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Ask TUTS Alumni:

Nils Hognestad

Nils Hognestad amongst the company of the TUTS 2000 production of South Pacific
(back centre)

Q: You took the stage of Malkin Bowl when you were a teenager for the TUTS 2000 production of South Pacific – do you have any memories from this summer?

A: I do. I have so many fond memories of that summer. I booked the show along with a few other friends of mine I knew from other high schools in North Vancouver through competing in the Canadian Improv Games. I had done some community theatre and some film and television work in town, but this was my first time being involved with a live theatrical production in downtown Vancouver. I loved being in Stanley Park with such a huge cast of people, taking breaks between matinee & evening performances by the ocean & performing on a stage I would inevitably see some of my favourite musicians perform on. It really felt like I was apart of something even bigger than myself. 

Q: How did your early experiences in community theatre influence your career trajectory?

A: This was the longest run of a show I had ever experienced at that age. I had caught the bug years prior to this and already knew this was the direction I wanted to move in my life. This just solidified it even further. In fact, at the same time ‘Survivor’ was huge on TV, and I was so keen to be on the show. When I told my parents I was thinking of applying, they said that they were prouder of me doing TUTS than they ever would be of me doing a reality TV show. I still haven’t done reality TV, so I guess that’s all thanks to TUTS!

Q: From roles in feature films & TV shows to screenwriting projects, you have a lot on the go at the moment. Could you tell us about a few projects you’re most excited about?

A: I adore acting. I always will. Whether it’s on stage, film, television, or voice, I love it all. That being said, as I’ve been developing myself as a writer and a producer, I’m finding the same need I felt when I first started acting with creating my own stories. I am most excited about the films I’ve been writing. Currently I’m producing two feature films that tie for what I’m most excited about. One called ‘Cross Country Baby’ about an interracial gay couple that go on a cross-country road trip to find their egg-donor and surrogate. And the other is called: ‘Orkestrionen; Hjemreisen til Soria Moria, or, The Orchestrion; The Return to Soria Moria’, about a man who inherits his estranged father’s Orchestrion and goes on a journey inside the Orchestrion to find a city of gold and complete his father’s unfinished symphony. 

Q: Bringing diverse stories to the screen seems to be the driving force behind many of your writing projects. Can you speak to this a little more? 

A: Gladly. We see the need for diversity and inclusivity being pushed in all the human rights movements that are happening around the world today. My own personal experience as a gay immigrant has been one that for years didn’t feel like I was ‘right’ or that I wouldn’t be accepted because of the things that made me different. My personal journey to self-acceptance has been the most intrinsic element towards finding my voice and empowering myself. Through meeting others along the way, I’ve learned we’ve all needed the challenges we’ve been faced with in order to make us stronger. I’ve been very fortunate to find those people and know that not everyone has been that fortunate. It is my personal mission to offer entertainment that makes people think, feel, forget, remember, and hopefully be reminded we’re not different at all. We’re all just human. 

Q: How has the pandemic affected your career, for better or for worse?

A: I hate to say it’s been good for me. I’ve been given the platform of time to write, it has filtered out all the things I don’t need in my life and made me very aware of where I’m going in my life and how to get there. It’s been really messy, but fortunately I love organizing and putting things in their proper place. 

Company of the TUTS production of South Pacific, 2000
(Nils is front centre, white t-shirt & shorts)

Q: Were there any defining experiences in your personal life and/or your career that shaped the creative you are today?

A: Heck yes. Having multiple open heart surgeries, coming out, having several international moves before I was a teenager, falling for the wrong people, falling for the right person, having my high school drama teacher, having the mother I have, having the father I have, having my siblings, my friends… Everything has affected everything else. I am just a reflection of everything that’s happened to me. Including the Starbucks barista who gave me extra whip. 

Q: If you could go back in time and talk to yourself when you were first starting out, what would you say?

A: Calm down. Take your time. A slow build is better than sudden success. Work out more. Write more. Meditate. Call your grandmother, even when you don’t know what you’d even talk about. 

Q: What advice would you give to those passionate about pursuing an acting career?

A: Don’t focus on acting. It’s not as glamorous and exciting as you imagine it to be. Learn skills that allow you to have more control in your profession; like producing or writing. The younger you are, the more opportunities there are available to you as a young creative – find those grants and opportunities and make the wave; don’t try and ride it. However, take classes and do as much performing as possible, because even if you don’t pursue it forever, you’ll learn invaluable things about yourself that translate into all elements of your life. 

Q: Any advice for performers looking for a creative outlet or struggling with halted projects during the pandemic?

A: Find your people. Make your community. Start a production company. Start a writing room. Find a story that ignites a fire in all of you and pursue that. The right project and people will magnetize the right opportunities for you. 

Q: In the past, what has kept you going as an actor when you didn’t get the audition, didn’t book that role, when you hit a dry spell, etc.?

A: The gym. Exercise. Having a strict schedule that never changes whether you book it or not. It’s comfortable to stay sad and introverted in your ‘Woe is me’ moments. Don’t indulge in that. That booking isn’t going to change your life the way you think it will. Only you will change your life. Personally, starting the day with meditation, journaling & yoga are vitally important. Burn off steam in whatever exercise you like. When ducks fight, they leave each other & flap their wings to let go of their excess energy. Find the outlet for your excess energy, or you’ll just hurt yourself further. You are not defined by the work that you do. You define you. No other profession is as obsessed with working as actors are. It’s all they talk about. Liberate yourself of that need and watch it flow. 

Q: What is the most challenging role you’ve booked to date and why?

A: Oh gawd… Ok. So. I’m Norwegian. I booked a lead in a Danish language film. Although on paper it may look the same, it is a completely different language. I had to learn Danish and shoot the movie in Quebec, where the crew was French and spoke primarily in French. I had to speak French & Danish on set while also shooting a TV series at the same time where I was playing an Australian character. I have never had a more difficult task than that. 

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

A: This is just a moment and a moment always passes. 

Q: Are there any past roles/projects that you hold particularly close to your heart and why?

A: Anything I’ve had to travel for work was incredible. We shot ‘Lake Placid 3’ in Bulgaria, ‘Jaws 1916’ in Malta, and I did a CW show called ‘Backpackers’ that we shot in Toronto, Montreal, Prague, Italy, and France for a couple months. It was so great to play a dirty backpacker, but get to stay in nice hotels in Europe & Canada. 

Q: Are there any hidden talents that have come in handy throughout your career?

A: Chocolatiering has been a wonderful addition to my career as I can make delicious thank you gifts for casting. It’s also been able to support me in down times from performing and even brought me to Germany to teach workshops. 

Q: What does the future of entertainment look like to you?

A: Ideally a box-set of films with my name under ‘Written’, ‘Produced’ & ‘Starring’ in the opening credits. 

Male ensemble in the TUTS production of South Pacific, 2000
(Nils is back row, far right)

Q: Favourite book of all time?

A: The Little Prince

Q: Favourite movie of all time?

A: Alice in Wonderland

Q: Binge-worthy TV show recommendation?

A: Big Mouth

Q: If you could learn one new skill, what would it be?

A: Guitar

Q: Favourite RuPaul’s Drag Race Queen?

A: AAAAAH! YES! This is tough for someone who tries to be as ‘Switzerland’ as possible… I gotta give love to my Canadian Queens Brook Lynn Heights & Priyanka. With Lemon & Alyssa Edwards tied for second. 

Nils Hognestad was born on July 16, 1984 in Bergen, Norway. As a child, his family moved to London, England and later moved to Vancouver, BC. Becoming interested in acting very young, he started taking acting classes and got his first agent at just 10 years old. He took the stage of Malkin Bowl in 2000 as part of the ensemble for the TUTS production of South Pacific, and has since gone on to have a prolific acting career, appearing in DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (2017), Backpackers (2013-2015), and Supernatural (2011/2017), among many other TV & film credits. Most recently, Nils appeared in Psych 2: Lassie Come Home (2020), now streaming on NBC Peacock, and he is currently developing his career as a producer & writer.

Learn more about Nils HERE