NORDIC NEW WAVE: Iceland’s Rising Star Íris Tanja Flygenring

A couple of years ago Íris Tanja Flygenring was taking part in a Shakespeare in Love production at the National Theatre in Reykjavik. She was sharing a dressing room with fellow Icelander Gudren Eyfjord.

At the time, both had also just been offered parts in a brand new Netflix TV show – but neither of them knew that the other had been cast. When the news broke publicly they fell about laughing, having kept their secret to themselves, and the pair immediately clicked.

Flash forward to 2021 and Netflix’s Katla has been doing incredibly well, with worldwide audiences getting sucked into the dark story that revolves around a small Icelandic town where doppelgangers start to appear. Íris plays sister Asa to Gudren’s Grima – their story is one of the core components of this moving and shocking tale.

As part of our Nordic New Wave feature we continue the focus with a discussion with Iris, one of Iceland’s most exciting upcoming talents.

Photo Credits: Nicholas Grange / @_GrangerThings

Your first role was in the Icelandic series Prisoners which featured an incredible Icelandic cast – what was it like starting out on your career with this show?

It was incredible, especially since most of the cast were women and I learned so much from just watching them work. It was a bit surreal almost not making it to my own graduation because I was busy shooting and very humbling at the same time, I was just so grateful to already be doing what I love right after graduating, it’s definitely not a given.

The role was challenging and I learned so much from it. These stories are so important and we all felt like they needed to be heard.

Katla has really been a huge hit with audiences worldwide  – what drew you to the role of Asa?

I understood Ása from day one, she’s a bit complex but mainly she just feels guilty and angry and very lost, she had to take the responsibility very early on in a tragic situation and when it became too much she tried to flee into some sort of freedom but it just ends up catching up with her more and more with each attempt to freedom.

I understood Ása from day one, she’s a bit complex but mainly she just feels guilty and angry and very lost

We all have our own truth – and when those truths become intertwined it can become a bit confusing when you don’t fully know who you are or want to be.

The whole concept of Katla really spoke to me – just like every other child in Iceland I’ve known most of the Icelandic folklore stories since I was young and it’s undeniably a part of us. Since the beginning of time, we’ve tried to explain life, the purpose of life, death, and nature, and those stories are one of those explanations.

But maybe we try too hard to define everything, maybe we just have to start listening and being, open our eyes to what’s right in front of us, and just go with it. I feel like we’ve detached ourselves a lot from nature and our insight over the last few hundred years with all the speed that comes with modern society.

Maybe we just need to slow down, feel what we’re feeling and let go, and come to terms with the fact that we don’t have to know why or how or what comes next. 

We all have our own truth – and when those truths become intertwined it can become a bit confusing when you don’t fully know who you are or want to be.

What was it like working with one of Iceland’s most famous directors Baltasar Kormakur? Were you a fan of his previous work?

It was amazing working with Balti, we just speak the same language and he knows exactly what to do or say to get me to access all kinds of emotions. I can honestly say that we developed a very precious friendship on top of a very good professional relationship.

It’s so important to trust your director, know in your core that he would never send you off set if he wasn’t happy with the work and feel like you have the freedom to take the scene in some direction, to feel safe enough to try something knowing it may be a hit and miss but also might be spot on.

I would be lying if I didn’t say I was a fan of his work and dreamt of working with him for a long time! 

Photo Credits: Nicholas Grange / @_GrangerThings

You’re going from one successful Netflix series to another with the third season of Trapped (Entrapped) – how exciting was it to be involved with this series?

It is very exciting and I am very grateful for the opportunities and the trust the productions have in me. To be working in these Covid times is a real privilege.

The roles of Ása and Freyja are poles apart but at the same time they have some things in common – their coping mechanisms and emotional outlets are just different. The same goes for the world of Katla and the world of Trapped – very distinct, SciFi versus reality and I had a lot of fun going straight from one world to the other.

It was also exciting to create a new character to help take me away from the emotional life of Ása. This third season of Trapped has some new elements in it that I think the viewers will really enjoy.

Iceland is such a beautiful and scenic place to film – where are some of your favourite locations to film there?

Ahh, it’s very hard to pick some favorites but I think Vík will always have a big place in my heart. We were filming there in the middle of a pandemic so it became sort of like our own little village and a second home really.

All productions are fun but this just had a family feel to it and we all shared such passion for making Katla and since we weren’t meeting a lot of other people or doing much else we became very close – every single member of the cast and crew has a very special bond because of this shared unique experience of making Katla come to life.

Photo Credits: Nicholas Grange / @_GrangerThings

What else have you been working on?

I’ve been doing some marketing work for Katla and ADR (audio dialogue replacement) for Trapped, working on some summer tan and getting ready for the autumn where some exciting times may be happening.

Along with that, I of course decided I wasn’t busy enough and have some secret projects going on these days.

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

Recently I’ve been listening to some podcasts and one of my favourite Icelandic bands Vök, the first concert I went to after this almost a year and a half of little to no live music was their concert a few weeks ago and I sincerely recommend them.

I’ve been reading a lot of scripts recently for the upcoming projects and I actually make audiobooks when I have the time. I did listen to an audiobook recently and I can recommend it for everyone but especially fellow artists, it’s Matthew McConaughey’s book Greenlights.

Haven’t really been watching a lot recently but I did watch Ragnarok on Netflix and I can recommend that to fellow SciFi lovers – and of course I recommend Katla

Interview by Alex Minnis /

Photo Credits: Nicholas Grange / @_GrangerThings

Katla is currently showing on Netflix and Trapped’s third season is expected in Autumn

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