- "Which one of you disrespectful men been tossing his dirty draws in the kitchen trash can?"
- ― Nauls after finding shredded clothing
Nauls was a cook stationed at American Antarctic research station, U.S. Outpost 31. The character appears in the 1982 film The Thing and was portrayed by actor T.K. Carter. Although not specified in the film, his fate is briefly touched upon in the 1991 comic series The Thing From Another World and was explained in detail in the film's novelisation.
During the winter of 1982, a pair of Norwegians chased a shape-shifting extraterrestrial organism (imitating an Alaskan Malamute) from their ruined research station to U.S. Outpost 31. After the Norwegians get themselves killed and accidentally destroy their helicopter, Nauls, Windows and Fuchs rush outside to extinguish the blaze. The men carry the Norwegian to the rec room, while Nauls flippantly suggests that they may be at war with Norway. After having a gunshot wound stitched-up by Dr. Copper, Bennings goes to his living quarters and complains to Nauls over the intercom when the cook's music prevents him from sleeping.
Several hours later, as evening fell, Copper and helicopter pilot R.J. MacReady return from their investigation of the Norwegian camp with the charred remains of a split-faced creature - which all present, including Nauls, stare at in disgust. As the creature is autopsied, Nauls and Clark play a game of pool in the rec room.
During the night, Nauls is awoken by a fire alarm triggered by MacReady. He and the rest of the crew proceed to the dog kennels to discover what the source of the disturbance is and along with the other men, he witnesses the Kennel-Thing assimilating the outpost's sled dogs. After the creature is incinerated by Childs an expedition is made to the UFO crash site.
Following their return, as the men discuss the ramifications of their discovery, Nauls skates up to chastise the owner of a pair of shredded underwear for leaving them in the kitchen trash can (confirming that the alien has already assimilated at least one person in the camp - tearing through their clothes as it took them over). After performing tests on the Thing remains, Dr. Copper decides to temporarily put them into storage; during the moving of which Bennings is assimilated. Nauls, along with the other men, is drawn outside by the discovery of a half-assimilated Bennings, who is promptly incinerated.
After Fuchs, goes missing during a deliberate power outage, MacReady organises a search party consisting of himself, Nauls and Windows. Outside, they discover a severely burned body in the snow, the only distinguishable feature of which is a pair of spectacles. Sending Windows back to tell the others, he and Nauls head to the pilot's shack to investigate unusual activity.
After approximately forty minutes has elapsed, Nauls makes his way back to the main building entrance and explains that he cut MacReady loose after discovering a scrap of torn clothing containing his name tag. Finding his way back to camp, MacReady breaks into the storage room and threatens the rest of the crew with dynamite. In the course of the stand-off, Nauls and Norris tackle him and the latter suffers a heart attack. The men rush him to the medical lab, where Copper attempts to re-start Norris' heart by defibrillation - only to reveal him to be an imposter.
The creature is incinerated, and in a bid to determine the identity of the remaining crew, MacReady improvises a rudimentary blood-test involving a heated copper wire and samples taken from the men. During testing, Palmer is revealed to be a Thing and fatally mauls Windows before being destroyed by MacReady. Following the chaos, Nauls assists Mac in finishing the tests - concluding with Garry's, which harmlessly fizzles upon contact - proving his humanity.
The surviving crew set out to the tool shed in order to administer the test to the incarcerated Blair, only to find that he has escaped by tunnelling his way underground. They follow the path and discover that not only had Blair been assimilated, but he had been constructing a small flying vehicle of alien design underneath the tool shed. After the facility loses power, MacReady realizes that the creature now wants to freeze again so a future rescue team will find it. The remaining crew acknowledge that they will not survive and set about destroying the facility in hopes of killing the creature.
While setting explosives in the outpost's underground generator room, Garry is attacked and assimilated by the Blair-Thing. Curious, Nauls abandons his post and follows the sounds of the creature, never to be seen again.
Nauls at first was shown to be rather pleasant and humorous, having a good relationship with most members of Outpost 31. He liked to wear roller skates and play loud music while cooking, much to Bennings' disapproval. Nauls is often portrayed as being a black stereotype, but as the film progresses, he slowly becomes more scared at the prospect of being stuck with an alien life form pretending to be one of his friends, and even shows himself to be a quick thinker, cutting MacReady loose after discovering his torn up clothing in his shack. He was also shown to be very curious, willing to abandon his post and MacReady in order to investigate strange noises coming from where Garry was, despite the strong possibility of being attacked by the Thing.
Nauls' fate is never explicitly shown in the film. The most common explanation was that Nauls was most likely assimilated by The Blair-Thing (seeing as how he went after Garry in the area that the Blair-Thing assimilated Garry) and was later obliterated by the subsequent explosion that destroyed the facility. It is also believed he somehow managed to avoid the Blair-Thing, but did indeed die in the following explosion, or even committed suicide out of fear of being assimilated.
The original ending as par script and storyboard details intended for Nauls to be attacked by the Blair-Thing while it went after MacReady under the floorboards. He was in the process of being assimilated and was to call for help from MacReady, but was to be torn apart by the Blair-Thing. Before the Blair-Thing could produce a perfect copy of Nauls, it was destroyed in the ensuing explosion. Although it was intended to be used in the film, Rob Bottin, the special effects supervisor for the film, did not have the time or money to film this scene, so it was scrapped at the last minute and in the final cut of the film, Nauls' fate is left ambiguous. Neither Childs or MacReady mention either Nauls or Garry again, and it is likely that they figured that they could not have survived the explosion that wiped out Outpost 31.
In the comic book The Thing from Another World, Nauls' charred corpse is shown amongst the destroyed Outpost 31, found by R.J. MacReady, suggesting he died in the explosion, and was not shown to have been assimilated. His remains were then burned out of fear they could've been infected.
The novelization offers a different explanation for Nauls' fate; he is chased and cornered by the Blair-Thing in a lavatory. Suffering from a broken leg and unwilling to suffer the pain of being assimilated, Nauls commits suicide by stabbing himself in the neck with a shard of wood (similar to Garry's fate in the book). It is unknown what happened to his body.
- The song Nauls listens to is "Superstitious" by Stevie Wonder, foreshadowing the events to come in the film.
- Nauls was likely the youngest member of Outpost 31.
- Nauls is the only character in the film (aside from Childs and MacReady, of course) to not have a shown fate.
- If you count the discovery of his corpse in the comics, Nauls is the only member of the Outpost 31 research team to have his body discovered by MacReady following the events of the original film.
- Nauls seemed to genuinely care about Windows, as he cried out his name after he was partially assimilated by the Palmer-Thing.