HitFix Interview: Joel Kinnaman talks ‘The Killing’ Season 2

04.02.12 7 years ago
[Don’t read this interview until after watching Sunday’s (April 1) season premiere of “The Killing.”]
When last we left Joel Kinnaman’s Holder, at the end of the first season of AMC’s “The Killing,” it appeared that he had done some very bad things.
And fans weren’t happy.
There was a lot about that “Killing” finale that made certain viewers miserable, but the seeming decision to expose compellingly twitchy, amusingly acerbic, ultimately endearing Holder as a backstabbing fink got people particularly riled up.
After watching Sunday’s two-hour premiere, we can all say…
[Click through…]
Whew. Mostly. 
I sat down with Kinnaman last week to discuss the journey his character took in the first season and where the events of the premiere leave Holder going forward, including a hint at future darkness.
We also talked about that controversial finale, the on-set stakes to figure out who killed Rosie Larsen and his recent casting as the lead in “RoboCop.”
Check out the full interview…
HitFix: I guess my first question would be this: When have you been told different secrets about Holder through the process? How much have you known from the start and how much has been surprising for you?
Joel Kinnaman: I knew all along that he was an addict and that that was the secret that he was carrying. That was a big part of my preparation for the part. And when it came to the season finale and what was going on with that, I knew what Holder was doing. I knew all along what his agenda was and who was he was affiliated with and who he wasn’t and if Holder was set up himself and if he was part of some coverup.
HitFix: How much do you, personally, want to know or need to know to play a character like this?
Joel Kinnaman: I want to know everything. I want to be trusted that I can carry the secrets in the show and I won’t be playing every beat of the moment. But then I have to say that when it comes to the investigation — we haven’t be told, we find out as we read the scripts — I’ve found that actually quite appealing, especially towards the end of the second season now.
The whole cast and crew is buzzing. The last three read-throughs have been like a joke, because everybody’s like, “You did it!” “No, you did it!” “What was that look?” “I saw him talk to a writer before!” There are conspiracy theories within the cast like, “I saw him talk to that writer, so he knows something.” There’s this big betting game going on and everybody’s throwing in money and guessing the killer. That has actually been really funny and it’s also been kinda intriguing since we’re investigating and we are trying to guess who it is in the story, it’s been kinda fun to just bring that in. We’re like one episode ahead of what we’re shooting, so it’s easy to tune into that.
HitFix: Which of the actors have been particularly savvy about predicting the investigative aspects?
Joel Kinnaman: Nobody, really. Everybody’s got these wild guesses here and there and they’ve got theories. There are some people now, I’m not gonna say who, but who have been a little bit more on-cue about what has been going on, so now everybody’s like, “Do you know something?” and they get cross-examined by the other cast because they had guessed right. But I can’t tell you who.
HitFix: We get to the end of the first season and we’re given the impression that Holder has been dirty or has been on the wrong side or something bad. You said you knew what we find out in the season season premiere, but how dark did you want him to look in the finale? How much “potential badness” did you want to play?
Joel Kinnaman: Well, in the first two episodes back, you see that he’s with Gil Sloan and so you now can strongly suspect that he actually did believe that it was Richmond in the photo. What Holder did, he cut a few corners. He had one of the people who he trusted most in the world, his sponsor, somebody who is also one of the big dogs in County, who are in charge of the toll booth bridge cameras, and he tells him, “We need this photo. How can we get it?” and he tells Gil and Gil hooks him up with the photo. He thought he cut a few corners, he didn’t get the warrant for the it, but he just got the photo. So I think that’s what Holder was doing. He thought he cut a few corners, but that’s it. He still feels that he’s a good cop, but this betrayal is from the person he trusted the most and who’s also the person who carried him through this huge step of getting sober and getting back on his feet, that’s what’s been betrayed.
HitFix: That may be, but at the same time, we were still supposed to have our doubts in the finale. There were many viewers who felt betrayed that Holder had done this, that Holder may be been bad all along. Was it something you had to avoid, playing it that way?
Joel Kinnaman: I tried to avoid it as much possible. I give them material and then they choose what material, what look in the editing. 
HitFix: Suddenly there are dark shadows on your face and ominous music is playing and…
Joel Kinnaman: I guess I’m bad!
HitFix: How vulnerable is Holder about to get? Like you say, his sponsor has betrayed him, at least to some degree. Given the condensed nature of the storytelling on the show — it’s only one day per episode — how dark of a place can he go?
Joel Kinnaman: He’s gonna have a couple bad days.
HitFix: Had you been looking forward to those bad days? When you have a character who’s an addict, we’ve known avenues he could be heading…
Joel Kinnaman: That’s what I was going to say. When I got the part and we were talking about this character, the Holder storyline that plays out in the first three or four episodes in the second season, that’s what I’ve been looking forward to with this character the whole time. It’s a very interesting story to tell when somebody who has maintained their sobriety and become a better person, all of a sudden starts slipping and sliding. I think that’s something that everybody can relate to, when all of a sudden you start slipping and you start breaking your promises to yourself. It’s a very dangerous road and he’s going down it. 
HitFix: Now, Mireille Enos has this serenity about her acting here, a deceptive placidness. How much have you crafted Holder’s physicality and mannerisms to be a contrast to that?
Joel Kinnaman: It’s partly how it’s written, but then it’s turned out that way. We complement each other really well. We don’t compete, because we have such different. With Mireille, it’s just such a pleasure to work and play with her every day. We’re very good friends and we have a lot of fun while we’re doing it, but when it comes to that, that’s just their dynamic. But then it’s funny, because you understand a little in the first season and then even more in the second season that they have a lot of similarities, especially in how they grew up. They both come from very broken homes and they both grew up without parents and they both have a lot of distrust for other people and a lot of their strengths within their police work come from their personal weakness, but in very different ways.
HitFix: How important was the “Missing” episode to understanding the dynamic between the characters.
Joel Kinnaman: I thought it was very, very important and it was my favorite episode to play.
HitFix: It was like theater, basically a two-hander. 
Joel Kinnaman: It was! It was! It was wonderful. And Nicole Kassell, who directed that episode, is also a very, very good director. Her movie, “The Woodsman,” I thought it was an incredible movie. To be able to take a character who’s a pedophile, to make you sorta root for him, but never forgive his crimes, that’s quite an achievement. That’s very smart storytelling. So “Missing” just had a wonderful combination of people to work with. That episode was very important, because that’s when they really come together in a sense and it’s also the first time when Holder really gets a chance to be there for her and he’s supporting her and it’s also the first time she shows real weakness to him and opens up and is vulnerable in front of Holder.
HitFix: That episode came fairly late in the first season. For you as an actor, is that the kind of episode you’d have preferred to have had early in the run? Just in terms of being able to bite your teeth into the character?
Joel Kinnaman: Perhaps. In a selfish way, there are a lot of things that could have been more fun for me to do. Especially in the first season — it was frustrating for me as an actor, but then when I watched the show I thought it was really well-crafted — how they kept it a secret to the audience, or kept the audience questioning if Holder’s a good guy or a bad guy. He’s keeping something a secret and he’s out doing something and then you find out that he’s actually an addict and that he’s going to an NA meeting. Because that was holding my colors back. They didn’t want me to be too charming or if I was too jovial in a scene, I’d be toned down to keep that suspense about him. So that’s a little frustrating, just from an actors’ standpoint, because you always want to play with all of the colors. So there are those navigations that you have to do.
HitFix: Who’s on-set keeping up with things like that? On a TV show, you have a different director each week. Where does the memo come down from to make sure that you aren’t being too jovial or charming?
Joel Kinnaman: It’s the writers. There’s always a writer on set and they’re very tight in the writers’ room. Sometimes we’ll get Veena [Sud] on the phone with some question. The writers are very strong on this show. It’s really a writers’ show.
HitFix: How much of the reaction to the finale did you pay attention to?
Joel Kinnaman: Not too much. I’m glad I’d ended my Twitter account about a month before. I felt like Twitter was not a good thing for me. I’m battling with keeping my narcissism at bay as it is, so Twitter was not a good thing for that. I’m glad I didn’t have Twitter at that time.
No, I followed it a little bit. At first, I just thought it was funny. I was like, “Damn, people got really angry.” There’s a Swedish poem is like: “First of all, we want to get loved. Less than that, we want to be feared. Less than that, we want to be hated. Less than that…” And then it just goes on. You want people to feel things about you. So in one sense, I was a little bit flattered that people were feeling and emoting very strongly, but of course that’s not the response that you want. I still believe that there is a silent majority that was totally OK with how it ended, but the people who were angry about it, they were very angry. It was like a f***ing earthquake.
HitFix: A lot of that anger was directed at what seemed to be Holder’s betrayal. Did you get any of that?
Joel Kinnaman: A little bit. Like, “What’s going on?” and people would come up to me in the street like, “I thought you were a good guy!” And I’d be like, “You’ll see! You’ll see.”
HitFix: When in the process of all of this did the “Robocop” auditions and casting begin?
Joel Kinnaman: I’ve been going out for a bunch of different movies and there’s always this problem when you want to do features, especially bigger features, it’s difficult when you only have a seven-month gap. I’m contractually committed to do a third season if they pick it up. So at first I was going to do “Arthur & Lancelot” and then that got put on hold. That’s actually the movie that I thought I was going to be doing this summer. I’d already started horseback riding and sword training and everything, so it was a little bit of a take-back that I had to break preparation. Then I met Jose Padilha. I was a big fan of the “Tropa de Elite,” the “Elite Squad,” movies. I saw them right when they came out. I think those two movies sorta have the construction of a trilogy and to me, that’s just brilliant movie-making, very intelligent and politically very interesting and the action sequences are very good. So if a guy like that is going to do a remake of “RoboCop,” you know that it’s going to be something real.
Then he was also telling me the whole background of what he wanted to investigate with “RoboCop.” It’s going to be a very smart movie and also very exciting. Then I had to fight to get it. It’s also that thing where I’ve been on a TV show, but I’m still not a name. You want to reach that kind of a level, because there’s a lot of mid-level to low-budget movies where I can’t be the lead in one of those movies, because you have a name to draw financing to the movie. But “RoboCop” is the name. 
I was looking for a big movie. I wanted to take that step. I wanted to show that I could carry a big movie. Some of those big movies, they are cheesier than others and they want to have less of a core and just have the eye-candy. So I couldn’t be happier. This is a really challenging part. It’s really challenging, actor-wise.
HitFix: How much of you are we going to be able to see?
Joel Kinnaman: We’ll see me. The visor’s gonna be see-through. It’s going to be much more of a human performance. There’s not going to be any twitchy robot [he mimics very mechanical robotic moves]. Our vision of how a robot is going to be in 2046, it’s going to be a very human skin, it’s gonna look very human. I’m going to be able to put my signature on the body language, too. The first “RoboCop” movie is one of my favorite movies. I’ve seen that movie probably 15 or 20 times. But from an acting standpoint, walking around just moving your jaw, it’s not so interesting. So this is going to be an opportunity to really bring a full performance to it. 
HitFix: OK. Circling back… Do you know who killed Rosie Larsen?
Joel Kinnaman: No, I don’t. But I’ve got an idea.
HitFix: When are you going to find out?
Joel Kinnaman: We’re shooting Episode 11 now and after that is 12. I’ve read 12. Episode 13, the finale, we’re gonna go to a separate room and read it. Nobody’s gonna get it before. And then, after that, about a halfway through, the principles are gonna be taken to another room and just the principles are gonna be able to read it. And then some of the scenes are going to be shot with a minimal crew.
HitFix: How confident are you that you know?
Joel Kinnaman: 85 percent.
“The Killing” airs Sunday nights on AMC.

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