Christopher Heyerdahl on the Highway to Hell?

Celebrity Q&A, People
on July 28, 2012

Who plays The Swede on the TV series “Hell on Wheels”? What information do you have on him?
—E.R. Bambino, Hooper, Utah

Canadian actor Christopher Heyerdahl is the man behind The Swede. But the joke is the character—like Heyerdahl—is really Norwegian and the actor, who also has some Scottish blood, says that in addition to the script, he took his inspiration for the role from memories of his father and other Norwegian men in his early life.

“Norwegians enjoy celebrating and enjoy getting together and causing a bit of trouble. I observed many of them in my youth. [The Swede] is my own personal take on the Norwegian psyche,” he says.

He adds that it helps to understand The Swede knowing that “Norwegians tend to be dark. They say the Norwegian book of humor is 7,000 pages and each page is blank.” In addition to “Hell on Wheels,” Heyerdahl has numerous sci-fi credits on his resume, including roles in several of the “Twilight” movies, and the TV series “Sanctuary,” “Caprica,” “Smallville” and “Supernatural.”

“It is definitely a genre that I like,” says the actor, who was born and raised in British Columbia, Canada. “In my down time, I see a lot of sci-fi or fantasy-based shows.”

As popular as the “Twilight” franchise is, Heyerdahl says he has never been recognized by a fan from that movie, but as someone who is more interested in longevity in his career than stardom, he admits to making an effort to stay out of the limelight.

“I have [acted] for 30 years now with relative anonymity and I like that,” he says. “I can disappear into characters and I can walk down the street and nobody knows who I am. Strangely enough, there are people who do recognize me—more and more—because of doing shows that are extremely popular and playing characters who have stayed season after season. But I enjoy anonymity. I think it is a wonderful thing and it might help with longevity.”