Austin Nichols is an American actor known mostly for his portrayal of Spencer in the zombie drama series ‘The Walking Dead’. Born and raised up in Texas, Austin initially wanted to become a skier and once he was out of it due to an injury, he pursued a creative writing course, then got tired of it and made a move to California for trying his hand at acting. He was lucky as far as initial acting break is concerned as he got spotted by a talent manager while he was gate-crashing a party at the Sundance Film Festival. He managed to bag a role in the big budget apocalyptic film ‘The Day after Tomorrow’ very early in his career and just like that, he started to catch the attention of producers and directors. In the romantic comedy ‘Wimbledon’, he played the role of a tennis star Jake Hammond, starring along Kirsten Dunst and Paul Bettany. When films didn’t turn out to be a good deal, Austin started eyeing the Television, and worked in many popular series’ such as ‘Friday Night Lights’ and ‘The Informers’. He then auditioned for a role in ‘The Walking Dead’, which became his biggest claim to fame till date.
Childhood & Early Life
Austin Nichols was born in Michigan on 24th April 1980 to a radiologist father, David Nichols, and Kay, who happened to be a water skier. The family moved to Texas when Austin was one year old and he was brought up there along with his older sister Ashley. His mother had a huge impact on him during childhood as he was attracted to trick water skiing and thought that it was a cool profession to be in and wanted to follow his mother’s footsteps to become a professional in the game. His mother was many times national winner and one time international champion in the adventure sport.
Nichols attended Casis Elementary school and started with water skiing at the age of just two and as he grew up, he was already a big thing in the sport. He was so good that at the age of 13, he once rose to the third spot in the junior rankings for the national trick water skiing. He also happened to join American national junior team in the Olympics and was serious about making a career in the sport. But all his dreams came to a bitter halt when he injured his shoulder in a tournament in Florida. That marked the end of his skiing career.
He later studied at McCallum High School and tried his hands at basketball, but it turned out bad for him as the injured shoulder didn’t allow him to compete with other players. Eventually, by the time he reached college, he had given up on the athletic aspirations and focused on his other passion, writing. He studied Bachelor of Arts from University of South California in English and by that time he had developed a lot of interest in acting. Once he graduated, he moved to Los Angeles to explore a career in acting.
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While studying at USC, he auditioned for some roles here and got some small parts in some shows such as ‘Wolf Lake’, ‘Family Law’, ‘Watching Ellie’ and ‘CSI’. But he wasn’t quite content with the roles he was getting and once, while gate-crashing a film party at the Sundance Film Festival, he was spotted by a manager, who saw something in him and signed him with his talent agency. By then Austin Nichols had done two small time films ‘Durango Kids’ and ‘Holiday in the Sun’.
As he joined the talent firm, he auditioned for some more roles, and eventually earned a two episode stint on ‘Six Feet Under’. Although he had average looks, his acting prowess was noticeable in even the smaller parts which he did. In the 2003 independent film ‘The Utopian Society’, Austin’s performance received severe critical acclaim with many reviewers praising him for being ‘stellar’ and ‘raw’. Needless to say, the film was a commercial and critical hit and launched Austin in Hollywood with a bang.
The next film he was seen in was ‘The Day after Tomorrow’, a big budget environment film about the dangers of global warming. Although the film was thrashed by the critics around the globe, it managed to score big at the box office, and Austin’s performance was praised. His next film ‘Wimbledon’ met with critical acclaim but its box office performance was just average. For the preparation of the role, Austin had to learn to play tennis from the very scratch.
The next two projects ‘Glory Road’ and ‘Thanks to Gravity’ came his way came his way in mid-2000s, and both the films were moderate successes at the box office and received critical appreciation. For the role in ‘Glory Road’, he learned to play basketball like a pro and succeeded in establishing himself as a dedicated actor, who’d leave no stone unturned in making his character seem as authentic as he can.
In 2006 came the film ‘The House of Usher’, which was based on a story by the famed writer Edgar Allen Poe. Austin’s performance was met with acclaim as he portrayed the role of a troubled drug addict guy with panache. Although success was coming his way, Austin found himself getting bored with what the film industry was doing. In search of anything interesting, he moved to Television for something cool to do and he got cast in ‘Deadwood’ with HBO.
He signed a contract with HBO and also appeared as leading man in the series ‘John from Cincinnati’, which premiered in 2007, but was eventually cancelled due to bad ratings and poor critical reception. It was a huge blow to Austin as he had prepared for this role with great interest. He had to learn surfing for three months straight for the role. By then, Austin had established himself as a good actor, who was dedicated to the roles and could do wonders if the right work came his way.
He carried on with Television in the following years and appeared in ‘Friday Night Lights’ in 2007 and then in ‘One Tree Hill’. He also directed a few episodes of the latter but truly life changing role came his way in form of Spencer Monroe in the hit drama series ‘The Walking Dead’ in 2015, a post apocalyptic show based on zombie apocalypse. Austin was initially signed on to play a guest role but his character was made regular.
Apart from being an actor, Austin Nichols is a crazy cinema lover and holds a collection of over a thousand films. He says that he likes to know everything about a movie, like who did the music, who wrote it and who directed it. One of his ex-girlfriends said back in 2003 that Nichols is a crazy man and he watches more than 20 movies a week. Whenever he isn’t doing anything else, he just walks into a theatre or turns on his DVD player to watch any movie he gets his hand on.
Nichols has been in a relationship with Sophia Bush, his ‘One Tree Hill’ co-star, and he requested his role to be extended on the show so that he could be close to her more.
Apart from relationships, he is one of the best friends of Jake Gyllenhaal ever since the two of them met on the sets of ‘The Day after Tomorrow’.
In August 2007, Nichols was pulled up for drunken driving in Michigan after he drove his car on the wrong way.