‘Norwegians are very complicated’

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As Norwegians got ready for the new season premiere of the hit TV show Lilyhammer” this week, its star Steven Van Zandt shared some thoughts with its broadcaster, NRK, about who the show features and, to a large degree, parodies: Norwegians.

US actor and musician Steven Van Zandt will be back on the air in Norway this week, when the second season of the hit show "Lilyhammer" premieres Wednesday evening. PHOTO: NRK

US actor and musician Steven Van Zandt will be back on the air in Norway this week, when the second season of the hit show “Lilyhammer” premieres Wednesday evening. PHOTO: NRK

Van Zandt, also known as “Little Steven” in Bruce Springsteen’s band, told NRK he thinks Norwegians “are very complicated people,” and “among the most interesting people I’ve ever encountered.” In an interview with NRK, which will air the first episode of Lilyhammer’s new second season on Wednesday evening, he said there are “a lot of contradictions and paradoxes in the Norwegian culture that I find fascinating.”

He noted, for example, that he thinks Norwegian society is “very community-based” and “social democratic,” but that the average Norwegian nonetheless is “individualistic, tough and independent.” He does not agree with the common belief that Norwegians are naive, even though the character he plays on the show, ex-gangster Frank Tagliano, thinks they are.

“Frank’s thinking that Norwegian culture is naive, is actually being naive,” Van Zandt told NRK in February, when the second season was still under production. “Naive is not a word I would use (to describe Norwegians).”

The show, which set viewership records when it debuted in Norway in January 2012, revolves around the Frank Tagliano character, who moves from New York to Lillehammer, Norway as part of a witness protection program and runs into a series of cultural conflicts. As a new immigrant in Norway, he struggles to learn Norwegian, deal with the climate, the social welfare state and emancipated women. In the new season, Frank becomes the father of twins, is confronted with the concept of paternity leave, day care and even classes in baby swimming, much of it far removed from the culture he experienced in a gangster family in New York.

“Pappa permission (leave) isn’t something mafia folks normally have,” Van Zandt told newspaper Aftenposten earlier this month.

NRK reported that the new season will also feature car chases, weapons and half-naked women as Frank’s character continues to run a bar in Lillehammer and experience his past catching up with him. Van Zandt said he wanted more control over the second season, and doesn’t just act in it but also is a producer, script writer and had responsibility for its music.

The show has become a major international success, after being sold to more than 130 countries. Van Zandt told NRK he wants to retain its focus on Norwegian lifestyles and peculiarities, highlighting the issues confronting many foreigners who move to Norway. In the process, Van Zandt has become a big fan of the country, and has become involved in managing and being a producer for several Norwegian bands.

“There’s a lot of nice people here,” he told NRK. He’s already keen on making a third season of the show, and says that NRK and co-producer Netflix are, too. Rubicon TV is also behind its production.

“I love it here, it’s very different for me,” he told NRK. He said he has run into the concept of janteloven, though, which involves self-deprecation that he suggests can hold back otherwise successful ventures. He told NRK that he encountered janteloven when trying to promote Norwegian cultural exports that “I would really like to see exposed” to the rest of the world.

Asked whether there was a life for him in Lillehammer after Lilyhammer, he laughed and said he didn’t know. “To be honest, all I do is work,” he said. “Wherever my work takes me, I go.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund