Photo by Karolina Turek

Talent On Tap – Nils Hognestad is Per in Psych 2: Lassie Come Home

Sometimes in life, being dealt a bad hand at an early age will make you realize very quickly, that life comes with challenges. At some point you decide to meet those challenges in order to level the playing field. Once you become comfortable and start to make progress – Bam! Life throws you another gut punch. You’ve already gone through one challenge so you rise to the occasion and you face the next challenge head on with a brave face. You’re just a kid but you learn fast that life never stops and to always be ready for the next challenge. 


Some of us prance through life never to be tested until we’re in our 30’s or 40’s. I believe if those challenges come earlier, you can develop an appreciation for life sooner. Every day has a purpose and every experience carries meaning – you begin to choose your time wisely, as to not waste any of it. Maybe you realize sooner than others what your aspirations are and your focus becomes clear and tangible – all because those earlier challenges have given you an edge over others your age. One man that has been tested and challenged from the age of three is Nils Hognestad.  He was born with a heart condition, and had his first open-heart surgery at the age of three.  He had his second heart surgery at 5 yrs. old and his third surgery at 13 yrs. old. 


Nils has had his struggles early on in life but he considers them an asset. Because sports were not a good option, his attention was drawn to the arts. He started acting in school plays and quickly found his reward… his passion, his validation. He continued to pursue acting after graduating and earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts/BFA. Fast forward – present and Nils has appeared as King Arthur in DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Mr. Gournisht in Netflix’s Some Assembly Required and can also be seen in Supernatural and Lake Placid 3.    


On top of acting, Nils Hognestad has added screenwriter and producer to the resume. He can be seen on his upcoming project Psych 2: Lassie Come Home that launches on NBC’s new streaming platform Peacock on July 15th. The project was filmed in Vancouver and is a follow-up to the cult classic Psych series. Nils plays Per in the film, a new character in the franchise.  


The title of the film is a reference to the lead character, Carlton Lassiter coming home because he’s been ill and is returning to work.  One of the detectives is very good at reading people; so good that many assume that he’s psychic, so he plays up the fact that he is but he really isn’t – he’s just incredibly intelligent and finds more work if he keeps playing it up like he’s psychic.”   


“Can you tell me anything about your character Per on the Psych 2: Lassie show?”

“I can tell you a bit but not too much because it gives away the plot. You’ll see in the poster, some of the guys are wearing big fur coats inside a Norwegian Vodka ice bar. I play the son of the owner of the bar. We shot it in the Greater Vancouver Area and the ice bar was in the Fraser Valley. They shot the first season in Vancouver and came back to shoot the second season because they had such a strong community feel the last time.”


“You learned to speak Danish on a film, how difficult was that?”

“I played Danish in the new film coming out on July 4 called A Hint of Love and I also played a Danish role in Min Søsters Børn og Guldgraverne. On paper Danish is similar to Norwegian and you can understand it but the dialect is totally different. I have Danish friends that hear me speak Norwegian and they have no idea what I’m saying. I was born in Norway and my parents spoke it at home and as I get older, my brother and sister want to hang onto it and keep the language going. My parents live on the Sunshine Coast and now it’s become a rule that we all speak it when we go to visit.”       


“When did you have your first brush with acting/entertainment?”

“I’ve always been interested in film and when I was a kid, I didn’t know the word for actor so I told my parents that I wanted to be a face on TV. I was 10 years old when I had my first on camera agent. Prior to that, I was in choir and have always been drawn to artistic minded activities as opposed to sports. Growing up I had quite a few open-heart surgeries but it proved an asset in turning my interests toward the arts rather than hindering me. In elementary school I started auditioning for film and television – which landed me a Wayan brothers film, The Sixth Man at the age of 10, which was also in Vancouver. After that I went onto doing a lot of theatre in high school and later attended Ryerson University to get my Bachelor of Fine Arts.  I wanted to train and pursue classical acting, so I moved to England and earned a diploma in Classical Acting through the London Academy. I stayed and did some voice-over work for a time until moving to LA and then Vancouver. I came up here thinking I’d only stay for a few months and I’ve been here almost 9 years now.”       


“You mentioned your many open heart surgeries – were you born with a heart condition?”

“I was born with a hole in the chamber of my heart. I had my first surgery when I was three and the next when I was five and another when I was thirteen. People are constantly saying ‘I’m so brave’ but when you’re going through it, you get knocked out and your parents are the ones awake for hours worrying if they are still going to have a son in a few hours. I just woke up delirious asking, are we done yet? (Laughing)” 


Nils explains to me the advances made in the procedure used to repair his hearts condition. Instead of repeated open-heart surgeries, the last procedure involved entering an artery to insert a device and move it up the artery until reaching the damaged heart valve. Although it was less evasive, he was on set a week later agreeing to do his own stunts. He had let a fellow actor know about the heart surgery and luckily nothing went wrong. Nils’ personality is one that perseveres – he pushes onward and outward because he has a lot to say and much yet to experience.   


Headshot by Kristine Cofsky


“You’re a screenwriter, an actor, producer and instructor – do you have a preference?”

“My partner asked me the same thing… if I had to choose between acting and writing. Acting was my first love – it was the first time I felt acceptance and validation, that what I was doing was good and people really enjoyed it; I felt loved. With the writing, I always felt like I had something to say. One day I sat down and started writing – it just flowed out of me. My partner had walked in and saw me bawling my eyes out, writing a comedy (laughing)… I was really moved by it. It’s really hard to choose because now I’ve found something that meets my needs to say something and although I love acting I’ve been able to bring together ‘like minded’ people that have the talent to bring the project to the level it needs to be. It’s one of the most empowering things I’ve done. I’m currently working on two projects and they’re both Queer focused and touch on the diversity we’re all currently experiencing. It’s important to give life to those voices and the kinds of stories I want to put out there. A TV series that I’ve been developing where I put a POCLGBTQ group together with each episode being told through a different perspective and through different voices – which in turn makes for an ensemble show.”   


Nils went onto explain that every episode would provide a window into the life of a minority group, such as a Transgendered person or Black Drag Queen – similar to the TV series Skins.  He’s been developing the series for the past 5 years and has finally come to realize that ‘he doesn’t have to do it all… anymore.’ He finds it better for everyone involved.   


“You’re also an acting instructor?”

“Yes, at the Vancouver Young Actors School with the youth program and also in the diploma program. I really enjoy working with the youth and young adults and talking about acting – but really we’re talking about life. We spend a lot of time talking about deep issues, which we’ve all had and then learn how to overcome those obstacles/issues in our own lives to better serve ourselves as better actors in the future. What I’ve discovered is – if you have an acting block, you probably have a life block and should look a little deeper to allow yourself to go to an emotional place to better express the emotion needed for the scene.”   


“Have you ever had a hard time shedding a character you were playing?”

“In theatre, that becomes a little more relevant for me. I was in a play where I played a king, fell in love and wanted to marry a woman that was much younger than me. She isn’t interested so she kills herself and her body is placed inside a tomb. I then go to the tomb and take her body to a mortician, so he can paint her body to look alive – so I can marry her. Little do I know that the mortician was also in love with her and uses poisonous paint on her – when I kiss her… I die.  When you’re on stage you don’t get any second takes and have to stay in character till the end of the play, you’re doing it for weeks on end, that person lives in you and you begin to take on the physicality’s of the character.” 


“You’re also a Chocolatier… that’s amazing. What turned you onto that?”

“When I was living in London and training as an actor, I needed a job. I had worked in restaurants and wasn’t great – I didn’t like retail and had done some promo work that I didn’t care enough about… so I talked to a friend of mine that knew someone working as a Chocolatier that taught people how to make chocolates. I did it for a few years and when I moved to Vancouver I started a mobile chocolate business where we’d go to your home to teach you how to make chocolates. It’s now become just a hobby I do in the holiday season for family and friends.” 


“If you could disguise yourself as someone for a day, who would it be?”

“Ooh… god. I think I have to go with Elon Musk – out of pure curiosity. I want to see what the real Iron Man’s life is like – and hear how he pronounces his kids name (laughing).”  


Photo by Karolina Turek


“What are you currently working on?”

“I’m currently focusing on getting my first feature produced. I’ve had a good response to the script and we’re planning on going to camera in the spring. The film is called Cross Country Baby, about an inter-racial gay couple that goes on an illegal cross-country road trip to find their egg donor and surrogate. Someone came to me with the concept and asked me to write it. They wanted me to take it and run with it to see what happens. I’m pretty excited about it and it’s a comedy but I cry every time I read it, so it’s obviously something therapeutic for me and it’s also resonated with others.”


“Since Covid-19 has impacted all of us, how has it impacted your career?”

“I’m learning to become more independent and have gone back to the school where I taught to make some self tapes and voice recordings, because they have all the facilities there. Since everything’s closed down I’ve been getting more self sufficient – I now have my own home studio with camera equipment, lighting, backdrops – so now I can shoot from home. It’s really taught me to be more independent with my career and that I recognize, it doesn’t really matter where you are – we can be anywhere more than ever and can be as mobile as we want. I’m loving the self-tapes because I can take my time and do it without any stress.  I think I prefer this way and I look forward to some callbacks on Zoom.”    

Nils Hognestad is a wonderful human being and an ambitious actor, writer, producer with much on the go. Please remember to tune into Psych 2: Lassie Come Home debuting on NBC’s new streaming platform, Peacock on July 15th.

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