Christopher Heyerdahl: Going back in time for ‘Hell on Wheels’
Christopher Heyerdahl is not a household name, but if you've watched television in recent years, chances are you've seen him, especially if you're a fan of science fiction and fantasy. The Canadian actor's resume includes roles on "Supernatural," "Caprica," and "Sanctuary." He now stars on AMC's western "Hell on Wheels" as a mysterious enforcer known as "the Swede" to other characters who fail to recognize that he's actually Norwegian.
So active has Heyerdahl been that he filmed the first season of "Hell" concurrently with the final season of "Sanctuary." Of juggling the two production schedules, he says, "Literally I was getting into set at three or four in the morning in Vancouver, shooting until seven o'clock or 7:30 at night, getting out of makeup, getting into a car, going to the airport, flying in, getting in about one o'clock in the morning in Calgary, arriving on set at six and shooting the day, maybe spending a day or two there, and then going back to Vancouver, and the whole cycle would go again and again, so from a technical aspect, it was a hell of a ride."
"Sanctuary" ended its fourth season in December 2011 and was subsequently canceled by Syfy, but the actor's plate is no less full. He is currently filming the second season of "Hell on Wheels," which begins airing in August, and he is also featured in the upcoming fifth season of HBO's vampire drama "True Blood" as Dieter Braun, who is "a very old vampire and part of the Authority, and basically is one of the old rule-makers of the vampire world."
Though he enjoys sci-fi and fantasy, he believes it's a coincidence that he has appeared so frequently in those genres, explaining that his hometown of Vancouver "seems to be a mecca for sci-fi and fantasy. Each city seems to draw a different thing; I don't know why that's the case, but that could be it."
Departing from his usual genre wheelhouse with AMC's 19th century-set western, he says, "has certainly affected my pleasure zones. I have a hell of a good time playing the Swede. He's such a rich, well-defined, slightly quirky character." As a viewer, his relationship with westerns goes back to his childhood: "I've been watching westerns since I was a kid, whether it be on television or going to the theater … It's another part of my fantasy world to do the whole western thing."
He describes the challenges and pleasures of making "Hell on Wheels," explaining, "It's always a challenge, but at the same time it's a hell of a lot of fun. I love shooting out-of-doors. The last four years I've been shooting 'Sanctuary,' and pretty much every shot we did there was in a warehouse surrounded by green, so it's a nice change."