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The Intense Training That Prepped Joel Kinnaman For Altered Carbon

When Joel Kinnaman starred in season 1 of Netflix's now-canceled cyberpunk sci-fi series Altered Carbon, the Swedish actor was in the kind of shape that makes you ask, "How does a human being even look like that?" The answer, of course, is that it took months of relentless training in a slew of martial arts disciplines as well as gym time and a superhero diet that likely consisted of a whole lot of lightly seasoned chicken breasts.

In order to embody the meat-suit "sleeve" of Takeshi Kovacs, an elite-investigator-slash-soldier-turned-convicted-criminal who's brought out of suspended animation after 250 years in order to solve a murder in Blade Runner-esque Bay City in the year 2384, Kinnaman spent half a year getting in fighting shape. He told the British magazine NME in a February 2018 interview that it was the longest prep period he'd ever had for a role — even longer than Suicide Squad, in which Kinnaman played Rick Flag.

"My ambition was to take the physical aspects of this role and the action to another level, and I was able to train, you know, six months, three to five hours a day," Kinnaman said . "I wanted to do all my own stunts, so watching it now, I'm really proud of that."

Learning to fight

In order to play the super-soldier, Kinnaman trained in a variety of martial arts, including Taekwondo, jujitsu, and a Filipino discipline called kali, which uses knives and other weapons. He also did gymnastics and wire training, the latter of which enabled him to fly through the air. 

"It was very much about learning skills," Kinnaman told NME. "There was a wide variety of different kinds of things we did, but then there was also just physical training in the gym and being very disciplined with food and getting the aesthetic aspect of it right."

The results of that intense work can be seen in Kinnaman's introductory scene in Altered Carbon's premiere, where Kovacs emerges naked from the plastic bag his new body was being stored in, showing off his multipack abs, sharpened v-lines, and rock-hard glutes.