Take one look at Nils Hognestad and you could swear he was a certain God of Thunder. Take a closer look and you’ll find one of the most diverse, young actors in the industry today. I had the opportunity to sit down with Nils and pick his brain about his acting career, life experiences, and, as usual, all things Geekly.
Currently you can catch Nils on the Canadian YTV show Some Assembly Acquired, which explores the toy making business. He recently had the opportunity to guest star on two very popular TV shows, Supernatural and Once Upon a Time. With the time spent on stage, TV sets, and movie productions, Nils has a bright career ahead of him.
Welcome Nils! Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to sit down with DFAT. Let’s start at the beginning, with the launch of your career and how you got to where you are today.
DFAT: Tell us about the early days of your career and the path that led you to where you are today.
Nils: Well, I started acting when I was 10; I had a friend who had an agent and booked a role on ‘Money Court’, I followed suit and booked a small role in the Wayan Brothers’ ‘The 6th Man’. I have always just needed to act, so I’ve always found ways to perform- in elementary school in choirs, and in high school, any extra curricular production I heard about. My parents urged I get a degree, so I got my BFA from Ryerson University in Toronto, and my MFA from LAMDA in London. I’ve been really fortunate to land great roles that have kept me busy and steady since!
DFAT: What kind of ‘geek’ are you? Are you into movies, comic books, video games, books, etc.? Tell us a little bit about your background of interests.
Nils: You are opening up old wounds here… I was a pretty chubby kid and was confused for a girl all the time. Even by my French teacher, which then spurred the nickname, ‘Nilsbian’. I was quite the recluse and found myself loving both X-men comics and musicals. I think the musical geek is the lowest of the low on the geek totem pole, so I am really opening up to you here… But on a cooler note, I love any video game that has racing or fighting, if that redeems me at all!
DFAT: I think that we can TOTALLY forgive you. Speaking of games, we are big fans of toys and collectibles here at DFAT, how do you think we would enjoy ‘Some Assembly Required”? Can you tell us about your experience acting on that show? What is it like working in front of a live audience? Have you had prior experience with it prior to ‘Some Assembly Required’, or was this your first experience with the format? Or is it very similar to being on stage?
Nils: Well, if you love toys and collectibles, you’d love Some Assembly Required! Every episode is about the toy that is created in the toy shop. Most are ones that I’d kill for- like a ‘flycycle’. Working on Some Assembly allows me to be the kid I never grew up from. The sets and props and costumes are unbelievable – there’s even a working roller coaster running through the whole set. This was my first time doing a sitcom in front of a live studio audience, and it was a perfect harmony of theatre and film. Being able to have a live audience to feed off of and get an immediate response to the work you’re doing is such a rare blessing in film and TV. Usually film and TV is so fragmented you don’t ever know how the work is until the final product premieres months later.
DFAT: That show sounds like a lot of fun, I wonder if they air it here in the USA at all. So with experience with that show, what is your favorite genre to act in? Why? Which actor/actress influenced you the most in that genre?
Nils: I’ve been fortunate enough to work in practically every genre and they each offer something different- but if you’re really forcing me to choose, I love a challenge and I think comedy is the greatest challenge. The great challenge is keeping the performance within the realm of believability while keeping it honest, snappy and effervescently alive- which Jim Carey does flawlessly, while flirting close to the edge of absurdity without crossing the line.
DFAT: It’s important to always have options and the experience! How would you contrast acting on stage versus TV acting versus working on a movie set? Tell us how your stage career led to working in TV and movies.
Nils: There is definitely a difference between working in theatre and in film & TV. I find there is a lot more time with theatre to experiment and develop a character creatively, whereas film & TV is business. You arrive day 1 with the character solid and ready to put it on camera with maybe one rehearsal, and my aim as an actor is to get it solid in the first take. I’m so thankful for my theatrical background, because I now know how to do the solo work necessary to prepare for putting it on camera. I can’t claim that doing theatre has lead to film & TV as they have overlapped, but the simplicity I’ve learned in film & TV has informed my theatre work, and the discipline of theatre has been the core of my film & TV work.
DFAT: Sounds like there’s always adjusting to do when going back and forth between the mediums. What was it like working on TV shows like ‘Supernatural’ and ‘Once Upon a Time’? What current TV show would you love to be a part of and why?
Nils: Working on Supernatural and OUAT was a trip. To join a pre-established cast and crew that was so tight they were basically a family with a really aggressive fan base could have been intimidating, but I walked in to everyone’s wide open arms. The fans were super supportive and positive, and the cast and crew were equally as welcoming.
As for which current show I’d like to be on, I am aching to be in a period piece. I think any actor would kill to be on Game of Thrones, and I’m no exception. Reign would be an excellent Canadian show to be apart of, and as for web series, Vimeo’s first original web series by Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfield, ‘High Maintenance’ would be killer to be apart of.
DFAT: I think that you would fit in pretty well on GOT. Speaking of those kind of shows, what has been your favorite project to date and why?
Nils: You know I hate picking favorites! Every project has something wonderful to offer. But! Working on CW & CTV’s ‘Backpackers’ was a dream gig. Not only did I get to challenge myself and do an Aussie accent, but I also got to travel to Prague, Italy, France, Montreal, and Toronto to shoot the first season. I was the envy of the leads on the show, because as a supporting role, I still had time enough to explore every area we traveled to.
DFAT: Let’s move on to some more fun questions. Between the two mega-blockbusters hitting theaters this year, ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ and ‘Star Wars Episode 7’, which of the two: a) Are you looking forward to watching the most b) Which franchise would you want to be a part of (pick one and why)?
Nils: The answer to both questions is Star Wars. I have a feeling that because of my luscious blond locks, you thought I’d answer Thor in The Avengers, didn’t you? But come on! There is no competition. Death Star beats Hammer any day. Can someone please tell JJ Abrams I have a license to fly an x-wing, y-wing, and a b-wing?
DFAT: Right?! Especially now that they’ve announced Rogue One! If you could be one superhero (or villain) who would you choose? Why?
Nils: I guess Thor is already taken, eh? In that case, Jonothon Starsmore, aka Chamber has always been my favorite X-man character. I love his entire storyline, discovering his powers late in life, accidentally crippling his girlfriend and himself in the process, powers comparable to Professor X’s, and an unwillingness to be a superhero are all such exciting elements to be able to work with as an actor.
DFAT: That is a very interesting choice. I totally forgot about that guy! Gathering wisdom from your experiences through the years, what advice can you give someone who would like to follow the same path? How important do you feel it is to be a well-rounded individual when it comes to being successful?
Nils: Stick with it. It’s gonna get hard, and if you truly want to do it, you will stick with it. But if you have any doubts whatsoever, choose another profession. The security of any other profession is very appealing. I believe it is essential to be a well-rounded individual as an actor. You need to explore all other elements of life in order to be able to portray all realistically; and as a bonus, in exploring other interests, you remove the focus from being an ‘actor’, and you become a real human being, which is more interesting than someone who is working towards pretending their entire lives.