Joel Kinnaman is a star on the rise. After building his profile in his native Sweden, the actor broke out in America with AMC’s The Killing. His role as Detective Holder won him much critical praise as well as his biggest job yet, the lead in the upcoming RoboCop reboot.
Kinnaman’s newest film, Easy Money, had its North American debut this weekend and we were lucky enough to sit down with the actor for a chat. He talks about what attracted him to the role, the RoboCop reboot and more.
Check it out below.
We Got This Covered: What attracted you to the part of JW in Easy Money?
Joel Kinnaman: I got to know Daniel [Espinosa] when I auditioned for his first feature. I was offered a part in that movie, but had to turn it down when I got into the acting school, which I’d tried to get into for a long time.
Daniel had seen me do Crime and Punishment on stage and when he got Easy Money, he said “This is you, man. Let’s do it.” I wasn’t a big name yet though and he started to realize that it was going to be a huge battle to just tell the producers of the biggest Swedish movie of that year that “this guy is going to do the lead.”
So, six months later, he came back to me and told me that I would need to audition for this movie that I thought I’d already gotten. I was so nervous and I had to audition seven times. I went in and could only lose it. Normally, when you audition, it’s like a competition and you’re pumped up to win it. Here, I could just lose it, so it was really traumatic. I was an emotional and psychological wreck. When I got it I was like “Thank god” (laughs).
WGTC: Did you view JW as a victim?
Joel Kinnaman: My first ideas of JW were based on the idea that he had a complex nature that is contradictory. He’s a very confident person with very low self-esteem. I think that’s an interesting combination. It’s more common than we think. He’s also a chameleon in many ways. He has this void within him. For him, it’s not enough to be something real. The choices of his life have led him further and further away from who he is.
He’s a person with a very good heart who makes extremely bad decisions. Part of the performance that the English speaking audience won’t pick up on is that his dialect changes with everyone he meets. When he’s with the upper class, he talks like they do with their dialect. When he’s with the criminals, his way of speaking and cadence changes, too. It’s quite difficult and takes a lot of work and research, but it’s one of those fun things to do.
WGTC: With Easy Money, did you and Daniel see eye to eye on everything?
Joel Kinnaman: I grew up in a working class neighborhood in Sweden, which during my teens, gentrified and is now completely middle class and even upper middle class. The sort of atmosphere of that neighborhood was that kids from east side, which is the rich side of the inner city, were the bad guys. We hated them and would go there and beat them up and take their things. For somebody in my neighborhood to aspire or revere a person from the upper class, that is the most ugly and pathetic behavior you could exhibit.
Daniel’s from the suburbs and they feel the same way about all the people from the inner city. JW sort of represents Sweden in many ways. The north of Sweden is very socialist and poor. They feel left out and despise Stockholm in many ways, because Stockholm has become new liberals and much more Americanized.
That strife mentality is not a Swedish mentality. That’s sort of an imported mentality and JW represents that. Daniel had a lot of problems with that though. He thought it would be really difficult for this character to be liked by the audience. I didn’t have that fear. I was sure that they would find him compelling.
Daniel’s way of making sure of that was to make him vulnerable, which I thought was very important, too. He wanted to make him vulnerable more than I wanted to. I wanted to make him more capable in certain situations. These was our battles and I think we each won half of them in the way we played the scenes.
WGTC: With Holder, your character on The Killing, you sort of push the audience away. You also do the same with JW. How difficult is that as an actor?
Joel Kinnaman: In The Killing, it was really frustrating to me as an actor, even though I’d been longing to be part of a TV series as a regular, because I hadn’t done that before. I was really frustrated, because I didn’t feel that I was really allowed to play all the colors of the character. They wanted to manipulate the audience to feel that they didn’t know if they liked this character and then he’d come around. I use Tony Soprano as an example. He does so many horrible things and you are rooting against him, but when he kills Chris, it’s so difficult, but you’re still with him on this journey because you understand him. You’re still with him. I actually use that when I’ve been in discussion about scripts and we need to go further and there’s reservations.
WGTC: Can you tell us about Robocop?
Joel Kinnaman: Yes, it’s a re-imagining. There are parts or ideas from the first movie that are remade. It’s a completely new take on it. We have a fantastic director. He reminds me, in some ways, of Daniel. He’s a very confident, very bold director. He wrote, directed and produced the second movie that he did, he distributed it too and it was one of the highest grossing films in Brazil.
He stands his grounds on certain things and knows what battles are worth fighting and where you compromise. If you’ve seen his movies, you know he’s a very talented actor’s director. The acting is superb in his films and the action is very believable. He has a history of being a physicist too, so his knowledge of robotics and neuroscience gives him an understanding of where the cutting edge is right now. What he’s working on with the writers in regards to what’s plausible in 2041 will be very interesting.
That concludes our interview but we’d like to thank Joel very much for talking with us. Be sure to check out Easy Money, now in theatres.