Fact: Norway has a long and rich theater tradition (it is, after all, the birthplace of Henrik Ibsen). Also fact: Liv Ullmann, legendary Norwegian actress and muse of Ingmar Bergman, still casts quite a big shadow – that kind of charisma is just not easy to replicate. That being said, there is a new generation of Norwegian film and TV actors that has slowly but surely been creeping into your screen. Consider this list your cheat-sheet: some of the faces below you’ve seen before, some you’ll be seeing a lot of in the future.
Berdal has a knack for playing badass ladies. Apart from her career in theater, which has gotten her several accolades, the Norwegian actress has appeared in 14 (and counting) films, including Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, where she played a witch, and 2014’s Hercules, where she shined as the only female warrior, Atalanta. But perhaps her most badass role so far is that of Armistice in HBO’s hit series Westworld. A bandit with a snake tattoo on her face that continues onto her body, Armistice is on a quest for blood and revenge – as are most Westworld characters these days.
Aksel Hennie is still being discussed among Norwegians for his portrayal of the country’s greatest hero in the movie Max Manus, but nowadays he likes to play less “black and white” characters. His performance in Nobel, the eight-part television series that premiered on NRK in 2016 and became available on Netflix soon afterwards, is nuanced and offers a critical look on the war in Afghanistan. Hennie also appeared in Hercules (because apparently nothing says Greek mythology like hiring Norwegian actors) alongside Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, and played German chemist Alex Vogel in Ridley Scott’s The Martian.
Born in Oslo and raised in Los Angeles, Norwegian-Somali Alisha guest-starred in fan-favorite shows like Modern Family, Teen Wolf and Parenthood before getting her big break in Netflix’s hit teen series 13 Reasons Why. Her character Jessica is coming back for the show’s highly anticipated second season, so it’s only a matter of time before Alisha Boe truly becomes a big deal.
Pick any high-caliber Norwegian film or TV show, and chances are Pål Sverre Hagen is in it. The Stavanger-born actor appeared alongside Aksel Hennie in Max Manus, before starring in the Oscar-nominated Kon-Tiki as the legendary explorer Thor Heyerdahl, who crossed the Pacific Ocean with a wooden raft. After that, he starred in Ragnarok and made an appearance in Kraftidioten and in The Last King next to Kristofer Hivju (we’ll get to him). Then he played conspiracy-theory junkie Leif in Valkyrien, a Breaking Bad-esque drama that became such a hit, it not only made BBC’s list of 2017’s Top 10 TV Series, but actually placed before Game of Thrones. Nowadays he’s getting ready to portray another legendary Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen.
Nicolai Cleve Broch has an impressive theater career, having worked for some of Norway’s most prestigious theater companies in plays by Henrik Ibsen and Anton Chekhov. Twice he has portrayed Aksel Hennie’s best friend in films (in Uno and Max Manus), earning them the moniker “Norway’s Ben Affleck and Matt Damon”. He played the father in the family adventure Operasjon Arktis, and has been appearing in prominent Norwegian TV shows like Frikjent and the upcoming Kielergata along with Thorbjørn Harr.
Kittelsen was born in Kristiansand. She became well-known to the Norwegian audience by her role in the TV show Skolen and later on as the wife of Max Manus in Max Manus and the wife of Thor Heyerdahl in Kon-Tiki. But perhaps her most interesting part yet is in Dag, where she plays the enigmatic Malin Tramell, a character “somewhere between Joan Holloway in Mad Men and Marla Singer in Fight Club”.
Although just 32 years old, Oftebro has been busy. Since 2004, he has appeared in more than 20 films, including Max Manus, Kon-Tiki, Kraftidioten, The Last King and the latest adaptation of Jo Nesbo’s book, The Snowman, starring Michael Fassbender. He also stole Scandinavia’s hearts in the Danish mini-series 1864, alongside Pilou Asbæk. We’ll be seeing you, Jakob Hoff Oftebro.
Andrea Berntzen is only 20 years old, but she has already managed to star in one of the most controversial films ever to be made in Norway. Director Erik Poppe’s film Utøya 22.juli (also known as U-July 22), premiered at this year’s Berlin Film Festival and depicts, in a gruesome 72-minute single take, Anders Behring Breivik’s 2011 terrorist attack in Utøya which resulted in the murder of 69 people. Andrea plays the main character, a teenager who fights for her life – and her performance certainly hasn’t passed unnoticed. Here’s hoping that she manages to not let this overwhelming first acting experience overshadow her, like the SKAM kids.
Speaking of not letting your early career overshadow you: Thorbjørn Harr, whom you probably recognize from History Channel’s Vikings, started as a teen actor – he was actually discovered by the NRK television network while at his school. But he capped his teen TV years with an impressive theater resume and later on proceeded to build a steady presence on TV and film. Apart from the very brave Jarl Borg of the Vikings, Thorbjørn has also appeared at the sitcom Younger next to Hilary Duff and you will catch him in the upcoming Kielergata as well as on the big screen next to Ethan Hawke and Noomi Rapace in the upcoming Stockholm.
Yes, OK, we know you’ve been waiting for this. But Norway’s biggest star du jour is so much more than Tormund’s leery looks at Brienne on Game of Thrones. Born into an acting family, Kristofer Hivju has been acting since 2001 and has appeared in films like Kraftidioten and Operasjon Arktis, and starred in The Last King, a historical drama about the real story of two men who saved the heir to Norway’s throne in 1206. He also appeared in the latest Fast & Furious installment and, when not wearing Tormund Giantsbane’s furs, stars in the Swedish police drama Beck. So you definitely won’t miss him a lot until GoT Season 8 starts in 2019.