Joel Kinnaman’s acting spans Europe, America
Joel Kinnaman was born in Sweden to an American father and Swedish mother. “I had an American identity in a sense, even though I hadn’t explored it,” he says.
As Stephen Holder, a former junkie turned homicide detective, he helps reveal (finally) who killed Rosie Larsen in Sunday’s season finale of AMC’s The Killing (9 ET/PT). In a romantic turn, he dumps Greta Gerwig just before their wedding in Lola Versus, which expands nationally this month. His breakout film, Sweden’s Snabba Cash (Easy Money), will be released in the U.S. July 11. And this fall Kinnaman will play Robocop in a remake of the iconic 1987 film due in theaters next year.
Tuesday, he attended Lola’s premiere with girlfriend Olivia Munn, and says Lola marked a welcome departure.
“My whole career has been gritty, dark material, but I’m a light guy,” he says. “I’m not brooding or depressed. It was nice to try something new that’s completely different in tone.”
Most American viewers know him as Holder, the pale, wiry cop unraveling The Killing, based on a Danish series. Kinnaman says Holder and his partner, Mireille Enos’ Sarah Linden, were an odd couple—”she’s a very centered quiet person and he’s always blabbing“—but in recent episodes found common ground as the product of broken homes.”
And while Linden is “kind of falling apart and behaving more and more erratically, he’s getting his s—- together and being the strong person who’s holding her up. They don’t trust people very easily because they’ve both been betrayed so much.”
Executive producer Veena Sud says Holder’s “shifty morality” made the role difficult to cast with a Hollywood actor. “Joel has such an incredibly elusive uniqueness. We loved the cadence of his voice and the way he moves his body, his humor and his darkness.”
Kinnaman, 32, started acting at 10, appearing in a Swedish soap opera through connections by his half-sister, actress Melinda Kinnaman. The son of an American Vietnam War deserter and a Swedish mom, he spent a year as an exchange student outside Austin, Tex. “I had an American identity in a sense, even though I hadn’t explored it.”
He traveled, working in factories, bartending and sweeping snow off roofs before enrolling in Sweden’s National Acting School . “It was the first time I felt this was something I could be good at. I just didn’t want to go through life and just be OK.”
His first steady work was a series of Johan Falk TV films, based on a real-life citizen who works undercover for the police. But it was his role in 2010’s Snabba Cash as a college student with a dangerous double life as a social-climbing drug runner that won him international notice. A sequel will be released in Sweden in August, and a third film is planned; Warner Bros. has also optioned rights for an American remake with Zac Efron attached.
“Everybody knew before we made it it was going to be movie of the year,” he says. “It was based on a huge bestseller (by Jens Lapidus) but also the first story…that tapped into (the nexus) of the criminal and upper-class worlds” in the country. “I knew that world very well; it was intriguing.”
Some critics and fans of The Killing turned on the show when last season’s cliffhanger finale didn’t solve the case, breaking an implicit promise of AMC’s tagline, “Who killed Rosie Larsen?”
“It was a little insecure way of marketing it because they really wanted to get people to watch the last episode,” Kinnaman says. “People felt betrayed; they felt it was a waste of time.” Though passionate, American viewers are “a little too impatient, especially when tuning into a show that wanted to be for the patient viewer. (But) I’d rather people care and they’re angry than that they don’t care at all.”