Focus and drive

Throwing his all at each part, actor-director Henrik Nielsen conquers difficult roles

Katerina Lopez

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While walking down the street, roaming around his house and sitting in his room, Henrik Nielsen practices his lines for the new, unique role in which he has been cast. 

Lily Vag-Urminsky

Henrik, a dedicated junior and a passionate actor, has been pursuing his interest in theater since sixth grade. His interest in theater bloomed in middle school drama classes, inspired by the fluidity of his own persona and the characters he plays.

Henrik’s skill is playing unique characters well. He is able to switch in and out of characters and make them stand out and full.

While practicing lines, he follows a system he developed to embrace characters and give them his own flair.

“When I get a new character I normally memorize the lines pretty quickly, and then almost any chance I get, I just throw different line readings at the wall to see what sticks,” he said. “Like, I’ll lock myself in a room alone or I’ll be muttering lines to myself as I walk down the street to try and figure out what works and what doesn’t.”

Henrik strives to embrace every character and he tries to challenge himself with roles dissimilar to the ones he has tried before.

“I think this started because I was kind of cast in the same role again and again in middle school,” he said, “and I wouldn’t say I go tired of it, but once I started trying out new parts in high school I’ve tried not to stay with the same character archetypes for too long.”

Henrik has used this switch to take on his favorite role, Renfield in “Dracula” in fall 2017.

“I really like, especially on stage, to play very physically active characters,” Henrik said. “It was a fun challenge to navigate the quick changes of emotions with the character.”

Renfield was a big step up for Henrik, but he puts his all into his auditions and focused his attention, so he found his own spin on Renfield and got the part.

“I try not to focus on one type of character that I want to be cast as and try to do as many different parts as possible to increase my range as an actor,” he said. “Most of the time during auditions I’ll pick out maybe one or two parts I want and try to tailor my auditions around those parts, obviously I don’t have complete control in which parts I get.”

His theater teacher, Liucija Ambrosini, appreciates his work ethic to master the development of his characters.

“I think he is very thoughtful,” she said. “He really tries to get a good physical character and he works in a very concentrated manner and delves into a character — he really studies it. He then tries to show a full three dimensional character that’s both physical and mental. I think that that’s a sign of a really good actor at work. He is very disciplined in how he develops and builds a character.”

Henrik’s classmates and friends also admire the dedication he puts into his work.

“He really wants to get there and is very concentrated,” Anna Schloeb, his theater classmate, said. “There is a certain level that you have to work for and he’s definitely there.”

But, Henrik didn’t just become a phenomenal actor. He put in the time and now he can take on any role thrown at him.

He said, “I can kinda just flip a switch and dissolve into the character.”