Whether you’re an actor who is often on the road, or living a 9-5, more settled life, your tribe - the family and friends you keep tight - is everything. For Joel Kinnaman, of House Of Cards, Suicide Squad and RoboCop notoriety, nothing’s more special. Time together isn’t always easy but is forever high up on his priority list.
“I live a big chunk of my life away from everyone I love. I spend at least eight to nine months [a year] on the road. Sometimes I can have my wife with me, but the majority of my family lives in Sweden,” the small and silver screen star told HuffPost, as part of his promotional tour with Swedish car brand, Volvo.
Joel’s family is a way away from what most of us would imagine as ‘conventional.’“I have five sisters, but we don’t all have the same parents,” he said. “I have an adopted sister, too, it’s just a litter of people from different places. One of my sisters has a baby with her gay friend, but also another kid with her man, so there are these untraditional little units in our larger untraditional unit.”
Putting groups of people into narrowly defined boxes isn’t how Joel sees does things. “The traditional definition of family doesn’t apply to my family and I think that’s how the world is now.”
For the actor, the primary player in his life is his wife, tattoo artist Cleo Wattenström. The pair married in 2014. They do their best to stay in touch while he’s on location, often using FaceTime to see and speak to each other despite being in different countries. “You can’t touch the person but you can see them,” he explained. “It’s hard, but it helps.”
“I work a lot. So, I’m so fortunate that I get to do something that doesn’t feel like work and I know that I am very lucky to be in a situation like that,” he says. “The sacrifice is… you get lonely. You spend too much time away from the people that you love.”
This passion for maintaining a strong thread with the people who’ve always been there - in spite of so much time spent in various time zones - is evident in one of Joel’s upcoming projects: a film based on the life of his father. An American soldier who deserted in the Vietnam war and went on the run for five years, he eventually ended up in Sweden, where he met Joel’s mother. “I actually just read the first draft and it was pretty good,” Joel said.
For Joel, not falling into the trap of shallow celebrity acquaintances is important.
“It’s a pitfall when you reach some level of success and fame and I just see it in other people in a similar situation to me, or have it even more, that some of these people surround themselves with people who aren’t real friends, that aren’t giving them the real,” he said.
“They’re just ‘yes’ people, or some celebrities only want to hang out with other celebrities and they don’t have real relationships with each other.” It’s this sense of connectedness with his tribe that makes Joel the right fit to work with Volvo.
Volvo takes pride in its mission to help the world become a better place - and that involves more than just making things easier, safer and more environmentally-friendly for people. It’s also about championing a culture that is modern and inclusive, which Joel recognised.
He’s under no illusions. Spending time and collaborating with people who share your worldview, one hundred percent, isn’t conducive to growth. “If you just surround yourself with people who just think the same thing, you’re not going to evolve,” he said.
“But to share core values - that all people are equal, and all races are equal, that men and women are equal, that we care about the environment, that we’re trying to make the world a better place, those kinds of values have to be around with the people that I work with and the entities that I work with, too.”