Joel Kinnaman and Mireille Enos are a magnetic duo who played homicide detectives Stephen Holder and Sarah Linden on the AMC show The Killing. They played opposite each other so well that they were teamed up again on the Amazon Prime Video original series Hanna, based on the 2011 film starring Saoirse Ronan.
Kinnaman plays Erik, a headstrong, uncompromising soldier and mercenary who has raised his daughter Hanna in the remote forests of northern Poland for the last 15 years. Leaving behind everything and everyone he knows, he trained Hanna in every method of survival, teaching her to defend herself while keeping her safe. But teenager Hanna has so many questions she needs answered. Enos plays ruthless CIA operative Marissa Wiegler, who is on the hunt for Hanna. David Farr, who co-wrote the original film, created the series and penned the scripts.
I spoke with Joel and Mireille about teaming up again, their onscreen dynamic and their own efforts in bringing their characters to life. The duo, who have been friends since The Killing, have a chemistry that clearly reflects in the portrayal of their characters. Hanna premieres on Amazon Prime Video on March 29. ~Marriska Fernandes
I loved seeing you two on The Killing. How is your dynamic different on Hanna?
Mireille: It’s a total polar opposite. We are enemies, we are trying to take each other down and trying to take advantage of each other’s vulnerability. On The Killing, we were each other’s best allies so it’s very fun to do something totally different, but it’s the same kind of ease and flow that we had on The Killing.
Joel: I think we really wanted it to be something that was different. It’s always a danger when you’re both well-known for doing something that has a very specific dynamic together and also, just for us to not fall into old patterns. This felt like a perfect place to come back together and just bond. We play off of each other so easily; we had a good time. There was one moment where we were standing and it was this one-way mirror, looking into this room, and in The Killing we were always in these interrogation rooms, so I looked up at Mireille and I was like, “What up, Linden!” (laughs) And then I went back into German mode.
Given your history of working with each other, did that help to create your on-screen dynamic?
Mireille: Of course. That’s one of the hardest things to do as an actor when you’re trying to build relationships that have been lifelong and you just met the person recently. I think actors develop a shorthand — you find things really quickly that you connect to about a person and you just dive in. But when you have actual years of history, we don’t have to work at it. All those layers are just there.
I heard you both prepared for the roles in very different ways. Can you talk about that?
Mireille: I was curious about the CIA. I did a lot of reading and watching interviews with people who have been agents or currently are. That was interesting. In terms of the physical stuff, I studied tae kwon do. I have for a long time. That was just something I kept up with as part of my arsenal.
Joel: She put that arsenal to work!
Mireille: I did have some big fights.
Joel: There were a lot of different aspects to this character. What I was focusing on in the beginning and what I was fascinated by is what happens to a person when he just goes into the wild. You leave society behind you and you go live in the woods without any human contact for like 15 years. It’s pretty hard to imagine for me and I realized how pathetically addicted I am to my phone and to all my devices and all these distractions. So I wanted to give myself some kind of experience where I challenged myself a little bit. So I could give myself some real experience that I could then fantasize about. So I got a cabin out in Poland’s Tatra Mountains. We had to drive up to the mountains for almost an hour and when the roads ended, we got on a snow scooter and rode for another 45 minutes up to the mountains. I got this little cabin with no electricity and no water and then they dropped me off and I was there for three nights. It was pretty intense and strange and I wanted to give up after five hours.
Mireille: Was there an emergency plan? Like how you would get information out if you were in trouble?
Joel: Yeah, I had a walkie-talkie that I could use. But then when I would walk out, I would walk out without it and there was really deep snow. One time I was walking around and it was snowing outside. I had gone down to the river and when I was on my way back, I took this other route because I wanted to explore and I fell through the snow and hit this patch and I was wearing snowshoes and I was struggling to get back up. I was below the surface of the snow. And I realized my tracks would be gone within an hour so if I don’t get out of this, that’s a wrap. But I get out and it’s all good.
I liked how the show has so many layers to parenthood. Joel, how did you put yourself in his shoes for that father-daughter dynamic, especially as he raises her in the wilderness?
Joel: I don’t have kids myself, so I just conjured everything that I love and imagine it being, [and multiplied it] 10 times more. That’s how my friends explained to me about having a kid (laughs). I think Erik has stripped away everything else except survival. That’s his only hope. He’s not really concerned about how socially [Hanna is] going to survive in the world. He just thinks she needs to be able to survive and defend herself. So that’s the genius and idiocy of Erik and his approach to parenting.
Mireille, Marissa is cold and calculating, but there are glimpses of more to her than that. Did you see that duality and complexity in her?
Mireille: It’s all there in David Farr’s writing. That’s part of the reason he wanted to go back in and evolve the story. He wanted to tell a more grounded version where these people aren’t just archetypes of good and evil. They are complex people and they all have lives that they are trying to protect and people they love. As you’re watching them through the season, there’s a cost to what they’re doing.
Do you often find yourselves drawn to flawed characters who can redeem themselves?
Joel: Yes, those are the best characters. You don’t want to play characters that are black and white, because they are predictable. You want to be somebody that’s unpredictable and who evolves and changes. It could be interesting to play a good person and then they make a mistake and it sets them off on a negative trajectory. That’s interesting. Or it’s interesting to play someone who is bad and becomes good. But it’s always interesting to play someone who is both.
Mireille: Also, it makes it relatable. All of us, in one way or another, are walking around with secrets and regrets like, “If only I had…” So when you’re playing characters who have — these situations are kind of dramatic than most of us live out in our actual lives — it makes it a point of reference the audience can relate to.
How would you describe each other as actors?
Mireille: Generous, he’s so very generous.
Joel: Mireille is also very generous, but she has such range. She can do so many different things. She always does these surprising unpredictable things, which makes it so fun because you always have to be on your toes and if you’re aware of what she’s doing, every take is going to be different.
Mireille: That’s what’s so exciting about working together. In episode four, we get a lot of time together to have these private conversations. So it really became a dance, really watching each other and like, “Oh he’s going over there with it, so I’m going to go with him.” Or “I’m going to pull this way.” Just following each other.
I love the series so far. Thank you for the chat.
Mireille: Thank you.
Joel: Thank you. It was a pleasure talking to you.