A topic that's haunted my conversations over the past half a year is that of connection. By saturating our lives with social tools, are we, ironically, distancing ourselves further from each other? For actor Nick Hargrove, connecting is at the centre of everything. Growing up in a household with a German mother and an American father from the South, he felt caught in-between two worlds, always searching for a sense of belonging with either nationality. Although, it was most likely this quality that pushed him toward the acting craft - which requires the ability to search beyond a facade, beyond the tall fences we've stacked up to guard our most vulnerable thoughts and to connect with that space in the most precious of ways.
With graduation robes fresh off his shoulders, Nick decided the time had come for him to chase that big dream of his. Four years of pursuing a traditional path, he thought himself ready to be brave so he jumped into his car and drove straight across the country, only pulling up when having reached the city of angels. Four and a half years later, the actor has carved out a comfortable space for himself, located his peers, and scored the part as charming and sometimes conniving half-human and half-demon Parker Caine on the Charmed reboot. Seeing as Charmed is renewed for a second season, we’re crossing our fingers that Parker makes a swift return to Maggie.
Nick and I settle down in front of our respective screens and we connect over moody European roots (we blame the weather!), humans' innate longing for belonging, and Nick's journey from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. In the end, this feature is all about connection. Gigi Umbrasaite, friend and photographer, captures Nick in typical LA fashion pool-side and pier-side, and it feels so right because as you’re about to discover, finding your tribe in LA takes time and patience. Stylist Branden Ruiz picks quirky, cool patterned looks to complement the phase Nick finds himself on the cusp of. I think it’s his time to walk in line with the tide.
You're from Philadelphia, right?
Yeah, I'm from Philadelphia, but I've been out in LA for like four and a half years and then I was out in North Carolina for four years for college too. I've been sort of a nomad.
What did you study in college?
I actually studied economics and German. Very different from what I'm doing now; kind of like a 180. When you finish high school, everybody goes to college, you do the traditional thing, go to the best school that you get into. I didn't know what to study, but I enjoyed science and maths, so econ is kind of a combination of the two things so I did that. And then my mum is German, so I thought I was doing German to somewhat get like an easy A but that wasn't the case at all because it was really heavy Germany philosophy and it was pretty intense. Some of these German philosophers are pretty dark too. Germans, in general, are very dark. Probably because it's so grey all the time - you know, during the winter and all that.
I feel like it's a similar culture to Norway in some sense. There are some similarities. And it definitely shows in our literature, arts, and so on. There is darkness to it. We're just depressed people haha...
Since my mum is German, I probably have some of that in me from her. I haven't lived in Germany, but we used to go every summer for four to six weeks, so I spent a lot of time there. I even did a couple of weeks of school there when I was 10 or 11 years old.
Do you feel German?
I don't know. That is something I struggled with growing up. I didn't feel fully American and I didn't feel fully German. My dad is American and my mum is German. With what we were just talking about, I find that I have that German side of me that's a bit darker mentally, in some ways. I think I also have the opposite from my dad who is from the South and very outgoing and laid-back. I have two very different sides to my personality.
I think this leads very well into my first question: who is Nick?
That's a tough question. I don't know if it's the right term but an introverted-extrovert. I enjoy being around people, socialising - I get a lot of energy from being around people, but I also have this side of me that likes to be by myself, and sort of think about things - isolated, quiet, and reserved. How would I describe myself? Complicated.
Maybe this is an easier question, what makes you happy?
I think feeling connected with other people, surrounding myself with the people I love, and spending time outside in nature - feeling grounded and connected. That's what I’ve always been searching for: connection. Being an actor and a half-American, I've always been trying to find who I can connect with and where I fit in.
I've noticed a bit of a pattern as of lately. A lot of people are mentioning connecting with other people. I'm wondering if it's a topic of our time right now. We're craving more of it, and I'm not sure if it's to do with how we're sharing a big part of our lives on social media.
That's definitely interesting. We spend so much time on social media scrolling through these feeds thinking we're connected to people when it's really very surface-level connection because we're not really figuring out who someone is on social media. You're just getting the highlights of their life and only seeing the things that they want you to see. Whereas, when you're with someone in real life, you get it all, even things they might not even want you to see. I feel lucky that I grew up right before social media blew up. When I was a little kid, I was still riding my bike around the neighbourhood, spending my whole day outside with friends, playing games and doing all that. I feel almost bad for kids that grow up now who don't get to experience that without having the pressure of social media to project this idea of themselves.
What is your relationship with social media as an actor because that is a way to connect with fans? How do you balance private versus public?
That's still something I'm trying to work, as it is still relatively new to me. For everyone, it's a new thing. We're so over-exposed sometimes. Even people who are pursuing any type of thing that makes you into a public figure. Now you need social media to stay relevant. It's a fine balance to figure out what you keep to yourself and what you choose to share. The people I look up to, the actors I look up to, a lot of these actors don't have social media. Like Daniel Day-Lewis. He doesn't really interact with people outside of his work because I think by maintaining a sort of anonymity in his personal life, people don't have this idea of who he is. I think people do have an idea of who he is, but I think he still a bit of a mystery. With social media, I try to hold back a bit. I don't want to give too much away - but for my own sanity too. I'm quite a private person and I don't like to project all of my personal things out on the world. He began in a world without social media, but now I don't know how you would have a career without social media. You feel sort of narcissistic posting pictures of yourself all the time - and that's a weird balance too. I don't think I'll ever get used to the self-promotion of the industry. You always have to put yourself out there. Trying to remind everyone that you're still here.
I'd love to talk a bit about the reboot of Charmed. Your character Parker seems very torn between his human side and his demon side. What do you think is his most dominant side?
I think it's his human side, and that's what I was trying to figure out really early on. When I first got the role, I didn't have too much information - the showrunners told me he had this evil side to him; his devil side. They were pretty hush-hush about what that exactly meant. From the beginning, I tried to make him human. No one knows what it's like to be half-demon, so I think I sort of gravitated toward more human characteristics.
How did you prepare for the half-demon side? How do you approach that?
I tried figuring out how I could relate to that in the real world, and what that means. The thing I sort of drew from was the experience of an alcoholic or a drug addict - they're craving this substance or feeling and when they use it, it sort of spirals out of control. I used that as a model for how I approached Parker.
That's a really smart way of going about it. That's such an interesting angle to look at it from! That's sort of like a personal demon for a lot of people...
Also, you can't play evil. People who are evil think they're doing the right thing. Even when he was in his demon form, he still thought he was doing the right thing. At the end of the day, he is just trying to survive and be happy. He is doing whatever he thinks is necessary to accomplish that. Like alcoholics or drug abusers, it spirals out of control - and I think his demon-side did spiral out of control and made him do a lot of things that he regretted when he was sober and had clarity.
It's quite an interesting character to work on I can imagine as you're playing both good and bad at the same time. Usually, characters are more clear-cut good or clear-cut bad. Do you think it's fun to shift between those?
Yeah, I do. In an episode toward the end of the season - like a lot of the time when he was evil, he was in his shadow form - there was one specific episode where I got to play evil Parker in his human form. That was really fun because it was such a different side to him that I hadn't gotten the chance to explore. Obviously, the more layers the character has and that you can build upon, I think the deeper the character becomes and the more connected to the character you feel. When you add more depth to a character, it feels more like a nuanced character; it doesn't feel so surface-level.
How do you relate to Parker?
With what we were talking about before, we both have a desire for connection. I think Parker's desire for connection is pretty strong - he's trying to connect with his dad and does everything his dad says because he thinks that's going to save him and bring him closer to his dad. But then he realises that maybe his dad isn't the person he thought he was, and then his connection with Maggie sort of shatters his world view and his relationship with his father; makes him face his demons. The desire for connection is something we definitely share.
In the season 1 finale, The Source Awakens, your last scene is when Parker says to Maggie that he has to go and deal with his demonic side; to get that side in check. I've read that Charmed has been confirmed for a second season but I guess you don't really know anything about it yet...
No, I don't know - they won't tell me much! I always find out things a couple of days before we shoot, so I wish I could give more information because that would mean I had more info. The ending is so open-ended, so I'm like, 'is Parker returning?'. I have no idea.
So, we'll do a guessing game instead! Sometimes writers are very unpredictable people, but it does feel like Parker would come back.
I hope so! Again, they don't tell me much, until the day of. I'm hoping.
If you were to return, do you think Parker would have managed to rehabilitate? Gone to AA for Demons - Demons Anonymous?
Maybe that's where he is right now... Going to AA for Demons. If he comes back, I don't think his demon side will be fully gone. I think there is still a lot to explore with his demon side, and I was hoping to get more into it in the first season but if I were to come back, it would be interesting to explore his psychology further and see how his demon side affects him and how it affects him when he is in his human form. He is either a shadow demon or a human. I think it would be interesting to show more of his demon side when he is in his human form.
That would be pretty cool. You've also appeared on the show Counterpart, how was it to work with J.K. Simmons and James Cromwell?
It was great! I was so nervous on the first day. The last film I had seen with J.K. was Whiplash, and in that movie, he is this super authoritative guy. But in person, he is so nice. There was this really cool moment I had with him. I had to come into this prison cell where he was sitting and the camera was in the way, so the director told J.K. that he could move off-camera or to his trailer. The director said I could just use a piece of paper for an eye line, but J.K. was like, "No, I'm standing here. I'm going to let him talk to me and look me in the eye". That was a huge learning experience for him. He has obviously had a huge career, he has won a lot of awards, and he still stands there, letting me deliver my lines to him, even though he didn't have anything to say back to me. James Cromwell was awesome too, I mean, he is obviously not a German, but on the show, he had perfected his German accent. He told me he had only three or four days to work on the accent, and he must have learnt an insane amount of dialogue at the same time - that work ethic is just incredible. Seeing J.K. and James acting with each other with me in the scene felt like a master class.
That's so cool. What's your German like?
I wish it was better. I used to be fluent, or I'm still fluent but I just haven't spoken it in a year or two because I haven't been to Germany in a while. I think if I went over there, I would pick it up again pretty quickly. I grew up speaking German and I have a German passport. I try to watch some German things and a Netflix series called...
Dark? I love it!
I'm going into hibernation when season 2 comes out.
Would you be up for working on a German production?
Yes, I would love that. With Counterpart, I got to use a German accent - I got to speak some German too, so it would be awesome to do a German-speaking part. You have awesome TV-series coming out of all of these different countries, and Germany is one of them. To be able to work on a show like Dark would be a dream.
What would you say is your dream role?
One of my favourite movies of all time is The Matrix, so to have played Neo in The Matrix would have been amazing. That goes to that outsider feeling; he is sort of on the outskirts of society and finds his true calling. And that's also one of the things that I'm searching for: what my purpose in life is. And I think every role I take I sort of learn a little bit more. Working with certain directors is a goal of mine. Christopher Nolan. I love sci-fi epic movies so Ridley Scott. Alex Garland who directed Annihilation.
That is some cool people. To move over to a bit of a different topic, what are your thoughts on masculinity? How do you define that for yourself?
For me, masculinity would probably be to just be true to yourself and don't try to be something you're not. It means something to everybody. Obviously, my view of masculinity changes as time moves on. Just being true to yourself, honest, and not judging other people.
Do you think society's views on masculinity is changing?
I do. When you look at the roles of masculinity in films, it has changed drastically over the last couple of decades. It used to be about the macho man. You can show your vulnerability and your emotions and still be masculine. I think that actually makes you more masculine, and I think people are starting to realise that.
Do you consider yourself an emotional person?
I do; I'm definitely sensitive. The last movie I saw was A Star is Born - I thought I was going to hate it at first, but then I ended up loving it - of course, I cried during that. I'm definitely an emotional person. I think you have to be to want to be an actor. You will have to want to explore your emotions and understand the emotions of other people - figure out how they work.
When did you decide that acting was what you wanted to pursue?
I went to some auditions when I was very little. It was always something I wanted to do, but I didn't really know what that meant. I've always been fascinated by accents and dialects; running around playing with different voices. I think that was my first experience with inhabiting a character. I had a bit of a shy period in middle school and high school, and I think that prevented me from doing a lot of the things that I wanted to do, like theatre and all that. It wasn't until I was about halfway through college that I decided I wanted to actually pursue acting, but I was still too afraid to do it. It took me until I graduated that I decided to move to Los Angeles. I felt I had a lot of catching up so I enrolled in four different classes, going to acting class every night of the week. Figuring out what it means to be an actor and I think that is evolving still.
If you're not acting, what do you get up to?
I recently started playing the guitar - about eight or nine months ago - so I've been working on that a lot and it's been an awesome creative outlet. When it comes to acting, you can't do it by yourself, so having another creative outlet which guitar has been for me, is really nice to have. And then just being outdoors. Going on hikes. We were shooting up in Vancouver, so I got to go on a lot of cool hikes up there. Nature there is incredible, especially during spring and fall. I went on this one hike, and I got to the top, and I put little seeds in my hand, and the birds flew from the trees to your hands and eat seeds out of your hand. It feels like you're in some kind of fairytale land - it's incredible. Especially when you're coming from LA, where it can be quite brown and smoggy.
What's it like to move from the East Coast to the West Coast?
It was definitely tough as I didn't really know many people in LA. Every time you move to a new city, you have to find your people and your group of friends. That took some time because LA can be a pretty isolating place. You sit in your car a lot. You go from your apartment to your car to the audition room and back to your apartment. It was pretty tough at first. In LA, it felt like everyone was very focused on themselves and trying to work on their own career. Finding people I could connect with took a little while. It took me about one and a half year to fully feel at home here. It's also a different culture on the West Coast. I find that people on the East Coast are maybe not as open and friendly at first, but once you get to know them, they're very loyal and they will have your back, whereas on the West Coast, maybe it's the other way around. They seem very friendly and outgoing but it can sometimes feel a little superficial and at the end of the day, it doesn't feel like a genuine connection. I find it very hard to just find my group of people.
How do you tell if someone is not genuine?
I think it's sort of an intuitive thing, and you pick up pretty quickly if you're going to get along. But sometimes you don't find out until later on. With acting, you meet so many people, and people are like, "We need to hang out!", and then they never follow up. It is tough to find genuine people, but I am sure that's with any profession.
In LA, I feel like there are so many actors, all chasing that same dream. What does that feel like? Does it feel very competitive?
It can at times. I think you have to have a healthy perspective on it because everyone is going out for the same thing, and sometimes you'll sit in these audition rooms and there will be like 40 other people who look exactly like you, so it can feel very competitive. I think if you're focusing on the work and give it your best. You have to ignore all the noise around you. But it's definitely competitive. I've gone out for roles which my friends have gotten, and you might think, 'oh if I had gotten that role, would my life be like theirs now?'. I think that's an unhealthy way of thinking about things because, at the end of the day, you get the roles that are meant for you. It's easy to say that once you've gotten a little work. I think things sort of work out the way they're supposed to, and you get the roles that are meant for you.
I think that's a very healthy approach. I have a bit of a creative exercise for you, how would you visualise the feeling of 'falling in love'?
Colourful. There are so many different feelings happening at once. It can be overwhelming. All the colours.
Do you consider yourself a dreamer?
Yes, I do. With pursuing acting, you have to put a little bit of your pragmatism aside because the odds of making it in this industry are so slim. You have to be a dreamer to want to pursue this. I'm always searching for that next thing, so I'm always dreaming of something.
Do you think you'll ever be content?
I don't think so because what motivates me is having a goal and working toward something. If I don't have that I become anxious and feel out of sorts. I need something to work toward, whether it's a goal or a role or getting better at guitar. Keep my mind working. Keep learning. I don't think I'll ever feel content because every time you book a role, you're thinking about what's going to come next. I wish I could be more present but I think I'm always searching for what's next and how I can reinvent myself.
I don't know - hopefully, a sci-fi epic movie! It's tough - until you get to a certain point in your career, you're sort of at the mercy of what people give you. It's not like you have roles being thrown at you. I hope that what's next is a fun, complex character that allows me to work with people who are passionate about what they do.