Quick Stats: Nicole Forester, Actress on STARZ's "Boss"
Daily Driver: 2009 Chrysler Town & Country (Nicole's rating: 9 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Favorite road trip: Upper Michigan to lower Michigan
Car she learned to drive in: 1988 Dodge Omni
First car bought: 2001 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited
Chrysler runs deep for Emmy-nominated actress Nicole Forester. In fact, the Pentastar is in her blood. Not only was the Michigan native's father was an engineer for the Auburn Hills-based automaker for three decades, her brother Dave Schmidt is currently a chief engineer at the automaker's 1.4-liter engine division.
"I believe in Chrysler. I'm very pro-Michigan," she tells Motor Trend from Ann Arbor, Michigan. "Some of my earliest memories of sitting at that dinner table, really young, before I even knew what words meant, I can remember my dad talking to my oldest brother about the K-car. Chrysler cars have been with me my whole life. It's an understatement to say I grew up in a car town. I grew up in a car family, in a car town, in a car state," she says.
Forester loves her 2009 Chrysler Town & Country. "My daily ride is determined by my daily passengers. Usually I have a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old with me, so nowadays I'm driving the 2009 Chrysler Town & Country and I love it!" she exclaims. "I know a minivan doesn't sound exciting, but I seriously think it's the highest evolution of cars ever achieved. There are automatic doors all around, three TV screens, two DVD players -- my husband jokes the driver's seat alone has 32 cupholders. It's amazing. So when I'm at home, that's my daily ride."
But when she's at work on the Chicago set of the critically acclaimed STARZ series "Boss" with Kelsey Grammer, it's a case of art imitating life because her character, Maggie Zajac, the gubernatorial candidate's wife, drives the same minivan.
"Hers happens to be silver, but I thought that was funny when we shot a scene outside of the Zajac campaign headquarters and the picture car they chose for me coincidentally happens to be a Chrysler Town & Country. I was like, "Right on!" she says.
She gives the Town and Country a strong 9 rating. "The only reason it's not a 10 is it can't fly, it can't be a convertible at the same time, but it's just the perfect daily ride for me," Forester says. "I love that I can be standing in my apartment and use my key fob and start the engine, so when it's blazing hot and a 100-degree day, I get to my car and the air conditioning is already running. It's cool; it's comfortable."
She does the same during cold Midwest winters. "I turn it on from inside my apartment and by the time I get to the car, the heat's on. When you're dealing with a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old, you don't need any more difficulty in getting them into the car, and so to be able to open the doors from my remote fob and have them climb in and not have an additional fight of 'It's too hot!' or 'It's too cold!' They just get in, they're in the lap of luxury, and you hit the DVD players and you're good to go."
She will always have a Chrysler as her daily ride, she says. "I always want to support Chrysler and because I grew up in them, they're intuitive to me. I get behind the wheel of a Chrysler, I know where everything is."
When filming "Boss," Forester drives her husband's 2007 Audi A4 Cabriolet from Michigan to the Chicago set, where the show is shot.
"They very generously offer to fly me and I say, 'No, thank you, I prefer to drive," she says. "I usually drive to Chicago because I so much enjoy being on the road. A road trip for me is just a pleasure to have the time alone in the car to think, watch the scenery go by."
Car she learned to drive in
Born in Ann Arbor, Forester grew up in Livonia, a suburb between Ann Arbor and Detroit.
"I think we were all car obsessed growing up in Michigan and we didn't know it. Everyone I knew worked for one of the Big Three," she says. "My brother has been there 24 years and worked on the 1.4-liter engine for everything from the Dart to the Neon SRT-4, the PT Cruiser, even way back to the Intrepid. My dad started at Ford, worked on gas turbine trucks as a research engineer, and at Chrysler he was a design engineer for gas turbine cars."
Her father retired as an engineering program manager for the minivan. "My uncle, who's also a car enthusiast, has 10 custom hot rods. When I told him I might have the opportunity to talk with you, he said 'Nic, Motor Trend is my favorite out of five car magazines that I subscribe to,'" she says. "He's a car fanatic. He has one-of-a-kind cars, 1930s cars, 1950s cars, a 1966 Corvette coupe in perfect condition. I'm surrounded by car enthusiasts and motorcycle enthusiasts."
Thanks to Chrysler's lease program, the family had two new lease cars each year, so while Forester isn't sure which Chrysler she learned to drive in, she does remember one of her first cars was a gray 1988 Dodge Omni. "When I was 16 I remember my dad was like, 'Nic, we're going to let you and your brother share a lease car to drive to high school. I'll let you pick the color, but here's what you're getting: You're getting an Omni,'" she says, with her infectious laugh that punctuated the interview. "They weren't the coolest cars, but they were reliable. That was my first leased car."
It was nice to have access to Chrysler's latest cars. "I can't even tell you how amazing the Chrysler employee lease program was. We had two new lease cars every year from before I could drive until I couldn't be considered a minor anymore. In that time I drove the Chrysler LeBaron convertible, my first car when I was in Los Angeles. I was 19 years old when I moved to Los Angeles and was a student at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. My dad said, 'I'm not sending my 19-year-old girl to Los Angeles without a totally covered dependable car, and we're sending you with one of the leased cars.'"
She loved the silver 1991 Chrysler LeBaron convertible. "I felt like I was in the lap of luxury," she says. "I remember my Omni was back in the days when there were manual door locks and manual windows. And for me to be a teenager, move to L.A., and being driving an automatic windows, automatic doors, silver Chrysler LeBaron convertible, I was like, 'Whoo! These are sweet wheels.'"
Being from a car family, she also had to learn how to drive a stick shift. "I remember my dad saying I had to learn how to drive a stick because if it wasn't a stick it wasn't a real car. That was the mentality of growing up in the Detroit area," she says.
She also drove a car with a manual transmission when she lived in Los Angeles. "I miss it. I drove it in L.A. as long as I could until there were just too many times when I couldn't get out of first gear going over Laurel Canyon. You're in that stop-and-go traffic and I couldn't get into second gear because you're just going up that hill and it stopped all the time. And I thought, my legs could really use a break. And I'd like to have a hand free to take a sip of my drink," she says. "I'd have a water bottle there and I couldn't have a hand free because I'm trying to get into second gear going uphill on Laurel Canyon."
First car bought
"I had wanted it for so many years. I was in love with this car -- the first car I ever bought new was a black Jeep Grand Cherokee," Forester says. "I loved that car so much. My dad was like, 'Nic, it's not practical to have a black car. It shows the dirt,' and I said, 'I've always wanted a black Jeep Cherokee with black interior. I don't care if it's going to get hot because it's L.A. I want it.'"
She never regretted that purchase. "I loved everything about that car and I had it until we had kids and decided to move into the minivan. But I just love the Jeep Grand Cherokee. It's still my favorite Chrysler car today," Forester says.
She bought the 2001 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited in Santa Monica and she was thoughtful about her big purchase. "I thought I should be somewhat frugal -- I'll just go with the rear-wheel drive, I don't need four-wheel drive. My commutes into auditions and to set are 20 mile, flat terrain trips and I really don't need to spend the money and it's really not good for environment to get a four-wheel drive. That's the practical upbringing in me."
So when she moved to New York City to work on the soap opera "Guiding Light," she shipped the Jeep to drive it around the Big Apple. "Suddenly I was dealing with winter traffic and the rear-wheel drive wasn't ideal for that," she says. "I was wishing I had gotten the four-wheel drive."
Favorite road trip
Forester's favorite road trip is one she drives often, to and from the family's summer cottage in upper Michigan on I-75. "I borrowed my brother's Crossfire a few summers ago and drove from upper to lower Michigan one summer and that was beautiful and fast," she says. "I had to watch myself so I wouldn't speed. I make the drive up 75 quite frequently, almost every weekend in the summer, to get up there to the lake."
But much of her driving recently has been to Chicago for "Boss." "We were shooting season two of Boss from mid-March until mid-July and I would go an average of once a week, but there were weeks where I'd make two or three round trips," she says. "Once I made three round trips from Ann Arbor to Chicago in an eight-day period because I'd have a travel day and then a workday on set. I had just enough time to have 30 hours at home to see my husband and kids, soak them up, then I'd get back on the road."
The four-hour drive was worth it. "I figure I'd pay the four hours on the road to get 30 hours at home. It worked beautifully," she says.
Perhaps the most scenic road trip Forester has ever taken was from Los Angeles all the way up Highway 1 to just below the California state line. It was a 10-day road trip she did about ten years ago.
"I just absolutely loved it," she says. "It was to get away from L.A. and boy did I ever get it. It was beautiful. I had set 10 days in mind and it was to see how much I could see before I thought I better turn around. I didn't quite make it to Oregon. There was no itinerary and it was just, let the days unfold."
"Boss" on STARZ
Season Two of "Boss" premiered in August. The show airs at 9 p.m. Fridays, with the finale on Oct. 19. It stars Grammer in his Golden Globe-winning role as a Chicago mayor with a degenerative neurological disorder.
"What's great about it is that it's really well-written," she says. "I've done a lot of television over the years and some of it is not as smart as others. This one is really smart. The writers are brilliant -- every character is really complex, complicated, and intense in their own way. I've heard people describe it as a cross between 'The West Wing' and 'The Sopranos.' It's dark, cynical, and surprising."
Forester's character, Zajac, is the wife of the young gubernatorial candidate and in much of season one she was the dutiful, supportive politician's wife.
"Until the end of season one, you find out her true colors are that she's a political animal in her own right and she is willing to do whatever it takes keep her husband in line and on track to move into the governor's mansion," Forester says.
In season two, "You see her power and how informed she is; how much she's willing to do to get into that governor's mansion," she says.