Meet Norwegian actor Thorbjørn Harr, star of Barn and The Tunnel

You might recognise Thorbjørn from early seasons of the excellent Vikings, a show I only recently started to watch but which led to a binge in recent months. Thorbjørn played Jarl Borg in the show – one of those bad guys you secretly root for and I can remember being totally captivated by his character and performance.

His appearance was quite a few years ago mind you, and as the series comes to a close with it’s sixth season we focus on some of the great things Thorbjørn has been up to much more recently. These include starring in the award-winning Norwegian movie Barn / Beware The Children, appearing in the popular Norsemen, and recently Amazon Prime has released 2019’s Tunnelen / The Tunnel on their UK platform!

Oh, and he has released an album too – how talented is this man? We find out!

Thorbjorn as the big bad in Vikings – Jarl Borg

Barn / Beware of Children has been receiving rave reviews on the festival circuit – what can you tell us about the movie and your role in it?

The audience response to the the movie ‘Beware of Children’ has really been fantastic. It’s one of those few times when you feel you’re a part of something really important.

It’s both artistically challenging and quite emotional. It feels like the movie says something about the difficulties we are facing right now, and I’m not talking about the pandemic, but the way the polarization keeps dividing us. It stops us from really listening and opening up to each other. Not just when we talk politics, but in many aspects of life. ‘Beware of Children’ talks about that in a very clever and captivating way. 

[Barn] says something about the difficulties we are facing right now, and I’m not talking about the pandemic, but the way the polarization keeps dividing us. It stops us from really listening and opening up to each other.

Norway has had a surge of disaster movies recently – The Wave, The Quake, and now The Tunnel which you star in.

Is Norway trying to tell us something? What was it like making this movie as it looks intense?

Well, all these movies were all made before the real natural disaster hit the world in March 2020, so if we tried to tell you something we clearly chose the wrong kind of disaster… 

But humans have been telling these ‘mother-nature-gets-back-at-us’-stories since we sat around the camp fire. It’s nothing new. But the success of the expanding Norwegian film industry the past few years is something new, and I’m proud to be a part of it! Look to Norway! A lot of great things are going on here right now.

the expanding Norwegian film industry the past few years is something new, and I’m proud to be a part of it! Look to Norway! A lot of great things are going on here right now.

And if you want to know whether or not it was intense filming The Tunnel, all you need to know is that it’s filmed on location. A lot of the big disaster movies are filmed in a safe studio setting. The Tunnel was not. We shot all the action sequences deep down in a real tunnel.

Spending long days in the dark, shooting action scenes running through explosions and burning cars made it feel a lot more real when you knew it was literally a ten minute drive just to get out of there.

You’ve been busy in 2020 with the release of Cadaver, appearing in Norsemen, and more – what can we expect in 2021?

I’ve actually gone back to do a couple of plays at the National Theatre in Oslo. The theatre is where I came from, and it has really been very rewarding to be back. Although we’ve had to shut down the productions a few times because of the lock down, it has felt really important to do these live performances in a time when people long to sit together and feel the power of a shared emotional experience. 

And I’m also writing a new TV-series we hope to start shooting in 2021. I’m looking forward to be able to talk about that!! 

Amongst all the acting work, you also released an album – how did this come about?

My band Harr & Hartberg has just released our album ‘Scar’. Check it out! It’s out wherever you find your music. Produced by the Grammy nominated Norwegian artist Jarle Bernhoft. The concept of me recording a jazz album might seem strange for most people, but it’s something we have worked on for years.

The collaboration started when the author Lars Saabye Christensen wrote a monologue that I performed that premiered at the National Theatre a few years ago. It was just me and this amazing jazz trio on stage, and it worked out so well that we just had to keep working together after that production had ended.

He still writes all the lyrics, and the musicians, among them the Norwegian rapper Aslak Hartberg composes the music. I find it very inspiring to be able to work on those kind of projects in between my work as an actor.

What have you been listening to, watching, or reading recently – any recommendations?

Norwegian artist and author Matias Faldbakkens new novel ‘We Are Five‘. It’s a truly original piece of writing. It’s a thrill to read, unconventional and entertaining. Read it!

And I just saw the first episode of Your Honor starring Brian Cranston. That gave me a kick. 

Finally, what is your tip of the day?

Today, I heard the great Helen Mirren share a tip for actors, and I guess it’s an advice that goes for a lot of artists: 

“Work like you’re an archer shooting with a bow and arrow. Prepare all you can, concentrate, aim your best, shoot – and then let go. Let go! Don’t waste time and energy while you work to try to find out if you hit the mark or not. Because it’s out of your hands. There’s nothing more you can do to change its course. So move on. And aim for your next target”

It sounds easy, but it takes discipline. Wait until the work is done before you judge your own creative process.

Photo: Gisle Bjørneby

Interview by Alex Minnis

Header Image and Image above by Gisle Bjørneby / www.gisle.no

Catch Thorbjørn in the excellent Vikings and his movie The Tunnel on Amazon Prime (UK)- we are unaware of a release date yet for Barn / Beware The Children but will keep you posted when we do hear of UK release.

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