Thomas Nicholson shares what it’s like working both in front of and in back of the camera

Thomas Nicholson can be seen in DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and Motherland: Fort Salem this summer. DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is a CW show which will be on its sixth season, and Motherland: Fort Salem is a Freeform show which will be on its second. Thomas is Canadian/Danish actor who currently resides in Vancouver, BC. YEM was able to speak with Thomas about getting into acting, some of his acting inspirations, and using accents.

Young Entertainment Mag: What made you want to get into acting?

Thomas Nicholson: I always knew I wanted to be a storyteller of some kind but it took me a long time to discover I wanted to be an actor. I played music growing up and I worked as a journalist for a few years before I started writing fiction. I’d done stints of acting in plays and short films but it wasn’t until much later, after my girlfriend gifted me acting classes, that it occurred to me I could make a career out of it.

YEM: Do you remember your first role?

Thomas: Yeah, my first paid, professional acting job was a “SOC” (Silent on Camera) on The 100. I spent all day half-naked in a cage trying to get out and I was thrilled!

YEM: What can you share about your upcoming roles on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and Motherland: Fort Salem?

Thomas: DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is such a wild show and to get to play David Bowie, one of my all-time favourite musicians, was an unbelievable experience! I can’t reveal much about my character on Motherland: Fort Salem but he’s a very different kind of guy to David Bowie.

YEM: What are some of the best things you have learned on a set?

Thomas: I spent about two weeks working on a show called Damnation and it was the first time I worked out of town and the first time I had more than two or three lines on a show. It was such a gift to spend this time with experienced actors like Logan Marshall-Green, Gabriel Mann and Zach McGowan, not just for their work in front of the camera but also to see how to conduct yourself on set when the cameras aren’t rolling. Now, I always make a point of studying the good and bad habits of the lead actors, steal the good ones and try to avoid the bad ones.

YEM: You have produced as well, what is it like to be working behind the camera?

Thomas: I’m definitely an actor first, producer second. I co-produced two short films that I acted in to help get them off the ground but producing is so much work. I have the utmost respect for great producers.

YEM: Does working behind the camera help you as an actor, and vice versa?

Thomas: It’s always helpful to have an inkling of understanding of what’s going on and all the work that is happening behind the camera. Having done a bit of work behind the camera is a good reminder that actors on a set are nothing without the crew.

Photo Credit: Ashley Ross

YEM: Who are some of your biggest acting inspirations?

Thomas: There are so many. I’m a big fan of those chameleon actors who are so difficult to pin to one type like Gary Oldman, Meryl Streep, Oscar Isaac, Emma Thompson. Other times, I’ll just be inspired by one performance. Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke, Anthony Hopkins in Remains of the Day, Jamie Foxx in Ray, Marion Cotillard in La Vie en Rose. Of my own generation, some of my favourites are Carey Mulligan, Paul Dano and Riz Ahmed.

YEM: What is your favorite part of acting, and what is the hardest?

Thomas: A lot of people probably think of acting as what we see in films, television and on stage. But the truth is, that’s just a small fraction of it. So much of it takes place in preparation for that – and yeah, my favourite part of acting is being on set, on stage or in class. The hardest part is the industry. You’ve got to figure out how to deal with rejection. A year of 100 auditions and five booked roles is a great year but you still have to be okay to not get the part 95 times.

YEM: Having booked roles where you have to use other accents, do you prefer them or do you like using your natural voice?

Thomas: Yes, I do this quite often. I grew up in Denmark and Danish is my first language. However, my dad is English so I learned the English language with his London accent. In that sense, every role I play is a different accent than my own. I’d love to act in my mother tongue one day.

YEM: What would you tell others who want to pursue acting as well?

Thomas: I’m a huge believer in doing the work – so make sure you genuinely enjoy it. I’ve seen a lot of aspiring actors kind of get their hearts broken because they dreamed of the glory but didn’t realize they weren’t as interested in the work. When we look at our favourite actors, their jobs look amazing. I think it’s the same throughout the entertainment industry.

For example, I would love to tear insane guitar solos in sold-out stadium concerts (when there’s no pandemic) but I’m not willing to practice the guitar for 5 hours every day for a chance to be good enough. With acting, booking great roles in film and TV is the icing on the cake. I really enjoy all the work that is required when no one is watching. I love going to class and rehearsing with dedicated scene partners. I enjoy reading scripts and plays. When I get an audition, I like reading the scenes over and over again, trying to figure out what’s going on and what my part in it is. If you do love the work, surround yourself with like-minded people and keep supporting each other!

YEM: What is one of the funniest moments you have had on a set?

Thomas: I was in a short film called Itsy Bitsy Spider. One of the actors, Harriet, didn’t take direction well in one particular scene. She was supposed to crawl on my co-star’s face but kept crawling all over my back instead. You see, Harriet was a tarantula. And the director was terrified of her so he didn’t quite know what to do. But we did manage to get an incredible take in the end 🙂

YEM: What is your favorite genre of television show to act in?

Thomas: I’ve been really fortunate to act in a mix of genres and I hope to continue that variety. I love acting in period pieces. I enjoy the costumes and the sets can be quite spectacular, transporting you back in time. I’ve been on shows that took place in the 30s, 40s, 60s, 70s, the present day and the future. I’d love to do something that takes place during medieval times, be it historical and/or fantasy.

Watch Thomas Nicholson this summer in DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and Motherland: Fort Salem.