‘Game of Thrones’ Kristofer Hivju on Getting Dark for ‘TWIN’ & Playing Against Himself
The Nordic series lands in the United States beginning Tuesday, February 4 on the networks’ streaming platform MHz Choice. Co-created by Hivju, TWIN is a compelling drama centered on the estrangement between brothers Adam and Erik (both played by Hivju).
When the twins meet for the first time in 15 years, a fight ends with Adam’s wife Ingrid (Rebekka Nystabakk) and Erik accidentally killing Adam. This sets in motion a series of events including Erik assuming Adam’s identity for the protection of Ingrid and his brother’s family. Below, Hivju opens up to us about the project, how his roles differ from Thrones, binge culture and more. And catch an exclusive sneak peek with the featurette clip, above.
How did this project come into existence?
Kristofer Hivju: I’ve always been fascinated by twins and so is my friend [and fellow creator] Kristoffer Metcalfe. I have lots of twins in my family, but it started out as a very simple idea 13 years ago when we were younger and we wanted to make a western. We fell in love with this premise where you have a priest who was in trouble and he had a brother who was a criminal. We wanted to explore twins who have the same exact DNA and are born equal, but their personalities are total opposites.
The idea was on the shelf for about 7 or 8 years and then we picked it up again and said, “Let’s put it into modern times, let’s see what happens with that story.” From there on we were figuring out how this premise would happen… to make it believable. It ended up as much more of a drama than we thought.
Was it always meant to be a drama, or were you going for something more comedic initially?
We explored the comedy version and when you have identity switch plots it’s very often a comical payoff. But we wanted to take a comical premise very seriously — what would really happen if you are the total opposite of your brother personality-wise, you are stuck in his life and have to live his life for a week, and you don’t know how to deal with it? It’s like every situation becomes a struggle and every situation he’s in becomes three-dimensional because he knows the other person is talking to his brother and the audience can observe that.
You portray twins Erik and Adam — what should viewers know about them before tuning in?
Erik is a surfer bum who owes everybody money and hasn’t taken responsibility for any relation or agreement in his life. He’s kind of a big child and he has this philosophy of living day-to-day, and he hasn’t seen his brother for 15 or 16 years, and his brother [Adam] has done the total opposite. He has married, he’s taken responsibilities at this resort, and he has a Volvo and he has his mind on serious stuff [Laughs]. But he has secrets and the show will go into why they haven’t spoken in 15 years and why there’s conflict.
Was it difficult playing twins? Did you approach both characters in different ways?
Well, actually, you just play two different roles, that’s what I’m doing. It’s just two roles, but of course, when you have to change every second take, every set up you have to run and change and change characters — that was challenging fun.
People know you in America for your role as Tormund Giantsbane in Game of Thrones, who provided some comedic relief from time to time. Was your approach to this extremely dramatic project different from those lighter scenes in Thrones?
Tormund starts out as an antagonist and he ended up falling in love and becoming comic relief. He always found himself in a life or death situation, but he enjoyed that intensity and he enjoyed the fights. Because of his dangerous life, he tried to make something good out of anything. For me, it was more like playing Shakespeare and TWIN was more like playing Chekov, it’s just another tone. Playing Tormund was playing on the bass and playing Adam and Erik was the violin.
Erik is a surfer. Did you have to learn or were you already skilled?
I’ve done snowboarding, surfing, and wind surfing and stuff like that, so it’s always been a passion of mine. We wanted him to be a man who values his freedom, and when he ends up in his brother’s cellar, he’s kind of imprisoned and we wanted the mountains to feel like a prison as well and the rough sea. We wanted the scenery to feel like a closed small community he couldn’t get out of. So surfing was more of an image of his freedom.
The location and scenery in this series certainly plays a big role — almost like its own character. Was that intended?
The scenery came before the story came along, so we wanted to use it as a picture of imprisonment and this harsh nature that it could give a psychological metaphor for a character. We shot in all kinds of weather to make it feel real and like the nature was part of these people.
TWIN is being released on MHz’ streaming service, MHz Choice. Should viewers binge it or take their time watching?
Well, in my point of view, Game of Thrones is the only show that had this “everyone would gather around the fire every Sunday” kind of effect. I think every show should be binge-watched, but sometimes if you start a show, you want to finish it within the week or within a couple of weeks, so it’s like watching a long movie, but you have every night to explore that universe.
The show isn’t written for 8 episodes, it’s meant to be shown as a whole over a week or two. Netflix started to launch full seasons many years ago and I think that’s the way to go. When Apple came out with The Morning Show, me and my wife had this urge to come back every week because we enjoyed the show, but I think people should just launch everything so viewers can choose for themselves.
TWIN, Series Premiere, Tuesday, February 4, MHz Choice