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Interview: Joel Kinnaman Talks ‘Altered Carbon’ and ‘Hanna’

After the reports saying that Joel is done with Altered Carbon, he spoke with The Hollywood Reporter and clarified that nothing is official yet.

For his part, Kinnaman acknowledges that he approached Kovacs with the understanding that his time as the character wouldn’t last beyond a single season, but offers an asterisk: “I don’t know what’s going to happen. No one does, really. Season two hasn’t been picked up yet, so who knows?”

“If it was a cool story, for sure,” he added when asked if he would want to continue on as Takeshi Kovacs. “I loved making this show. I had a great experience. The feedback has been fantastic. But I have no idea what’s going on with the second season.”

Hanna’s production is expected to run until July 12, 2018. There has to be room for more Altered Carbon after that, right? Here’s the full interview with THR:

In approaching the complicated world of Altered Carbon, what was your entry point into the show’s universe and the character of Kovacs, specifically?

There’s a lot of sci-fi stuff to wrap your head around, but when you’re preparing for the character, you have to strip all of that away. You have to peel the layers of the onion until you get down to the real heart of the character. It’s a person that is constantly dealing with loss and has made himself numb to that feeling, and therefore doesn’t care about anyone. He won’t allow himself to feel things for other people. Throughout his whole life, everyone who has ever mattered to him has been taken away from him. That’s the problem for Kovacs, in this period of his life. He’s confronted with a situation where he once again has nobody in his life who matters. Everyone he loves is dead. All of the sudden, these new people he’s using for his own gain start meaning something to him. That’s something he wants to avoid at all costs. I tried to dig down into that. 

There’s not so much you can do with him being an Envoy and part of the rebellion. It was more about boiling down to his human qualities. He’s a man who was never allowed to be a boy. To me, that means he’ll always be a boy in some way. He’s someone who has raised himself. He’s done a lot of things that are very awful. It’s someone who carries a lot of self-loathing. To me, when I play a person who is often sarcastic and doesn’t want to engage in the world, and doesn’t want to show any emotion, or doesn’t want to show people that he feels anything…to me, those are markers that this is a person who has actually been really hurt, and is trying to keep those emotions away.

Was your approach to playing Kovacs markedly different from how you would normally approach a character, since you’re playing just the latest in a long line of bodies for Takeshi Kovacs? How did you tackle the physicality?

It was a tricky thing. Usually the way I work is I often work on the physical body language, the tension. That’s usually where my imagination takes me when I start building a character. I start by thinking, is this a confident person? Where in the body is the tension of this person? If the tension is in the shoulders, does it make the head come forward? Maybe he looks at other people like this, a little bit hunched over from the side, so he’s actually a little shy, but he’s also aggressive. All of that, the physical life, starts to feed into the emotional life. Here, there’s so many layers to that, that it was almost hard to decipher. You’re someone with a physical inclination about how you normally feel in a body, and then all of the sudden you’re put into another body. That body has physical memories that are affecting you. It suddenly becomes very freeing. You’re freed up to do pretty much whatever you want. I saw him as a person who carried a lot of sadness, but was also very physically able. I made him a little hunched over, but at the same time, strong. I looked at a lot of big cats.

Good call. Kovacs is definitely a cat person more than a dog person.

For sure. (Laughs.) I was looking at a lot of lions and tigers. They’re very relaxed. If you look at them, they almost look a little sad. Almost like they don’t care about anything. It’s very powerful. When something happens and they need to be active, they react very quickly and can be very dangerous. That’s how I was looking at it.

Did you collaborate with Will Yun Lee on creating Kovacs, since he’s playing his original sleeve?

Will came in right at the tail end [of production]. He was prepping to get ready to shoot right as I was wrapping up. They showed him footage of what we had shot. He asked if there were any physical mannerisms I was doing that he could pick up on. We found a couple of things that he could do, so we could create a common thread. He did an amazing job. A really great performance.

You trained hard for the action scenes, learning martial arts, for instance. How much has that training stuck with you since walking away from the role?

It was one of the big gifts that came with this project and this job: digging into the action part of it, and the martial arts. It’s become a big part of my life now. It became part of something I was already doing, in a sense. I’ve realized I’m always happiest in life when I’m working on a role, because then your whole life is seen through this filter, through the curiosity of a new role, and trying to get as much information about a role as you can — always learning new things. When I didn’t have a role to work on, when I was in between jobs, I would feel like I had much less purpose. I would feel a little empty in a way. Now, after finding martial arts…it’s something I had found even before that, really, that I should always be learning something new. Different hobbies. The process makes me feel good. Now, martial arts has just been the perfect thing. I’ve been training a lot since I shot Altered Carbon. It’s remained a part of my life since then.

Which action scene was the most physically demanding?

Probably the one in episode six, at Fight Drome. It was really tough to shoot. The physical conditions…we were shooting in a big garage with 250 extras and really bad air. The ground was sand, so it was so dusty. The air quality was so bad. At the same time, it was super physically demanding. I also had to play injured in a way where I was getting paralyzed while I was fighting. There was a lot of tension in it. It was a big, long fight sequence with a lot of intricate moves. We shot it over the course of four or five days. One of our stunt guys tore ligaments in both of his knees. We needed another guy to play him. It was a really tough shoot. Purely physically, I think that was the toughest one.

What was the last scene you filmed for the series?

The last scene… (Pauses.) It was Head in the Clouds. We were filming the Head in the Clouds crashing into the ocean.

What do you remember about the day, as you were wrapping your work on Altered Carbon?

It was a special day. It was a really special day. One of the big challenges for me in this job…when I worked on Suicide Squad, I became friends with Will Smith, and I was so deeply impressed with the amount of energy he puts into creating a good environment for everyone on set, and how much his energy was based on generosity and giving people a good experience. It was something that I really respected. I love myself the most when I’m in that mind space, when I’m generous. It was so great to see someone on that level using their power to do good in that way. My relationship with Will really reinforced some of those ambitions that I had when it came to being a good leader and being a force for good in your community and work environment. With Altered Carbon, it was my first real lead role after [Suicide Squad], and I looked at it as an opportunity to really try that. Not in the way Will does it, because he’s been doing it for 20 years; he’s a very old man now. (Laughs.) But he’s been doing it for a long time.

Before I went up to Vancouver to shoot, I went to see Will, and we sat down and had a conversation over maybe three or four hours about leadership. That was a big ambition that I had with this project. I put a lot of effort into it. I don’t want to come off as bragging, but it was something I was really proud of. After we wrapped, I’ve never gotten this kind of response before from a crew. Several crewmembers told me I had contributed to making it a happy period of their life. To me, it really reinforced the idea that when you see someone do good like Will does, it inspired me to do good. I saw what he did on Suicide Squad, and you would see crewmembers who were happy to come to work. Of course they were tired, but they would be happy when they went home. Their kids would have a parent who would come home happy from work. It’s all about sending those positive ripples out into the world. That’s what I’m most proud of with Altered Carbon. 

You’re moving from Altered Carbon into Hanna for Amazon. What can you say about the project, which reunites you with Enos?

I loved the movie. My favorite part was the relationship between the father and daughter. The series version has an even greater focus on that. Just that idea of parenthood, and how there are so many layers…I’m so compelled by a person who takes their child, and to save it, he goes out into the woods and raises it in solitude for 14 years. To both be surviving in the woods with a child, and also raising that child in the wilderness — what that does to your mind and your connection to your child and your connection to the world — I think it’s really fascinating. Add in the fact that she’s a genetic experiment with incredible abilities? It’s such an incredible idea. It’s a family drama wrapped into this very high-concept idea, while it’s also a coming-of-age and coming-into-the-world story. I can’t wait to dive in. And then getting to play with Mireille again? That was a huge factor for me. I’m so excited about that. She’s one of my favorite people in the world, and she’s also one of my favorite actors in the world to watch and to play with. I’m so excited. I can’t wait. 

1 Comment to "Interview: Joel Kinnaman Talks ‘Altered Carbon’ and ‘Hanna’"

  1. Dorothy Johnson says:

    i would love to see you do a fun movie. You would be sensational. You have a good sense of humor. We all need that now, if you know what I mean. Good Luck to you, and I pray I will see you soon in a funny movie.

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