Interview: The Killing’s Swedish Smokeshow Joel Kinnaman

Meet the smouldering star of the for-real-this-time final season of The Killing—all episodes now available on Netflix!

The Happening, Killing it, August 2014, Joel Kinnaman

Joel Kinnaman  (photography by Kirk Edwards/Corbis Outline)

Judging from the vocal swagger of Joel Kinnaman as The Killing’s sleazy-hot homicide detective Stephen Holder—whose every “Daaamn, girl!” and “Hey, mamacita!” provides a welcome respite in the famously bleak crime drama—you’d never guess English is not his mother tongue. “The language was probably the biggest challenge about that role,” Kinnaman, 34, says over the phone from Sweden, where he rose to fame with an acclaimed turn as a drug runner in 2010’s Snabba Cash (Easy Money) before making a name in North America as The Killing’s breakout star (and everyone’s latest TV boyfriend). Making a scruffy recovering junkie induce the vapours required no effort at all: “I’m not trying to make Holder sexy,” Kinnaman says. “If people think he’s attractive, that’s a by-product of him not giving a sh-t.”

Like that TV trope where a character gets killed off and then magically resurrected, The Killing has returned from the dead: AMC cancelled it for the second time after season three, but Netflix has revived it for a six-episode final run (Aug. 1). The premiere picks up with Holder and his partner, Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos), scrambling to conceal the bloody misdeeds they’ve just committed. (Arousing a colleague’s suspicions: Holder—who once wore the same sweatshirt for eight episodes straight—has taken the time, in the middle of a search for a missing boy, to change.) They’re also assigned a new case, investigating a student at a military academy as the possible culprit in the slaying of his family.

Kinnaman seems unfazed by the show’s on-again, off-again status. When he landed the role, he attended NA meetings, didn’t drink for a month and wore the same outfit for five days to get into character; now, transforming into Holder is as easy as slipping on a damp, cigarette-scented hoodie. “My posture changes, the way I look at the world, the way I look at people, my voice,” he says. “When I put the clothes on, the character comes back.”