Interview: Joel Kinnaman Talks Netflix Hit Altered Carbon

Altered Carbon's Joel Kinnaman talks about stripping down on the set, swapping bodies and why he'd spend eternity saving the oceans
ByFarah AndrewsFriday , 16 February 2018
Interview: Joel Kinnaman Talks Netflix Hit Altered Carbon

Get ready for a new Netflix obsession! Dystopian cyberpunk show Altered Carbon has all of the sci-fi appeal of The Matrix, with a little crime drama thrown in for good measure, and we're obsessed. 

So when we got the chance to sit down with the star of the show, Swedish actor Joel Kinnaman – who you will recognise as Suicide Squad’s Rick Flag – we couldn’t turn it down.

The show is set 300 years in the future, when humans have worked out how to preserve their souls and consciousness by downloading them onto a disk, which they can then ‘re-sleeve’ into other bodies, making them immortal.

Joel, who dated Olivia Munn in the past but is now married to celebrity tattoo artist, Cleo Wattenström, plays Takeshi Kovacs, who is woken up 200 years into his prison sentence by billionaire Laurens Bancroft, to solve the mystery of the murder of Bancroft himself.

Here Joel fills us in on getting in shape for the role that required him to bare more than his soul, and what he would do
if he had all the time in the world…

What was the appeal of the project when you first heard about it?

At first I was a little hesitant, I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to do another TV show. When I started doing some research about the project, I felt like that the kind of project where you need to create a world is only done well when there is a big-budget Hollywood movie. So I wasn’t sure how would they get around it. I read the script and it was good. Then I met with the producers, Laeta Kalogridis and David Ellison, they walked me through the scale of the ambition behind this. They showed me some concept art and I went from being sceptical to blown-away. I had to keep it under wraps because we hadn’t negotiated yet!

Did you feel pressure to live up to the expectations of the book’s fans when creating the show?

I always want to do that. The way I respond to pressure is I am always excited about the pressure. And this kind of work… it takes a lot of discipline and I have to face my fears in a lot of ways. The more pressure there is, the easier it is for me to push myself. So I always try to find acting work where there is as much pressure as possible.

Showrunner Laeta Kalogridis has said that Dubai’s Burj Khalifa served as inspiration for some of the futuristic city that Altered Carbon is set in. In your imagination, what does a dystopian future look like?

I think [it would look like] where the divide between the rich and the poor is vastly exaggerated. I see that nowadays too. Wealth is becoming more and more concentrated among a small group of people. The way healthcare, technology and biochemistry… I think there’s an argument that suggests that rich people will become a different species. And that is sort of what happens in Altered Carbon. Rich people almost become gods and poor people lead their life in misery and become utterly powerless over their existence. And we are seeing this trend now… Altered Carbon is like a warning.

We heard the first three days of shooting you weren’t wearing many clothes…

Yes [laughs]. My Scandinavian Swedish roots came in handy. We have a very relaxed relationship with clothing. That was good!

How long did it take you to get in shape?

There was a lot of physical preparation for this role. I really wanted to take the action to another level. I got the opportunity to prepare for a long time before shooting, because I got the job way ahead of time. I trained for about six months before we started shooting, for three to five hours a day, doing a bunch of different kinds of martial arts, gymnastics, weight lifting, wire work… all that kind of stuff.

In the show the richest characters, the Meths, are immortal with nothing but infinite time, money and power on their hands. If you had that, what would you do with it?

I would put almost all of it into saving the oceans. The oceans feed so many of the world’s people. If these oceans continue to sour and die it will have totally devastating consequences on the whole of humanity.

If you woke up in three hundred years, what would you hope to see had happened to the world?

I’d hope to see that we as species have learned how to not work in competition. That we are no longer as polarised. And instead of spending our resources for fighting each other and maintaining our position, we focus on unity and to use our collective energy to explore space.

And would you choose to re-sleeve or stick with the body you have now?

Yeah. I am pretty OK with it; I’d stick with this body! 

To Sleeve Or Not To Sleeve

We asked Joel which of these famous faces and characters he’d want to re-sleeve as. It turns out he’s pretty curious!

The Rock?


Kanye West?


Kim Kardashian?


Rick Flag from Suicide Squad?



No Sleeve!

Tony Stark?

No sleeve

Harry Potter?


Will Smith?


Eleven from Stranger Things?


Princess Leia from Star Wars?




Margot Robbie?


Harley Quinn from Suicide Squad?

Sleeve… I am a curious guy!

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