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The Intense Altered Carbon Scene That Took A Week To Shoot

There's no shortage of action in the Netflix original series Altered Carbon.

Set more than 350 years in the future, in a world where human consciousness can be ported between different bodies known as sleeves, the series takes full advantage of the sci-fi setting in its action sequences. There are fights in zero gravity, fights in avant-garde medical labs, fights in elevators, fistfights, knife fights, gun battles, samurai swords, and more sci-fi weapons than you can shake a bat'leth at (Google it).

So it's no surprise to learn the star of the first season, Joel Kinnaman, had a pretty intense experience shooting, and rehearsing, the series. He trained in the multiple forms of martial arts that would be required of his character, Takeshi Kovacs, and worked for months getting himself in shape so he could complete the demanding sequences. 

But when asked by Collider to single out the most memorable, most exhausting sequence from the series, Kinnaman selected something significantly lower-tech than the weightless fight: A (largely) bare-knuckle scene in the Panama Rose Fightdrome, where Kovacs and Kristin Ortega (Martha Higareda) are kidnapped by the operator, Carnage (Matt Frewer), and made to battle some of his monstrous specially bred gladiator sleeves.

What made the Fightdrome sequence so difficult?

Kinnaman chose this one to single out because it was a particularly grueling sequence for the actors and stunt crew to shoot, made more difficult by the fog effects and the sand-covered floor of the gladiator pit. "It was really bad air quality and there was sand everywhere because of the sandy bottom of this cage, and there were extras everywhere, screaming and yelling."

According to Kinnaman, it took a week of filming to get the scene right, coordinating the lights and the extras and the multiple combatants all duking it out at the same time, but the adrenaline of having the in-character audience there helped push them over the finish line. "We did a couple of takes where the audience really got into it, and we got into it with stunt guys. We were just there. It felt like we were fighting for real."

When they finished, Kinnaman knew they had it, and that the training and rehearsals and walkthroughs had all paid off. "We were all cheering. That was super fun. I'm never gonna forget that."