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Why Joel Kinnaman Couldn’t Recognize Himself While Shooting The Secrets We Keep

The Secrets We Keep Joel Kinnaman gagged and bloody

A truly intense acting experience can push an actor to deliver one of their best performances, but sometimes that process also brings something rather unexpected out of a performer. The Secrets We Keep is a perfect example of one such performance, as actor Joel Kinnaman playing the character Thomas resulted in the Suicide Squad cast member seeing a side of himself he isn’t terribly familiar with. While it didn’t yield any horror stories from the set of the film, it did manage to give Kinnaman a hell of a story to tell from his time making the movie.

I was recently able to speak with Joel Kinnaman, among some of his co-stars, on behalf of CinemaBlend for The Secrets We Keep’s press day. Paired with his friend and on-screen tormentor Noomi Rapace, the conversation in the room had earlier turned to the lessons that Ms. Rapace had learned with her time on the film, as she and Kinnaman had been attached to this script for some time before going into production. As far as her experience with The Secrets We Keep was concerned, her role as the film’s executive producer helped keep her more on her toes, as well as appreciate the experience of making the movie more than any other project she’s worked on.

Piggybacking off of that sentiment was Joel Kinnaman’s remarks about how he felt that the film did something different for him. With a good portion of the movie seeing Thomas bound and gagged in the basement of Noomi Rapace’s Maja and Chris Messina’s Lewis, The Secrets We Keep sees Kinnaman restrained by Rapace because she thinks she’s found a hidden ex-Nazi soldier who tormented her and her sister shortly after the war. All circumstances present and accounted for, Joel Kinnaman compared his time on the set of The Secrets We Keep to his usual jovial self as follows:

I make it a point of really trying to be a co-creator of a warm and generous energy and environment on set. It’s an environment I thrive in, so I really feel like it’s an important thing to do. Both for everyone, but also that’s the environment I like to be in. I had zero energy for that in [The Secrets We Keep], and I honestly behaved worse than I have in any film that I’ve done. I didn’t recognize myself. It was something about the experience of being tied on this chair, for like hours on end.

You can tell, even just by talking to Joel Kinnaman, that he’s a guy who loves to make friends. During our interview, Kinnaman was all smiles and laughs, wearing a floppy cheetah print hat and discussing how being tied up was quite the mood ruiner for his days on The Secrets We Keep’s set. What’s even more surprising is the fact that while you might think that he’s just doing a good job of acting like he’s tightly bound and gagged to a chair, Joel Kinnaman was actually pretty tightly packaged at all times. This was thanks to Yuval Adler, the co-writer/director of The Secrets We Keep, who made sure he did all he could to keep his actors in the right mindset. Something that, as Kinnaman continued to explain, really put him in a foul mood:

Yuval would always go up and tighten the ropes, tighten the gag. Literally, I had blood in the corners of my mouth and on my arms, because the ropes were digging in. I was just filled with rage during this whole shoot.

Rage is a concept explored at length in The Secrets We Keep, as Maja and Lewis’ descent into madness and potential revenge is paralleled by Thomas’ slow building anger for being captured for a crime he swears he’s not capable of. As the mystery surrounding the exact circumstances of his emigration to the United States from post-war Switzerland unfolds, the audience is led to question just how much of the truth Joel Kinnaman’s character is telling. You can see the actor himself describing these experiences, with some additional context added, in the video from our interview below:

The Secrets We Keep is a dramatic thriller that keeps the audience guessing in terms of what the truth behind Maja and Thomas’ potential history actually is throughout the entirety of its narrative. Part of the reason the film is able to maintain such thematic tension so well is because of the performances that actors like Joel Kinnaman give, with him channeling the rage of captivity into the drama of trying to plead one’s innocence. The results are undeniable, as Kinnaman’s chemistry with friend and collaborator Noomi Rapace also lends to a pair of performances that see both scene partners knowing how and when to push each other to another level of cinematic confrontation. Though it should be noted, Joel Kinnaman did go on record as saying filming The Suicide Squad was like filming his first comedy.

Compared to the emotionally intense experience Joel Kinnaman described on the press day for this particular film, it sounds like getting back into the saddle as Rick Flag was somewhat of a well-earned vacation; something audiences will surely be able to attest to once they’ve seen this particular film. If you’re up for seeing such an experience at a theater near you, The Secrets We Keep is currently in a limited theatrical run, with a VOD rental debut set to take place on October 16.

However, that’s not the only movie greeting would-be theatergoers, as you’ll see when you take a look at our updated 2020 release schedule! So if you’ve got a theater open in your neck of the woods, and you feel safe enough to head out, you should use that calendar to plan accordingly.

Mike Reyes

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.