He was formerly a lieutenant who fought in the Earth Military Coalition as a member of The Ninth Mechanized Infantry Division, known also as “Iron Demons” or "The Defiant Few" after whom the town of Deifance is named. Approximately 15 years after leaving the military, Nolan arrives in Defiance with his adopted daughter where he becomes the Lawkeeper.
Nolan was approximately 10 years old when the Votanis Collective first arrived on Earth. In the pilot episode, a flashback scene showed a young Nolan enjoying a picnic with his parents when he first saw arks arrive in the sky over St. Louis. A season 3 episode showed his excitement over the arrival of Aliens. As he watched the arks from the window of his house, he told his frightened sister, “It's okay. Jon Stewart says they're friendly.” In that moment, his world was changed forever. Instead of attending high school, he would join the military.
A decade after the Votans arrival, the war between the humans and Votans had begun. Nolan lost his parents not too long after the Pale Wars begun. This led to him and his older sister, Rebecca, to join the Earth Military Coalition. At first Nolan was reluctant to fight or hurt anyone, but he wanted to impress his sister. During the Battle of St. Louis, Rebecca was killed by an Irathient who Nolan let enter the ammo depot they were both guarding. She died because he hadn’t been able to kill someone. This left him profoundly scarred and turned him into a ruthless soldier, earning the nicknames No man Nolan (no man left standing), and the Butcher of Yosemite (for his actions during the Massacre of Yosemite).
The following year, Nolan was a Private First Class in Delta Company during the Battle of Oklahoma City, where half his unit was killed. He was promoted to Corporal for his actions on the battlefield, and joined the 9th Mechanized Division, or Iron Demons, where he was promoted to Lieutenant, and met Jon Cooper.
At the Yosemite massacre, a mixed commune of pacifist humans and aliens were caught in the crossfire of EMC and VC forces. Both sides assumed the town was giving aid to the enemy, and over 98 humans and 112 Votan civilians were killed. This would haunt Nolan for the rest of his life, and earned him the nickname, "The Butcher of Yosemite."
In December of 2030, Nolan participated in a vicious battle in San Francisco. Casualties were high. Human and Votan soldiers, including Nolan, disgusted by years of bloodshed, disobeyed orders and put down their weapons, banding together to pull civilians from the rubble. This came to be known as the Battle of Defiance and helped to end the war.
Nolan and his entire unit were set to be court-marshalled for disobeying orders, but civilians began calling them “The Defiant Few” and lauding them as heroes. So, to keep them out of the limelight, a demoted Nolan and his unit were sent to a location just outside Denver.  There, they raided a temple and interrupted a cultist ritual, killing several Votan worshippers, including the parents of Irisa Nyira. After rescuing her and taking her to a military hospital, the two bond quickly, and when Nolan learned that Irisa was bound for a refugee camp, he took her and deserted the EMC.
At first, Nolan did not consider Irisa to be his daughter. Irisa was just a kid in need of help which he provided. At the same time, Irisa was frightened of him, but over time, they came to see each other as father and daughter. Irisa changed her last name to Nolan, and they lived by the Nolan family motto of “live or die together."
After the war ended, Nolan became an Ark Hunter. With Irisa at his side, they spent years living in the badlands and searching for Arktech in hopes of funding a trip to Antarctica, rumored to be paradise after terraforming.
Game (Before Season 1)
After joining Karl Von Bach’s Bay Area Expedition, Nolan and Irisa travel to San Francisco on board the EMS New Freedom, a former EMC Stratocarrier recommissioned under the E-Rep. The ship is attacked by Raiders, but they are able to eject via escape pods. Extricating themselves in short order, they appropriate a roller and attempt to obtain enough Arkfall to finance a move to Antarctica. Eventually, Nolan and Irisa are hired by Varus Soleptor to retreive the Libera Nova Gem from the North Point Mine. The Libera Nova Gem is a crucial component in acquiring a Terrasphere. Realizing the value of the gem, they steal it for themselves. Then they leave the Bay Area to escape Varus' wrath. In the game you may notice many AIs such as in Top Notch Toolworks, talk about his bounty a lot.
Fleeing Varus, Nolan and Irisa travel toward St. Louis, where they use the Gem to retrieve a Terrasphere from a recently crashed Indogene ship. This is what they have been searching so long for. It should earn them enough to pay off Varus and travel to Antarctica, but before they have time to celebrate, they are ambushed by Raiders who seek to claim their bounty for themselves. The ensuing battle leaves Irisa injured, and they are forced to take refuge in the woods, where they are attacked by Saberwolves. The two are rescued by Garret Clancy and taken to the town of Defiance.
Nolan is quickly charmed by the unusual town where both humans and Votans live together. He becomes intrigued by the town’s mayor, Amanda Rosewater, spends a night with her sister, a local prostitute (or night porter), Kenya Rosewater, and steps in to help clear the name of a Castithan teenager, Alak Tarr. While he originally plans to earn some fast money to buy a new roller and leave town with Irisa, as a Volge army approaches, Nolan changes his mind. After listening to Amanda’s speech to the town and noticing how many children live there, Nolan decides to stay and fight in the battle that becomes known as The Second Battle of Defiance. Due to his heroic efforts, Amanda offers him a badge and names him her Chief Lawkeeper.
Nolan and Amanda Rosewater deliver Rynn to prison, along with funds from the town to support a mag-lev rail independent of E-Rep support. Along the way the roller is hijacked for the money, and Nolan gambles on Amanda's skill and comradeship to save himself and the town's future. It is revealed that Nolan rescued Irisa from a Votan cult, killing nearly all within, likely including her parents (as she indicated in "Pilot").
"Brothers in Arms"
Nolan's former comrade Eddie Braddock arrives in Defiance seeking a Castithan fugitive. The two team up to apprehend the man, Nolan hoping to have him tried in town and Eddie hoping to turn him in for a substantial bounty with the E-Rep. It is revealed that Nolan was forced to turn Irisa over to a refugee camp but refused and escaped, with Eddie's help.
Unaware of the sacrifice Irisa made at the end of the first season, Nolan tirelessly travels the continent searching for her. He finally finds in Angel Arc and greets with a giant bear hug. Although he encourages her to talk to him, she keeps her secrets. Upon Irisa's request, Nolan reluctantly returns to Defiance. He dreads what people will think of him after what happened at the end of season 1, and he's disgusted by the prospect of living under the Earth Republic's control, but to his surprise, he is welcomed back like a hero after he catches a bomber. The warm welcome doesn't make living with the Earth Republic any easier, but Amanda convinces him to pick up his badge again. As soon as he returns, the two begin flirting, and in the end of the second episode of the season, she invites him to her room where they sleep together. Unknown to both of them, the new mayor, Niles Pottinger, has hidden a camera in Amanda's bedroom and is watching them.
Throughout the season, Nolan struggles to get answers from Irisa for why she is behaving so erratically. In the end, he helps her stop the machine that is controlling her, but the mines crumble around them, and they are buried in underground pods. The people of Defiance presume them to be dead.
"The strong defend the weak. It's not fair, but it is right. It's our responsibility, and it's our privilege."
Upon waking up after seven months underground to find Defiance in dire straights, Nolan does his best to protect the town from looming threats. While Irisa struggles with guilt over her actions in season 2, Nolan helps turn average citizens into a militia to stop Rahm Tak from destroying Defiance.
Nolan is known for being quick witted, cunning, sarcastic, straightforward, intolerant of bullshit, and, in his own right, very wise. He astutely and accurately predicts many of the tactics and strategies of his enemies, such as Datak Tarr or Niles Pottinger, but like everyone, he makes mistakes. When he fails to accurately predict Rahm Tak's plan, leading to the deaths of his militia members in season 3, he takes their deaths incredibly personally, and struggles to deal with the guilt.
As a former military man, he has a personality that can be described as rather wolf-like; In that he is extremely loyal to his friends and comrades and merciless towards anyone who hurts those he cares about. Although the more ruthless aspects of his character have been tempered since adopting Irisa, he will threaten or kill anyone who hurts her or anyone else he cares about. He is loyal to Irisa above all else, and this has strained his relationships with humans and Castithans in Defiance because Irathients are somewhat shunned by humans and Votans alike. Although Nolan was a drifter for most of his life, by season 3, he has grown fiercely protective of the people of Defiance and has come to see it has his town and his home.
When the end of the world isn't looming over his head, Nolan tries to enjoy his life while also ensuring he does right by others. This sometimes ends up in awkward situations which Irisa often gets dragged into. In the pilot episode, Nolan has recently escaped an entanglement of some sort with a woman he didn't realize was married, and then, on his first night in Defiance, he fights a bioman and then sleeps with a night porter before jumping in to give Alak Tarr a fake alibi and volunteering to help solve a murder while hardly stopping to think. Despite his impulsive actions leading to unpredictable outcomes, he loves his daughter and does his best to provide a good life for them.
He is ashamed of and struggles greatly with the horrible actions he took in the past. During the war, he saw every person as a threat and viewed the Votans as animals. Now, he has an adopted Votan daughter and fights to protect the Votans who live in Defiance. Although his attitude on life has greatly changed, and he thinks he could have handled many things better in the past, he does not regret teaching Irisa brutal lessons on how to defend herself because it allowed her to survive in a lawless post-war world where so many others died.
He is fond of his custom pistol which he carries at all times.
- Nolan’s first name, Joshua, is not used until the sixth episode of season 1.
- Early versions of the script referred to Nolan as “Jeb.”
- Grant Bowler revealed that in the first script he read, the show was essentially set seven years later than the aired pilot. Nolan had been living in Defiance for a long time and was already in a long term relationship with Amanda. The entire town was much more settled. In early press, Nolan was also referred to as a “self appointed” lawkeeper rather than appointed by Amanda. Ultimately, Executive Producer Kevin Murphy decided he wanted Nolan to be new to town.
- Nolan speaks Irathient and some Castithan in addition to English.
- In "Brothers in Arms", it is revealed that Nolan's nickname is "No Man." This is in reference to his "no one left standing" policy during the Pale Wars, and potentially his time during the war trapped in "No Man's Land."