Interview: Joel Kinnaman on EDGE OF WINTER and Why He's Drawn to Flawed Characters
In the taut wilderness thriller Edge of Winter, Joel Kinnaman plays an unemployed, single dad with seething personal issues and more than a bit of a mean streak. It's another complex character in an increasingly long line of layered performances by Kinnaman, who always manages to bring humanity to his roles, no matter how flawed the characters may be.
After his breakout role in the Swedish crime thriller Easy Money (aka Snabba Cash), Kinnaman came to widespread attention for his portrayal of detective Holder in AMC's The Killing. Now, like many actors these days, he seems comfortable sliding between Hollywood tentpoles like Robocop and Suicide Squad, independent productions like Edge of Winter and even television with roles on House of Cards and the streaming service's upcoming cyberpunk show Altered Carbon.
Since Edge of Winter sees release tomorrow (Friday, August 12), ScreenAnarchy caught up with Kinnaman to discuss what drew him to the project.
Screen Anarchy: First of all, congratulations on EDGE OF WINTER and your superb performance. I'm wondering what appealed to you about the project?
Joel Kinnaman: It was this character that really drew me in. It felt like there was an opportunity here to play a very complex character, a very difficult character, in a film that could also be a very exciting and horiffying psychological thriller.
I saw an opportunity to give nuance and perhaps some kind of understanding to a father that becomes a threat to his children's lives -- which is about as low as you can go. I saw a big challenge to humanize him in some way and get an understanding of where that kind of incomprehensible behaviour could come from.
I get the sense that you're drawn to these types of complicated characters that push you into really dark places. One of my favourites is Holder on THE KILLING and it seems to be a theme in your career. What is it about this specifically that appeals to you?
If we were honest with ourselves, none of us are perfect in any way. And that's why I'm drawn to the flaws. I don't think it's particularly interesting to watch a perfect human behave in a perfect way. It's much more interesting to see why it doesn't work and how you can still love somebody who has been damaged.
I think that even though we often want to distance ourselves from flawed people -- people who perhaps didn't receive the help they needed through life -- really, they're a symbol of what we all carry.
Is it hard for you to leave that mental space shen you finish shooting at the end of the day? Or do you carry some of that with you? Is it inevitable?
Sometimes it lingers, especially when you've gone to some personal places. In playing these kinds of roles and in acting in general, I feel that what I do is, I don't really let my wounds heal. Things in my life that I've actually overcome already, that I no longer feel insecrure or sad about, I try to leave those wounds a little bit open and it does leave me open to feeling a little more anxiety at times, but it's an important tool that helps me connect with, particularly, these kinds of characters.
You worked with a couple of young actors in this movie, including Tom Holland. I wonder if you passed on any of this wisdom to your young co-stars.
We would talk a lot and they were both very impressive. They really blew me away in how easily they could access deep emotion. And they really came to play. A lot of time with younger actors they want to do the fun stuff, like the action or the running, but they really wanted to dig deep. There was a vibe on set between us where the underline was, "We are really all going for it here. We're not playing around." And they were so game for it. So we had a lot of conversations about the work.
I really loved playing with young actors. It's one of the most rewarding things because they're so much closer to their original source of our profession, of playing. Becasue it's a version of playing like we did when we were kids. And most adults forget what that is. They don't have that in them anymore. Whereas if you're an actor that's good, that's what you do. And that's your job. So when you get into with a couple of kids, or young actors that are really talented, they tap into that so quickly and it becomes really inspiring.
So you're team DC, Tom Holland is team Marvel. Was there any animosity between the two of you?
Well I actually helped Tommy with his audition. He was actually auditioning for Spider-Man while we were shooting Edge of Winter.
So you're responsible!
It's my fault!
Hey, that's a-okay by us! Back to EDGE OF WINTER, what was the hardest part of making it?
The most difficult aspect, but the thing that was also at the core of the film, was the elements. It was below minus 30 and we were only shooting nights out in the woods. So it was very cold. So it was that, but at the same time we were really going for it with this one.
It's really obvious in the fim. You can almost taste how cold it was. It really comes through.
Before I let you go, is there anything you can tell us about your new [cyberpunk] project, ALTERED CARBON?
Well, I'm coming back to Canada! I'm hoping to get that citizenship because I spend more time there than I do in the US.
I don't think I've ever been more excited about a project than Altered Carbon. It's just something that's never been done before. It's a sci-fi show that has a hard R rating and at the same time has a very high budget. It's going to be 10 hours, but it's like five decent-sized films in terms of budget.
We're really going to be able to tell the story how it's supposed to be told. It's a sci-fi noir, Blade Runner-ish story that is just really fascinating and will give us all a take on what 500 years in the future could be like where techology has changed what the perception of life is and what the human body is and what the meaning of life is. And we do this through a detective story.
The ambition is so high from Netflix and Skydance, everybody involved in this project is the best in the game so it's really going to be really fucking cool.
SA: Thanks Joel, it was a pleasure speaking with you. We'll be sure to look for you around town in Vancouver when you begin shooting.
[Film reporter and critic Marina Antunes can be followed on Twitter.]