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Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1980, Nichols moved to Austin, Texas when he was less than a year old. He began competetive water skiing when he was two years old, and represented the United States junior water ski team in 1997 in the Pan-American Championships. In addition, he was on the United States junior Olympic water skiing team, and ranked third in the world when he was thirteen. However, though he intended to become a professional water skier, he injured his shoulder and could no longer participate in the sport. He began taking acting lessons at the age of fifteen and moved to Los Angeles after attending McCallum High School in Austin.
- Holiday in the Sun (2001) - Griffen Grayson
- The Utopian Society (2003) - Justin Mathers
- The Day after Tomorrow (2004) - J.D.
- Wimbeldon (2004) - Jake Hammond
- Glory Road (2006) - Jerry Armstrong
- One Tree Hill (2008-2012) - Julian Baker
- Ray Donovan (2013-Present) - Tommy Wheeler
- Bates Motel (2013-2017) - Sam Loomis