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Joel Kinnaman on His American Accent, ‘RoboCop’ and Taking on a Franchise

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Get ready for Joel Kinnaman to become a household name. Even though he’s already familiar to U.S. television audiences with the show The Killing, his current role as Alex Murphy, the Detroit police officer who is rebuilt into a futuristic lawman in Robocop, is sure to change all of that.

The 34-year-old actor talked to Vulture about the role and how he was cast in such an iconic movie.

He said, “…when you’re an unknown, this is the kind of movie that you can get, because the franchise is bigger than the person. For these kinds of films, they want somebody that’s not too well known, because that would take focus from the character, in a sense. So I knew that I had a shot, and I just worked my butt off to prove it to everyone that I was capable.”

In addition to taking on a role made so famous by Peter Weller in the 1987 film, Kinnaman had to figure out a way to convey emotion as a robot. It wasn’t easy.

“That was the challenge. And also portraying the transitions — when they’re manipulating his dopamine levels, for example. How much emotion is he feeling or can he even feel at any given point? What about when his soul starts taking over and wins over the artificial intelligence implants? But the biggest challenge was the more emotional scenes, where I had to — for example, the scene where Dr. Norton, Gary Oldman’s character, reveals to Alex Murphy what’s left of him,” he revealed. “That was a scene where I really needed to portray a deep, existential anxiety and despair, and I had to be completely still while doing that. That’s particularly difficult; because when you want to portray those kind of emotions, you really have to use your body, but here I couldn’t really do that.”

The Swedish-born actor also has no detectable accent. He shared how he’s been able to hide his native tongue while appearing onscreen.

“It’s sort of evolved. When I first came to the States, I thought I had a perfect American accent, and then I was abruptly becoming aware that it wasn’t. So I did have to work on it a little bit, but I was hesitant working on it because I thought it was good. But then when I heard myself speak, I realized that ‘Oh, my’ — the melody is wrong, and I got to work on it like any other dialect. So I did put in a little effort to it,” he said.

Robocop is out in theaters now. He also has the Terrence Malick-directed film, Knight of Cups, coming out later this year.

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