Belfast Telegraph

Altered Carbon's Joel Kinnaman: Living forever isn't right choice for us

Netflix's new show Altered Carbon depicts a prisoner who, having returned to life after 250 years, is forced to solve a murder. Leading man Joel Kinnaman tells Georgia Humphreys what to expect from the show

Imagine being reborn after two-and-a-half centuries on ice, only to find you have a totally new body. That's what happens to mercenary and rebel Takeshi Kovacs in Netflix's latest original series, Altered Carbon, based on the 2002 science fiction novel of the same name by British author Richard K Morgan.

Set in the futuristic world of Bay City (formerly San Francisco), the show explores plenty of cutting-edge themes - identity, race, gender, economics and technology.

And leading man Joel Kinnaman, who plays Kovacs, says there's a reason why dystopian shows are dominating the TV landscape (recent hits Black Mirror and The Handmaid's Tale spring to mind).

"The human species have huge existential challenges that we have to unite around to face, and instead we are now being run by politicians that are aiming to divide us," he says, calling the US presidency an "international embarrassment".

"These dystopian stories are a warning tale of where we could end up if we don't start making the right decisions now."

Here, the Swedish actor (38) reveals more about the show's mind-bending motifs.

Death is not inevitable in the world of Altered Carbon

The most striking element of this futuristic world is that people's consciousness can be saved every 48 hours on downloadable discs - and these can then be "spun up" into a new body, or "sleeve".

But, interestingly, it's mainly the wealthy ruling class, called "Meths", who are able to do this - those who aren't as privileged are called "Grounders". Grounders might only be able to afford to have their minds placed inside an older body, for example. One of the most disturbing scenes in the show sees a child waking up in an elderly person. Would Kinnaman ever consider "re-sleeving" in real life?

"I think if I was given the opportunity, I would take it," admits the star, known for roles in shows such as The Killing and House of Cards. "But I don't think it's the right choice for humanity as a whole. It's one of those things which is so thrilling, the idea of getting to continue to live, seeing where society goes and where innovation is going to go.

"At the same time, I think that the thesis of the show is in some ways correct, that if we lose our mortality then we also lose our humanity."

There is a murder mystery at the core of the show

Kovacs, who is now in the body of a disgraced police detective, has been brought back to life by a 375-year-old wealthy mogul called Laurens Bancroft (played by James Purefoy) to solve a very unusual whodunnit.

You see, the victim is Bancroft himself - or, rather, his previous body is. The murder was made to look like a suicide and if Kovacs solves the case of who is really to blame, he'll earn his freedom.

"I feel like it's a very rich show that plays on many different levels, so that makes it exciting to be in," explains Kinnaman of his role. "There's definitely a lot of variation."

And in terms of how true the story stays to the novel, he says: "The changes just gave the whole ending of this show a much stronger resonance."

An inevitable element of being immortal is becoming bored with life: "If you live forever, what entertains you is going to get warped, and what excites you," remarks Kinnaman.

Altered Carbon will be available on Netflix from Friday

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