricky industry for a young person, making sure that I’m still treating everyone with kindness, respect, and the understanding that they’re working very hard too. I’ve taken that with me into my adult career as well, and she’s my agent. So, she’s definitely the “momager” but in the best way possible.

So, you’ve been blessed with great success in a career that can be challenging, as you know. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path but are intimidated by the prospect of constant rejection?

Well, I like to take a martial arts mentality into my acting career as well. I am going to miss-quote him but Bruce Lee said something along the lines of “Failure doesn’t really exist. You’re just learning something every time.” Every time you make a mistake, you’re just learning something from it. You’re never failing. So yeah, you do have to get comfortable with the idea of rejection and rejection happens constantly- but rejection doesn’t equal failure! Also, I’ve been doing it for so long, even as a young person, it’s helped me build very good self-esteem. I know that there are so many elements that go towards making film, TV, and casting that a lot of the time it’s not specifically about you as a person. It has nothing to do with you as a person! There are so many other elements. I’ve had experiences where I’ve been “rejected” for one thing, but the casting director remembered me and went, “Oh, this thing is actually great for you.” and got me back in. So, it’s never a failure. It’s never even really rejection. It’s just a “no” and “no” is okay sometimes.

Credit: Morgan White

Okay, so you have a lot of impressive work. Can you share with our reader some of the most interesting, most exciting projects that you’re working on now as well as, what you’re working on or releasing in the near future?

Yeah, so this one’s a little bit tricky because of all the confidentiality. I’ll give you a vague overview, but I’ve been talking to a director about leading in a feature film that I can’t say much about. It’s set in North London which means hometown amazing stuff. So that could be coming your way soon. Also, I’m a big fan of just creating opportunities for myself, as well. So I am always writing my own stuff. I’m currently writing an adaptation and I’m also working with a partner on a more contemporary piece. So, it’s all coming your way, but I can’t say too much about it unfortunately.

As you know, as you know, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is among the most successful franchises in history. So, in your opinion, what is it that really captured people’s attention about the MCU in general- and about the Dr. Strange series in particular?

I just think it’s the way that it completely transports you, to a different land. It really gives you a reason to go to the cinema, a Marvel movie task, because you want to see that spectacle on a big screen. With a long running TV show, you really get into these characters, and when you have the epic moments, they’re truly epic because you know them so well. That’s what the MCU got but just in film format. You just fall in love with all of these characters and then when something big happens, something emotional happens. It’s like 10 times as intense because you’ve just got all of this lore surrounding it. I think the thing about Dr Strange is, it’s a little bit more mystical than the rest of the movies in the MCU, which I think is tremendously exciting.

And also, the vision that we’ve had with Rami and just the creativity you get with a director who has a very specific style. You get some amazing stuff coming out of it. A bit of a darker tone and it just feels like an amazing ride!

Dr. Strange has lots of space because of all the multiverses. There is so much space for so many different stories to be told, and so many different worlds to be lived in. So I think it’s rather spectacular, but maybe I’m a little bit biased.

What lessons do you think our society can take from Dr. Strange in general, and from your character specifically?

I think from Dr. Strange in general, it does end up having the ethos of kindness in the end, because there is a grieving parent in this film, there is lots of grief, and there’s lots of bad stuff that’s happened to some of these characters. It’s just trying to open your eyes and see how different experiences might change the way that your life turns out. Hopping through all of these different multiverses really proves that. It’s the same thing with my character really, because I’m one of the few characters who we don’t get to know super well, who you see in two different universes. So it’s kind of, “Wow, she got to a higher level in this universe than this other one. Why would that happen? Has she started further back in this one? Or maybe she started further forward in the other one.” How does our world shape our experiences? Does looking at people with a lens of kindness and understanding have a massive effect on you? I would say that this is the heart of the film and the heart of my character.

So this is our signature question that we ask in nearly all of our interviews. What are your five things which I wish someone told me when I first started and why? If you can please share a story.

[Laughs] Yes. So, I would say number one has to be- Consistency is key. You’ve just got to keep on trying. Keep on plodding on. We talked about rejection before. I remember, there was a time that I felt a bit down about the decision I made. All my friends had gone off to university and lots of them were going to med school and they had their very specific path. “I’m going to do four years, move on, blah, blah, blah, and become a doctor” and that was fantastic for them- but taking the more arty route is scary because there aren’t any guarantees. There is not a step by step that works for everyone. So, I remember feeling a bit afraid, then just thinking to myself “People are all on different journeys and it’s a different time for everyone. All I need to do is work hard and keep my head in the game. As Alan said, “Live a life.” I hoped that something comes from it, and it has so far. So, consistency is number one.

Number two, similar to the question that we were talking about earlier, is that rejection is such a big thing. Rejection is not failure. I wish I could have drilled that into myself as a 13-year-old kid who was feeling really nervous.

I guess number three is a funny one because I only learned it when I transitioned from being a child actor into being an adult actor. That’s that even though you absolutely love it- it is still work and it can still be quite difficult. Because as a child actor, I had a limited amount of hours on set, I wouldn’t have to do night shoots, and I wouldn’t have to do early mornings. [Laughs]

And then I realized as an adult actor, there are 4:00 AM call times which you can be in for 15 hours, there are a lot of people around you working incredibly hard, and the same thing is expected from you! A lot of people are working very hard to make something happen. So even though you absolutely love it- and I love my job- it is still definitely a job. It would be interesting to see what little Eden would have had to say about that.

Number four definitely comes from, there was a period where I was getting a hell of a lot better. It’s got much better than it was before, but there was a period where I didn’t feel as though I was really seeing myself in media. I was like, “Oh, I kind of just thought that’s the way it is.”

I started to watch things like Fleabag, Phoebe Bridge stuff, and I May Destroy You and I realized there are these amazing British women who are creating these roles for themselves. They haven’t seen themselves. So, they just made something for themselves, which is now the ethos that I try to carry. If I can’t see it, I want to make it. Sometimes it’s hard to jumpstart your own stuff, but just keep on trying.

The fifth one is very important and doesn’t require a huge amount of explanation. It’s just that, I would say to little Eden, “You are enough as is! Of course do work hard, be persistent, train, but you don’t have to pretend to be someone you’re not.” That’s the acting part outside of the acting part. It’s me, just bringing myself as is, is completely fine, it’s enough and it’s valued. I would have liked that someone told me that when I was 14, but I’m really glad that I’ve figured it out now.

Beautiful, fantastic. Can you share with our readers any self-care routines or practices that you do to care for your body, mind, or heart to allow them to thrive?

Oh, well there’s a lot of that. Firstly, I practice martial arts daily. That’s my form of meditation. I wish I could just sit there and meditate, but it’s not for me. I have recently been diagnosed with ADHD and it’s not particularly difficult for me to sit, but it’s particularly difficult for me to sit still. So, doing that every day, having an everyday practice for my body, mind, and soul is a big thing and I will always do that no matter what. The other big daily thing is my skin care routine. It also feels like a meditation moment for me. I do it every morning. I do it every evening- and it’s a moment where I look at myself in the mirror and I’m just like, “You’re good pal” [Laugh]

Even just massaging the face, relaxing and just trying to take in everything that I felt from the day at the end of the day- and in the morning to prepare myself for the day, remembering who I am and what I’m doing.

That one’s really important for me and both of those things I do are daily. Daily practice is pretty important for me because I can be a bit, “Ooh, what’s this? I am going to drop everything and explore it,” all the time! So, it’s nice to keep something. The martial arts and the karate have really kept my head screwed on in times where I’ve found life very, very difficult. The principles and aspects that I’ve learned from karate have really helped me going forward in terms of my confidence, self-discipline, and the physical stuff, helps my coordination and my strength. I always feel strong physically, which helps me feel strong mentally.

Okay. This is our final meaty question. So, Eden because of the role you play and your, and your accomplishments, you are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? Because you never know what your idea can inspire.

Ooh, there are a lot of movements! I think for me- I care about people a lot. So, it would have to be a social movement. I think it would be trying to get all the girls in the world educated. That’s really important to me. Even as someone who decided not to go onto further education, I think it just opens up your options. So much knowledge is power and there are so many places where women still aren’t able to get that education! I think that it should be one of our top priorities- especially for girls because it happens a lot. But everyone should get the chance to have free education and learn about the world, life, and how to talk to one another. I think we all need to learn how to talk to one another because I think that’s the best way that we can move forward. As the world together, a cohesive unit, we need to learn to talk and to listen and that starts with being able to go to school and having those opportunities.

We’re very blessed that prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world that you would love to have a power lunch with and why? Because we can tag them, and let’s see if you two can be connected.

Oh my God, it’s so hard. This is a really difficult one for me to think about. So, I’m going to be cheeky and I’m going to give you a two-part answer. The first person can’t be tagged because they’re no longer with us. The first person, of course, has to be Bruce Lee- Actor, martial arts expert, but, unfortunately, he’s left us. The person who’s still alive — I’ve actually met her once before. I used to do a thing where I worked for the press as a teenager and I interviewed quite a few well-known people. I mentioned her before- it’s Michaela Cole. She’s just so inspirational to me. When I met her, she was just the kindest, nicest person. She shook my hand, she remembered my name. She didn’t have to do that. We were on a, a large red carpet.

She had lots of people to talk to. She’s a fantastic actor. She’s a fantastic writer. I would love nothing more than to work with her or create something with her. I believe that she dropped out of drama school because people there were saying she had to become something that she wasn’t in order to be successful in this industry. She just went, “Nope, not having that. I’m going to, I’m going to make my own stuff.” And it worked so well for her and she has such brilliant messaging in all of her shows as well. They can be light and funny and still have a heart and meaning. I just think she’s a tour de force. I think she’s one of the greatest people working right now- and she’s a British woman, which is cool too. I really aspire to her. So -it’s Michaela Cole, 100% [Laugh]

Amazing. What is the best way our readers can follow your work online?

Well, this is the funny thing. I actually don’t use social media. I do believe it can be used for good, but I had some struggles with it when I was a teenager and I decided to step away. I still have the accounts. I still have an Instagram account, which is ‘nmj4’, which is an odd name as it is the same as my club penguin account when that was around. I am not really trying to be found. I might change my mind on that in the future, but for now I just want you to go and see my stuff, see me as the character, take that home with you, and not find anything else. So not really on it, but maybe in the future. We’ll see.

Eden, thank you so much for this amazing interview. These are really great stories and insights.

Rising Star Eden Nathenson Of ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ On The Five Things You… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.