Questions for Joel Kinnaman
The scene-stealing Swedish actor talks about his role in The Killing, his big hippie family, and his burgeoning American film career.
Kinnaman: I went to high school in Texas for one year, my senior year. My parents wanted me to get out of Stockholm because I was running with the wrong crew. They wanted me to get back to my roots. In Sweden, I went to an English school, where there was a mishmash of people from all over the world. Some were diplomatic kids with a lot of money, some were ghetto kids who came up from the suburbs, and I grew up in between. There's a community of second generation immigrants, and I became part of that because I had an American father.
Early on I knew I wanted to give Holder a feel that he grew up with a variety of people, kind of the same way I did. And he's got some issues that he's dealing with that get explained in episode eight of the series, and that was a huge part of my preparation for the character. I wanted Holder's physical movements to show that he came from a socially unpolished background. It looks like I don't have any make up on, but that's because Charles Porlier is the best makeup artist I've ever worked with. He always fixed it when it looked like I'd had too much sleep.
Slate: How did your American father end up in Sweden?
Kinnaman: When he was 20 years old he was shipped off to Vietnam. He was stationed in Bangkok. He was a young kid who had no idea about anything, and he spent a lot of time with European backpackers and started to get a lot of realizations about what this world was about. I inherited his temperament, that can be pretty hot sometimes, and he was very vocal and made a lot of enemies in the military community and in his barracks. He jumped out of the barracks at night, and hitchhiked into northern Thailand and Laos, and was on the run in Laos, living in monasteries and doing carpentry work for food. He met my sister's mom (she's not my mom) and she became pregnant. Then they found out that there were some military intelligence people looking for a tall American. Sweden was the only country that accepted military deserters at the time, and after a pit stop in Russia, he came to Sweden and has been living here ever since. We're all a big hippie family so I got five sisters and a bunch of different mothers. Not really, but my sisters' mothers are all good friends with my mother. We're a big family, 25 people.
Slate: Do you plan to stay in America indefinitely, or do you miss your big hippie family?
Kinnaman: That's the problem when you go chasing a career that is not at home. I'm going for the most interesting work, and I've been getting a lot of interesting stuff coming my way in the U.S. But I am going back to Sweden this summer to do a Swedish project for a month—a continuation of Easy Money.
Slate: In an interview I saw from when you were promoting Easy Money, you said that you have to relate to the characters that you choose. What do you relate to about Holder?
Kinnaman: He's morally complex. That's the kind of work I look for. It's really boring to do a character that is only one way, that's not how we are as people. We show a different face to everyone that we meet. I try to put that in, even if it's not in the scripts. For some reason I've been playing a lot of characters that are like actors in their reality. My character, J.W., in Easy Money, is a Talented Mr. Ripley kind of character. He's selling drugs to finance an upper-class lifestyle, and he impersonates the criminals he worked with. He's a chameleon in that sense. Holder is also an undercover guy who is sort of an impostor. I think the most significant resemblance between the characters is they all have a good heart but their actions aren't always so good. It's very human. No one likes anything perfect, with perfect white teeth and a perfect white smile.
Slate: Finally, what's the best thing you've seen on the Internet this week?
Kinnaman: My Internet game is really strong, so I want to come up with something that's worthy of my game. The funniest video I've seen recently is a rap video from Stic from Dead Presidents. It's called "Back on My Regimen." I watch it every time I want to laugh.
Interview has been condensed and edited.