As The CW’s multi-award winning superhero drama “Arrow” continues to draw large crowds, many viewers have watched Canadian actor Nigel Vonas in the riveting recurring role of Walsh, a tough mercenary that exudes strength and intimidates those who cross him. What makes Vonas’ portrayal of Walsh so astonishing though is the way the actor has managed to weave in a sense of vulnerability revealing that Walsh actually does have a heart despite his hardened demeanor.
As “Arrow” prepares to wrap up its fourth season later this month, many of us are wondering if Vonas will reprise his role as Walsh in the show’s fifth season, but will just have to wait until the new season airs in the latter half of 2016.
Vonas ability to believably portray strong and formidable characters and infuse them with a sense of human relatability has been a huge factor in his success that has helped him land major roles on countless hit television shows.
One of the most recent roles he’s been cast in is on Fox’s two-time Golden Globe nominated series “Prison Break,” which after having it’s series final back in 2009 is coming back to the air for a fifth season!
While this information is all relatively new and we aren’t able to tell you too much about his character on the show, we can say that Vonas plays a recurring role as a hardened criminal with a thick Arabic accent; and, we’ll even have a chance to hear the actor speak Arabic on the show– an understandable challenge considering his Greek heritage and Canadian upbringing, but one he has worked hard to meet.
Since beginning his career over a decade ago Vonas has created a repertoire of work that is as dazzling as it is extensive. The sheer diversity of the characters that he has taken on to date have proven him to be one of the rare performers who is able to seamlessly transition from one character to the next without leaving any trace of the former.
From his performances on hit television shows like Steven Seagal’s Leo Award-winning series “True Justice” and the three-time Primetime Emmy nominated series “Supernatural” starring Jensen Ackles, to his meatier portrayals of characters such as Shawn in the film “The Harvest Project” and the ego-driven role of Cisco in “Thralls, it’s easy to see that Vonas puts his heart and soul into every performance.
Despite being an undeniable Canadian celebrity, he has maintained an attitude of gratitude throughout all of the success and glitz and glamour that comes along with being a sought after film and television star, which naturally makes us adore him even more.
Over the years Vonas has proven himself to be a master when it comes to breathing life into antagonistic bad guys, villains and pretty much all of the characters that we love to hate — which is both ironic considering that these characters are the polar opposite of himself and proof of just how powerful of an actor he is.
To find out more about Canadian star Nigel Vonas, make sure to check out our interview below!
Hey Nigel thanks for joining us, can you tell our readers where are you from, and a little bit about when and how you first got into acting?
NV: I began my acting career in Vancouver in 2002. The acting bug bit me when I booked my first role in a Disney commercial. I knew nothing about acting, but a friend of mine, who was an agent, was looking for people of my “type” to audition for this role. I didn’t even know what an audition was, but I went in there as nervous as can be and ended up booking the gig. I remember being on a set for the first time and loving everything about it. I couldn’t believe people got paid to do something so fun. I’ve never lost that mentality to this day.
What are some of the reasons that you are passionate about acting?
NV: My passion for acting comes from the feeling I get when I move someone, make them laugh, or cry, or think about their personal views on life. Ever since I was a little kid I used to love making people laugh. I don’t know why I didn’t discover acting earlier than I did, because in reality that’s what I do every day of my life. I was also very lucky to have a father who took me to theater when I was that little kid. I loved experiencing a world that I couldn’t anywhere else. My grandmother is also incredibly knowledgeable about acting and has given me very valuable advice over the years.
Can you let us in on some of the ways being an actor has affected your overall outlook on life and the person that you’ve become?
NV: Being an actor has taught me that it is the journey that matters and not the end result. When I first began acting I cared more about booking a role than actually enjoying the process. I believed that my resume was most important. I have now learned to enjoy every moment from the audition room forward, and feel very lucky to have even been given the opportunity to be in that room. I take that even further, by feeling lucky to be healthy and able to experience all of the beautiful things life has to offer.
What was the first role you landed on screen and what was going through your mind at the time?
NV: My first role was on the TV series “Stargate SG-1” as the character Ryk’l. I can remember having more nerves flowing through me than I’d ever experienced before. To top things off, my scene was with every one of the leads in the show. I had absolutely no idea how to work in front of the camera. The audition was my strongest ever at the time, but the performance itself, not so much. I remember hearing the word “action” and thinking about everything but being the character – I thought about my voice, the way I looked, my movement, the wardrobe, the zit I had on my forehead. Everything! It ins’t easy for a character to be believable when the actor is thinking of all these other things. If you don’t believe yourself, why should anyone else? But I learned so much about film and TV acting during that shoot. I was lucky to get to work with a very kind and giving director, Peter Woeste. I also was very lucky to have gotten to work with Amanda Tapping, one of the most real and grounded people I’ve ever met. Thirteen years later we would meet again, as she directed me in the TV series “Olympus,” which I feel is one of my strongest performances.
Were you nervous in the beginning or did it always feel like your natural destiny?
NV: Both. Since my first day on the Disney shoot, I felt that acting was my destiny. I know that sounds rather cliche, but it’s the way I felt. Even though it was a commercial, I still felt “in character”. I definitely began my acting career with a million nerves travelling through my entire body. I think that was quite apparent to many directors in the audition room, but I quickly became confident because I really believed in myself. I knew that I could bring the solid acting I was able to give in classes onto the screen.
You’ve gone on to amass a pretty impressive body of work over the last ten years, can you tell us about some of the film projects you’ve done?
NV: My most memorable role was in the Vin Diesel movie, “The Chronicles of Riddick.” The first thing I need to say is that Vin Diesel is the most kind and caring person I’ve ever met on set. I was still new in the biz and I will never forget the encouragement he gave me. I had just finished shooting the first take of a scene and I remember him calling out from behind the camera, “Nice work Nigel!” I can’t explain what hearing those words felt like to me, coming from a very established actor. I think Diesel knows that every “beginner” actor, which I was at that time, needs encouragement. We have so many doubts about our abilities when we are just getting started. I appreciate his words to this day, as they really made me believe that I could make it as an artist.
Playing the lead role of Shawn in the movie “The Harvest Project” may have been one of the most difficult characters I have ever created. This character can be described in no other way than evil and frightening. The greatest challenge was finding his vulnerability; something that I always look for in every character I play. I believe that everyone in both life and on screen is vulnerable in some way, and I always work to find it. I am very vulnerable person, so I just look inside and find a way that I can bring myself to the role. I have learned that the best way for me to develop a character is to start with the person I am and then take away the parts of me that don’t fit the character. I believe that working from the ground up is much more difficult. There is no doubt that I lived in this character’s body, mind, and soul during the entire shoot. It was weeks of loneliness and sadness that I believed payed off in the performance.
Getting to play such a cocky character, Cisco, in the movie “Thralls,” was an interesting experience. I consider myself a very calm person, so this role was quite a challenge. I have always preferred playing characters that are the least like the person I am in life. These roles are the most challenging. This one was definitely one of them. Day after day I was challenged on set to make sure I was doing justice to this character. But I have to admit, it was kind of fun making many of the other actors squirm at my character’s behavior at times.
How about television projects?
NV: I have just booked a great role on the new “Prison Break” series. I can’t give out any information about it, because the episodes haven’t aired yet, but I am quite proud of my work on this character. It is one of my most challenging roles ever.
I was also recently given the opportunity to play the character of Walsh, on the TV series “Arrow.” I got the chance to work with some very strong directors who allowed me so much freedom to take risks and try different unique choices for a scene. I feel that the importance of my character was that his relationship with Oliver Queen showed a different side of Stephen Amell’s character. I have mixed feelings about this character. I felt that he is a tough guy with a strong heart. I wanted to show his desire to help Oliver Queen, while still maintaining his strength.
Being on the TV series “Supernatural” was quite an experience for me. First of all, I was given the opportunity to work with an incredible director and crew. They really made things comfortable for me. There were absolutely no egos on this set. Jensen Ackles, who plays the lead role of Dean Winchester, is incredible to work with. He is so relaxed and so connected to all of the actors he works with, which made my work so easy. All I had to do was listen and he gave me everything I needed as an actor to bring this character to life. This was a great role in the story, because I believe I was able to bring out the cocky side of Ackles’ character. Even more so than he already is.
The TV series “True Justice,” in which I played the character Sadiq was quite an adventure. I worked with quite a different array of people on this show. Amir Arison is an incredibly talented actor. All I had to do was listen and react to what he gave and my performance pretty much played itself (after all my preparation, of course). During the shoot I got the chance to have a sit down chat with one of the executive producers, Binh Dang. He let me know what he believed were my strengths and weaknesses as an actor, and I benefited from his advice. To this day, I use some of what he shared with me in both auditions and on set.
In my humble opinion, my performance on the TV series “Olympus” was one of my strongest. This is absolutely no doubt because of Amanda Tapping’s direction. When I heard I was once again going to be working with her, I was extremely excited. She is not only an actor and director that I very deeply respect, she is also the most caring person anyone could be lucky enough to be around. When Amanda is talking to anyone, her full attention is on that person. She makes those around her feel so important. She gave me so much freedom as an actor and made me feel so comfortable. The character had very significant importance in the story, as I was the one who ended up killing the King’s son. The feeling I had, as an actor, of taking away someone’s child was very heartfelt to me. The actors who played King Aegeus and his son Lykos were very talented and gave me so much to work with. I very much hope to work with both them and Amanda Tapping again.
They are all very different, what made you choose to participate in these projects?
NV: I always go for the roles that are the most challenging for me. The ones that step the furthest outside of who I really am. I also like a variety of characters, and I want to explore as many layers in a character as possible. I also consider who I will be working with. I like both direction and freedom. I know they sound like very contradictory desires, but I like to be allowed both the freedom to try my choices as an actor, as well as be given clear and detailed direction when the director doesn’t agree with those choices. I am able to follow direction well and have a very open mind as an actor. I trust the directors that I work with very much.
You get approached all the time to work on projects with people, what makes you pick one role over another?
NV: I just want to be challenged. I want to play a character with depth and many layers. I want to be able to live a life on screen that I may not get to live in reality.
Do you feel that you get cast to play a certain type of character more than others?
NV: I definitely get looked at as the evil guy, or the bad guy, or the tough guy, or the criminal, or the military guy, or the cop. What’s always amusing to me is that these characters are the furthest from the person I really am.
What have been a few of your favorite projects and roles over the years?
NV: “Olympus” was an experience I’ll never forget, both on set and with the character I played. The role was both challenging and very enjoyable. The shooting of “Prison Break” was some of the most enjoyable work of my career. “The Chronicles of Riddick,” being my first role in a large studio film, taught me so much about the industry. For that reason, it is one of my favorites. “Supernatural” gave me the opportunity to be around some great people and work in a very positive environment. In “Arrow” I was able to see how different directors view the same show. It was very interesting to watch. All of these projects left a lasting memory for me.
What has been your most challenging role?
NV: I feel that the role I played on “Olympus” was the most challenging. This was a very complex character and I was very much rewarded for having the opportunity to play him. I felt both powerful yet trapped. Both violent yet vulnerable. I felt more connected to this character than any I had played before.
My recurring role on “Prison Break” was very challenging because of both the accent and the language my character speaks at times.
What is your favorite genre to work in as an actor?
NV: I feel the most at ease doing comedy, yet I really love where drama brings me emotionally. This is a tough question. Let’s go with comedy.
What separates you from other actors? What do you feel your strongest qualities are?
NV: What separates me from other actors is what separates me from other people in life. I am definitely not someone you would define as following society’s norm. I have very strong beliefs in what I feel is right and I make sure that none of those beliefs are negative in any way. However, I am very far from traveling on the straight and narrow.
My strongest qualities as an actor are my uninhibited ability to take risks in front of the camera, and my absolute lack of judgement on myself, including both the way I look and my talent as an artist. There are plenty of other people judging me in this biz, why should I do it to myself?
What projects do you have coming up?
NV: I have just been cast as the character Cowitski in a comedy feature film titled “Mi Navidad,” a trilogy. I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am about this role and this project. I have been waiting to do a comedy feature film for years. Vancouver is extremely lacking in this genre, to say the least. We start filming the first film in July this year and right now I am deep into the character development phase of my process.
What are your plans for the future?
NV: I am considering spending some time in LA for several reasons. The first being that I want to explore my options as an actor. There is obviously a much larger variety of film and TV projects there. Secondly, I’d like to begin the process of finding a studio that is interested in my screenplay. I finished writing Terminal Love last year and I hope to have filming started by late 2017.
What do you hope to achieve in your career as an actor?
NV: I am more interested in enjoying the journey than any end result. I always observe the world around me and can see how lucky I am to have the opportunities that have been given me. There are so many others that are not given the chances I have been given for the simple reason that society has judged them and classified them a certain way. I work very hard at my craft in order to be ready for any acting opportunity that comes my way. I learned very early in my career that you better be ready when the door opens, or you may miss out on something very special.