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Why Seppo From Da 5 Bloods Looks So Familiar

You may not have enough adjectives at your disposal to describe the latest Spike Lee joint, Da 5 Bloods. The movie is part war drama and part heist movie, all wrapped up in commentary on contemporary politics and racism in the United States, both past and present. It follows four black Vietnam War veterans as they return to the Southeast Asian country to honor the memory of their squad leader, who died in combat. Oh, and they're also on the hunt for a cache of gold they buried in the country during the war.

Through the course of their adventure, they are helped by a French land mine expert named Hedy (Mélanie Thierry) and her crew. One of them is a man named Seppo, who is played by Finnish actor Jasper Pääkkönen. While Pääkkönen isn't yet a household name in the US, there's a good chance his face sparked some recognition. He's not only one of Finland's best-known actors, who has slowly been making inroads into English language cinema over the last few years, but he's also becoming a regular player in Spike Lee's movies. We're going to take a look at a few other places you may have seen this versatile actor.

Jasper Paakkonen got in touch with his Nordic roots on Vikings

Ironically, one of Pääkkönen's first English language roles was on a show about the early history of the Nordic people. On History's scripted series Vikings, Pääkkönen joined the cast during season 4 as Halfdan the Black. Halfdan is the brother of Harald Fairhair (Peter Franzén), and works both with and against him on several bloody campaigns. Above all else, Halfdan is known as a fearsome warrior who relishes in bloodshed. In season 5, he is killed by his own brother after the two find themselves on opposing sides of Harald's siege of Kattegat.

Like many of the characters on Vikings, Halfdan was inspired by an actual historic figure, albeit very loosely. The real-life Halfdan was the father of Harald Fairhair, not his brother. While Halfdan ruled over several small kingdoms during his life, his son went on to be known as the first king of a unified Norway. This is not dissimilar to Harald's storyline on Vikings.

The story of Halfdan the Black and Harald Fairhair is chronicled in a Norse saga called Heimskringla or The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway, which was written by 13th century Iceland poet Snorri Sturluson.

Jasper Paakkonen made the indie rounds in Jet Trash

Another early English language role for Finnish thespian Pääkkönen was in the British crime drama Jet Trash. The movie released in 2016, and while it didn't exactly make a huge cultural impact, it did make the rounds at American arthouse cinemas. Set in the Indian state of Goa, Jet Trash tells the story of British expats who find themselves in a series of precarious situations after getting in trouble with the law.

Pääkkönen plays Mike, who is not one of the protagonists, but does end up playing a vital role in the story. He's an ex-soldier turned Buddhist who preaches peace and pacifism, but still has the capacity for violence.

The movie received decidedly mixed reviews when it came out. Kimber Meyers at The Los Angeles Times said, "this drug-fueled film is ... an entertaining watch filled with bold style." On the other hand, Mike McCahill at The Guardian gave the film one star out of five and called it, "a threadbare endeavor concerning the non-funny, non-sexy, non-thrilling misadventures of three charmless chancers."

Thankfully for Pääkkönen, the bad press didn't affect his career, as his next English language film was a bona fide critical hit.

Jasper Paakkonen won over Spike Lee in BlacKkKlansman

In a bit of inspired casting, Spike Lee cast Pääkkönen in his 2018 film BlacKkKlansman. In the movie, Pääkkönen plays Felix Kendrickson, a member of the Colorado Springs branch of the Ku Klux Klan, which detectives Detective Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) and Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) infiltrate. While having a Finnish actor play a Klan member in the heartland of America in the 1970s may seem like a strange choice, Lee said he was blown away by Pääkkönen from the moment he met him.

The iconoclastic director told Finnish news program YLE, "Jasper ... that's my guy ... when he came in and gave his audition, I did not know he was from Helsinki, Finland. I thought this guy was from ... Georgia ... a one hundred percent, card-carrying Klan member. That's how much I believed in him."

For his part, Pääkkönen used his experiences of seeing racial tension in the US firsthand when he was a high school exchange student in Baltimore, Maryland to help him with the role. He told Mashable, "I remember my first weeks of high school is when I realized white and black students were two completely separated groups ... You get boxed by the color of skin and everything else is sort of secondary."

Considering Lee cast him in Da 5 Bloods, his follow up to BlacKkKlansman, Pääkkönen's versatility and empathy clearly did not go unnoticed.