SHS grad acts in HBO Max show


She’s a self-described true crime junkie and got to perform in a true crime series.

Kira Pozehl Nichols, a graduate of Seward High, is in the cast of “Love and Death,” the story of an axe murder in Wylie, Texas, in 1978.  It premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas. It will premiere on HBO Max April 27.

Nichols said the story is taken from the account in Texas Monthly. She plays Elaine Williams, the church organist.

Filming for the seven-part series began in August 2021 in Austin, Texas, where Nichols lives.

“It was cool to have it done in Texas,” she said.

She said the story doesn’t focus on the gore of the murder or make anyone a villain.

“It’s how could this happen,” she said. “How can this rock a community.”

The church choir and organist are recurring characters throughout the series and are present at different events, Nichols said. Her character was more prominent in the real life story than in the film.

Nichols tried to find out what she could about Williams to help create the character, but there’s not a lot known about her. Her goal was to learn why Williams chose the path she did.

She said the cast did a great job being honest and accurate in their portrayals of the different people.

The church in Wylie at the time was made of up younger members who were trying to grow the church. Nichols plays the piano in real life but said the footage of her playing the organ is fake.

“Even the singing was lip synced,” she said.

However, the musical background that Nichols has helped, she said.

Nichols kept getting called back to audition for different characters.

“I got called back four times. It was so frustrating,” she said, adding that she didn’t know what the casting director was looking for.

The role of Elaine, however, checked off a lot of boxes for Nichols.

“I’m a true crime junky, and this was a period piece,” she said.

Because “Love and Death” is a series, filming took longer than a movie, Nichols said. The cast was on set from August to April, and Nichols was mainly needed between August and December and a little bit in April.

“It was about a month total,” Nichols said. “It’s one of the weird things – you don’t have much control.”

She said creating a character is exhilarating and interesting.

“Once you finally feel you get the character, you are done,” she said with a smile. “The goal is to be a real person. I want to have people watch and be drawn in. For me, when I get to that, to have people watch and forget it’s me.”

Nichols has been performing most of her life. She started in lip sync contests at the Seward County Fair with her brother Eliot and was part of the high school’s musicals and the Goehner Centennial Players melodrama.

“I always wanted to pursue acting,” she said.

After high school, she went to college for a year at Valparaiso to study theater. That wasn’t quite what she was looking for, however.

“I wanted a bigger place,” she said.

So she moved to the University of Texas and performed Shakespeare and stage productions.

In 2003, she was selected for “All-American Girl,” a reality TV show that was looking for the ultimate All-American girl. Nichols finished sixth.

Her first film was “Fall to Grace” with Vicki Boone as casting director. Boone also cast “Love and Death,” and Nichols said it was “wild to come full circle.”

She wasn’t happy in Austin, however, so moved to Los Angeles where she spent 10 years. She worked on a variety of commercials during her time there, but that wasn’t what she wanted either.

“I wasn’t forging ahead,” she said. “I lived off commercials.”

She worked other jobs, too, including waiting tables and as a part-time nanny for actor Casey Affleck.

While in Los Angeles, she met musician Lawrence Nichols. They married in 2014 and have two daughters, Nico, age 6, and Sunny, age 2.

Having children has changed her perspective.

“It used to be I just wanted to work all the time,” she said. “Then my focus became my family.”

She said acting has become something she gets to do now instead of something she has to do.

“It’s more fun,” she said.

She said Nico is starting to understand what acting is and thinks it’s cool. She’s more into art and drawing right now. Nichols expects her to be a performer of some sort. Sunny loves music.

“Nico got the drama, and Sunny got the beat,” Nichols said.

In 2013, she moved back to Austin where both she and Larry would be able to pursue their careers. She booked a role in “American Crime” where she started out as an extra.

“I was in a coma for the first two episodes,” she said.

She had to breathe with the ventilator and not take a breath at other times. The actors who played her parents were arguing during the scene.

“I didn’t want to mess up their take,” she said.

She liked how that show was filmed because the director chose to focus on small details while the bigger scene happened.

Between acting jobs, Nichols has worked in events and hospitality and now has her own real estate business in Austin.

She sees a lot of similarities between real estate and acting.

“It’s possibility and potential with both characters and houses,” she said.

Finding something you love and doing that is a great thing, Nichols said.

“If you settle, something dies in you,” she said.

Nichols has most of her family in Austin now, with her mother Bonnie and brother Eliot and his family there now.

Nichols said she tries to get back to Nebraska when she can. Her stepmother Rachel Pozehl still lives in the Staplehurst area.

“I love coming back in the summer. The smell of the grass – I can reconnect and reset,” Nichols said. “I think and breathe. Time slows down.”

While Nichols has performed a lot of dramatic roles over her career, she said her real love is comedy. She has a YouTube character called The Casserole Queen, who is a woman named Jodi from Illinois who makes casseroles.

The character is 100% improvisation, she said.

“The goal is to make it go viral,” Nichols said with a smile.