In the scripted series Still The King, Walt (Travis Nicholson), whose father played in a band with Vernon (Billy Ray Cyrus) during his heyday, agrees to help Vernon con the church congregation in exchange for getting out of jail.
In addition to playing Walt, Nicholson also executive produces. His acting credits span over 20 film and television projects, while his producing credits include three feature films, a television pilot, short films, commercials and countless music videos. Working alongside diverse directors such as Clint Eastwood, Joel and Ethan Coen, and Harmony Korine has given Nicholson exposure to a broad range of styles and techniques over the years, helping him develop as both an actor and filmmaker.
Q. How would you describe your character Walt?
A. He’s still a voice of reason for Vernon, and calls his bluff. Walt has a certain sense of justice – he’s sort of a Jiminy Cricket for Vernon.
Walt helps Vernon’s community service, in exchange for Vernon bailing him out of jail. Walt sees Vernon as a connection to his late father.
You are a writer for the show, and an actor in the show. Did you know you’d be in the show all along?
A. Potsy, co-creator of the show, mentioned to Billy Ray that I’m also an actor, and he immediately jumped on that.
Billy Ray originally wanted Walt to play Vernon’s son. And I was like, whoa, I thought I’d be more like a cameo, or a gas station attendant or something. But it sort of just blew up from there, and Walt became more of a prominent character than we could have ever imagined. And that was thanks to Billy Ray, and to have a buddy as an actor.
A lot of the character traits that Walt has, my friends will make fun of me for. They’ll say, “So, this is just you but with a Southern accent.” They know that I’m interested in all sorts of conspiracy stuff. I did have to do my share of research on Sasquatch – I wasn’t necessarily a Sasquatch connoisseur but I’ve made my way into that territory. I’m getting pretty good at it now.
His father told him that he’d seen a Bigfoot, when he was a kid. So, Walt, not knowing his father very well, because he died when he was very young. He wants to validate his father by seeing Bigfoot too. If he can prove Bigfoot’s real, that means his father is more real to him.
What are some of your favorite conspiracies?
A. I love ancient alien stuff, free energy stuff, alternative fuel, off-grid living where you don’t have to be plugged in. I’m certainly not a doomsday prepper, but I’m certainly interested in ancient technology and what’s-called sacred geometry. Sort of the mysteries of things that came before us like the pyramids.
I’ve actually got a few projects based, on this sort of stuff, that I’m interested in making.
Q.What was it like working with Billy Ray?
A. He just bleeds charisma. And everyone that meets him, he’s best friends with. Everyone he encounters becomes his friend, because he’s such a genuine guy and really wears his heart on his sleeve. And, an incredibly good actor, and incredibly funny.
I’m eternally grateful to him for giving us this opportunity to work with him. He was so game to do anything too, and we had him doing some crazy things in the show. We had him lying in cold creek water, running down gravel roads barefoot. And, he never complains. He’s always ready for action.
Any favorite Walt and Vernon scenes?
A.It’s in episode 7, we had to be in this casino where he was recounting some of his past exploits, before the giant Elvis vs Johnny Cash fight breaks out.
You have quite the resume. What is your most memorable moment in your career?
A.It was getting to work with Clint Eastwood when I was playing a country singer in Jersey Boys. Having grown up in Nashville, and loving old country music, and my dad’s a songwriter – I have the utmost respect for those writers of that era.
My manager at the time called me and said “You’re on hold for this Clint Eastwood movie.” So, a week later, I’m on set, and I have no idea what I’m singing because they haven’t given me anything to go by before, and I had to go in and learn this song within 5 min, and play in front of all these producers. So I’m as nervous as can be, I play the song, and they’re like, “OK, sounds great!” Then, they immediately send me out on set, and there’s Clint Eastwood, and I have to play the song in front of Clint Eastwood.
Afterwards, I got to hang out with him, and talk about the Grand Ole Opry, and music. You know, he’s got this incredible voice that sends chills down your spine. It’s unmistakable. And so finally I get enough nerve to ask, “Mr. Eastwood, would it be any trouble if I could take a picture with you?” And he says, in his unmistakable voice, “Go ahead…”
And so then, we’re all waiting for him to say, “Make my day.” But, he never said it! We all thought maybe he was messing with us though. It was pretty surreal.
What have you been doing since the show wrapped?
A. Honestly, I’ve been pretty buried in post-production. We’re still finishing episodes seven through thirteen – I love to be involved as intimately as I can. I really haven’t had any time off. I’m writing, and playing music here and there mostly in Nashville. I have a band that plays once a year El Rechaun one a year, been doing in for 12 years, and all of our songs are about leprechauns.
Lastly, what kind of music are you listening to right now?
A. A lot of the music on the show is by local bands in Nashville. You know, I grew up here playing music. A lot of the music I listen to are my friends. Shovels and Rope, Justin Towns Earl, Richie, Faux Ferocious, Natural Child, Jeff The Brotherhood. And I love Chris Stapleton, and Tom petty, Dwight Yoakam.