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VIProfile: Nikki Estridge

By Gay Lyons

Nikki Estridge, actor, writer, director and producer, says she had no time for theatre as a high school and college student. “I was so involved with sports,” she said. Estridge earned an athletic/academic scholarship to the University of Tennessee where she played softball for the Lady Vols, graduating with high honors. It was there she met her husband, Matt, who was a cheer and strength coach at UT. After their 2009 wedding, the couple moved to Washington, D.C. where Matt worked for the Department of Homeland Security and Nikki worked in medical device/biotech sales. It was during this time that Estridge said she began “dabbling” in acting. “I’ve always wanted to make people laugh and be happy.”

“I met a casting director,” she said, “and I got my first national commercial. I didn’t know how unusual it was to get one so fast.”

Estridge laughs about that commercial for Snyder’s of Hanover pretzels. “I ate about eight thousand bits of buffalo flavored chips. I didn’t know I could spit them out. I had major esophageal burn.”

“It snowballed from there,” she continued. “ I did commercials for Marriott, Toyota and Lowe’s. Following a workshop in New York, a casting director for “Law and Order SVU” called.”

“I knew I had a good audition, but I figured they were going to have me play a dead prostitute,” she joked. “Instead I had a recurring role as Detective Valerie Delano.” Estridge later played a detective in one episode of season five of “House of Cards.”

She also continued going to auditions, many of which did not end up with her getting the part. “I learned it’s not what you did wrong,” she said. “Sometimes you are just not right for the part. Rejection didn’t stop me.”

Motherhood didn’t stop Estridge either, but it did lead the Estridges, both Knoxville natives, back home after the births of their sons Styles, now age 8, and Brooks, now age 6. “We thought about moving to New York,” she said.

“We looked at L.A. I wanted to be an actor, but I wanted to do what was right for the family. I figured ‘if acting happens, it happens.’ I chose the family, but I ended up with both.”

“It’s possible to have the career you want from wherever you live,” she said. “You have to show people who you are and what you can do.” Estridge has just completed two seasons of the Amazon series, “The Thespian.” She had a major role in the show which was filmed in both Baltimore and New York. She also recently wrote, played multiple roles in and directed “Don’t Make it Awkward.” The hilarious six-minute film, depicting a woman’s annual visit to her OB/GYN, started as a 60 second Tik Tok and was expanded after Estridge realized the topic deserved a longer treatment. It has won numerous awards, including two prestigious Best of Show “Awards of Recognition” from The Best Shorts Competition Film Festival.

Just prior to the Estridges’ 10th wedding anniversary, there was a big surprise. Nikki and Matt discovered that because of a paperwork glitch, they were not legally married. They celebrated their anniversary with a wedding ceremony that included their sons.

Estridge describes her life as busy and fulfilling. “I’m trying to juggle being a wife, a mom to two children, an actor, a pharmaceutical rep and a business owner. That’s why I eat standing up.”

Estridge’s husband, Matt, a retired counter-terrorism agent with 32 years of martial arts experience, is the founder of Fit Diesel, Tier One Tactics and the L.I.V.E. Program. She is CEO of the L.I.V.E. Program. Estridge describes Fit Diesel as “science-based coaching that has helped individuals ranging from Mr. Olympia winning a title to grandparents wanting to stay healthy for their grandchildren.” Tier One Tactics equips civilians with life-saving skills and knowledge, and the L.I.V.E. Program is a school safety program.

“Matt is such a wonderful husband and father,” said Estridge. “He is so passionate about our businesses. With all three, our big thing is education, Fitness is important, and we follow our own advice.”

“I want to pursue the acting career as far as God will allow me to take it,” she said. “I think whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability. In 2020, you could either crumble or rise. I always think that everything is going to work out. Life is tough, but we are tougher. Optimism is a lost art.”

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