“There was this outrage!” says Joel Kinnaman of fans’ reactions last summer to the cliff-hanging first-season finale of AMC’s The Killing. “I had no idea people were following it like they were. As long as anybody cares, I’m happy.” In the gloomy Seattle whodunit, Kinnaman plays Stephen Holder, a rumpled, iconoclastic cop and recovering drug addict who uses questionable methods to advance his investigation into the murder of 17-year-old Rosie Larsen—from offering teenage girls pot to tampering with evidence, as the season’s last episode suggested. Kinnaman promises a “big, big payback” when the show returns April 1. But is Holder actually part of some conspiracy? “Sometimes he doesn’t care if something is appropriate to get the next piece of the puzzle, and some of his actions are definitely up for judgment,” Kinnaman says. “But you can feel that he’s a real person who comes from a real place. Whether he’s made a mistake or he’s actually betraying the case, it’s going to put him in a very bad place.”
Kinnaman himself is an expert navigator of the dark side. The 32-year-old Stockholm-born actor, who spent a year as a high-school exchange student in small-town Texas, got his first international exposure when he starred as a social-climbing cocaine runner in Daniel Espinosa’s Snabba Cash, a taut crime thriller that was a box-office smash in Sweden and festival hit when it surfaced in 2010. The part helped him land supporting roles in David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Espinosa’s latest action thriller, Safe House—not to mention the title role in the upcoming Robocop remake. He’ll carry his first major film stateside when Snabba gets its U.S. theatrical release in July (with the English title Easy Money), and he’s already completed its largely improvised sequel, due out in Sweden the following month. These two projects found Kinnaman taking cues from his co-star Dragomir Mrsic, who was involved in one of the most infamous bank heists in Swedish history. “He’d been in jail for a few years,” Kinnaman says. “I was, like, on the run with a professional.” He adds: “I think it’s some of my best work.”
PHOTO: JOEL KINNAMAN IN LOS ANGELES, FEBRUARY 2012. SUIT AND SHIRT: EMPORIO ARMANI. STYLING: DAVID THOMAS. GROOMING: ROB TALTY FOR SEBASTIAN PROFESSIONAL/THE MAGNET AGENCY.