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Marisol Nichols Talks about Riverdale, Saw Film, Home Life, and Fighting Human Trafficking

Marisol Nichols had many odd jobs growing up —she was a cashier, she pumped gas, she worked at the car wash—but acting was never one of them. “It was a complete accident,” says Marisol, now 46 years old. “In college, on a whim, I tried out for a play and I got the lead role. Then they asked me to join their speech and theater team that competed with colleges all around the U.S.

Two months later, I won the national championship.” It was hard to ignore this calling, so she decided to give acting a real shot. “It was the one thing I was really good at,” she says. Marisol had found something that she liked —something that gave her the stability she never had growing up.

It didn’t take long for her to land roles on TV. She appeared on Beverly Hills, 90210 and ER. Then in 1997, Marisol landed the role of Audrey Griswold on the fourth installment of the iconic National Lampoon’s Family Vacation film series, Vegas Vacation, alongside Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo. “First of all, I was like, they are never going to hire me. The Griswold’s are the quintessential American family, and my name was Marisol, and I was Latina. I’m like, there’s no way,” she chuckles. “They kept calling me back to audition, but I never thought for a second that they’d ever hire me. And then I got it. It was amazing! I had grown up watching those Vacation movies and I always loved them. Then all of a sudden, I was in one… in Vegas! And I had never been on a movie set in my life, so it was amazing and a great experience for me.”

Marisol continued to book roles on popular TV shows, including Boy Meets World, Friends, CSI, Law & Order, and 24. In 2017, Marisol brought Hermione Lodge to life in The CW’s hit series, Riverdale. “I really liked that she was this woman who had been humbled and was starting over with her daughter [Veronica, played by Camila Mendes] and doing everything that she could—at least in the first season—for her daughter,” says Marisol. Being a mother in real life, Marisol could relate. “My daughter and I have a really good relationship,” she adds.

Most recently, Marisol has been filming the new Saw movie (currently untitled), alongside Samuel L. Jackson and Chris Rock. This was very exciting for her, as Marisol is a huge horror fan. “I’m old school. I like to be scared. A movie that will actually scare me, I’m into,” she laughs. “It’s an emotion that is fun to poke at once in a while.” Marisol shares that the characters will encounter the classic Saw traps and be forced to make nail-biting choices, keeping with the same style seen in the previous films.

Marisol portrays tough cop, Captain Angie Garza. Like a lot of her acting roles, and in real life, Marisol is a strong woman, ready to kick some butt. “I love that character —tough. I spent a lot of time with cops. I do a lot of hands-on work. And I really like cops —to me, someone who has dedicated their life to seeing the worst of humanity every single day, and then is being shit on for it, and still getting up and doing it, is pretty amazing.” Playing Angie was so different from playing Hermione, which made it even more fun for Marisol. “It’s like playing dress up.”

Marisol teased that there will even be some humor amongst all the gruesomeness. “Chris Rock brings his own flavor to it. Chris is really funny and knows how to bring humor in the middle of a scene —I could never do that,” she says. “There is a little more character work in this one than in the past Saw movies. We learn about who Chris is, who my character is, how I got there, what my relationship is with Chris’ character and Samuel L. Jackson’s character.”

While Marisol’s acting career took off pretty quickly, maintaining that kind of momentum in Hollywood is difficult. To succeed, Marisol prepares a lot, but most importantly, maintains her enthusiasm despite the rejection that comes her way. “What you don’t see is 40 auditions, 50 no’s for a yes. You don’t see all the times I try my ass off and it doesn’t work. For me, the real challenge is getting through the no’s, to get to the yes’s.” Marisol is not one to give up. “You just keep going and going. One of these is going to be right for me. And I’m stubborn, and you have to be. Never stop fighting for what you want.”

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That innate stubbornness has resulted in Marisol booking a number of recurring roles on TV. Her favorite role was her character in NCIS. “She was this tough ATF agent, and I really like that. It was really fun.” And for completely different reasons, she loved her character in Teen Wolf. “It’s supernatural stuff. I like that… There is nothing redeeming about this character, she is completely horrible, and her entire role is to kill her child so she can move on and become more powerful herself. It’s psychotic, but there is fun in that. She was tough as nails.”

Marisol has been working in entertainment for over twenty years, which enables her to treat acting like any other job, rather than a lifestyle. “You have your ups and downs, and you get humble at times. Sometimes you are on top, and then it can all go away tomorrow. Then, you’re back at square one. Those experiences that I’ve had over the last twenty years, have kept me normal.” She also has other projects in the mix. Last month, the actress designed two jewelry collections with Different Class in Milan.

When Marisol is not on set or auditioning, she is with her 11-year-old daughter, Rain, doing normal mom things. “I’m a single mom, raising a kid. There is a lot of attention to my job, but at the end of the day, it’s still a job that I have to keep up, because I have to pay bills because I have to raise my kid.” Balancing work and her personal life is not easy, but Marisol makes it work. Often, she tries to turn work trips into mini vacations with her daughter. “I do my best, I’m not always perfect. I bring my daughter with me wherever and whenever I can. She is homeschooled, so it makes it a little easier for her to travel with me. But she also has her life and we have to balance it out. I try not to leave her for more than a week. We are too close.”

Marisol is also very passionate about defending human rights. In 2015, she established the Foundation for a Slavery Free World, a nonprofit organization fighting human trafficking. She was trained by CIA operatives and went undercover to put sex offenders behind bars. “There are thousands of pedophiles in prison right now because of me. There are thousands of sex offenders registered as sex offenders because of me. I wanted to do more than just raise awareness.” Stopping human trafficking and increasing the safety of all women and children is among her top priorities. When Marisol discovered that this was happening to American citizens right here in the United States, she made it her mission to help put a stop to it. “I don’t understand why we don’t stop everything under the sun to stop it. Then, when I learned this was happening to children—that was it. Why do we care about anything else when kids are being raped for money? That’s insane. So, I started my non-profit because I had to do something, I couldn’t just go to sleep. I had to do something. While I’m doing everything else, this is my focus.”

Watch Marisol on Riverdale and don’t miss the new Saw movie slated for release May 2020. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter: @MarisolNichols. For more information on Foundation for a Slavery Free World, visit:


Words by Claudia Paredes, Photographer: Michael Blank, Styling: Sara Acevedo, Hair: Gui, Makeup: Crystal Tran. First image courtesy of Warner Bros. Television and CBS Studios, in association with Berlanti Productions and Archie Comics.


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