Nikolaj Coster Waldau New Amsterdam Interview

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau New Amsterdam Photo

Photo: Jeff Neira/ FOX

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, star of the new FOX’s series New Amsterdam, was kind enough to chat with us and answer questions about the his new FOX show New Amsterdam. New Amsterdam premieres next week on FOX with two new episodes airing Tuesday, March 4th at 9:00PM ET/PT and Thursday, March 6th at 9:00PM ET/PT. Both episodes air immediately after American Idol.  

Seat42f.Com :  You mentioned that we’ll go back and forth and see John’s history, along with his present day.  Are there any scenes that you preferred to film, like the flashbacks versus the modern day?

N. Coster-Waldau :    Yes.  Some of the flashback scenes I really enjoyed.  I guess it was a change, but also, it’s always great with a character who has a lot of secrets, and this guy has truckloads.  For example, in the first episode, we find out that he is a member of AA, and then four episodes later, we find out how he joined AA.  That was a great show to make.  Yes, it was a lot of fun to go back in time, but also, still, running down the streets as a New York detective wasn’t too bad either.

Seat42f.Com : Do you have a feel for how the network is feeling about the show, now that they’ve  seen several episodes?

N. Coster-Waldau :    I can only speculate.  I think I sense that there’s an enthusiasm growing, and when they saw was David Madison delivered, they got really excited.  That’s my gut feeling.  I think they do support it a lot and also by getting us those two American Idol slots.  That is pretty good, to say it’s great.

Seat42f.Com : In the first episode, he comes in contact with his true love, or so we suspect, because his heart can feel her.  Will he use that as a barometer in the future to try and find her?  Will it spur him to start looking, obviously, within the group of people in the subway there where he feels it?

N. Coster-Waldau :    Yes.  I think he takes it as a definite sign that she was there, and that’s why he starts.  He gets hold of surveillance tapes and he tracks her down, or tries to track her down.  It’s a new energy in his life and new excitement that maybe what he’s been searching for all this time is actually just happening without him noticing, more or less.

Do you look at this as science fiction, or is it just a wrinkle in a procedural type of relationship show?

N. Coster-Waldau : It’s a combination I think.  I think that’s what we’re trying to use flavors of each are.  We go back and forth in time in each show, so there is a big element of sci-fi in it.  

Your character on New Amsterdam is an artisan, and I wonder if you have any hidden talents yourself.

N. Coster-Waldau : Any hidden talents?  No.  I know a lot of bits and pieces everywhere that I’ve taken up, but no, I’m not a specialist in anything.  That’s why I’m an actor.

Is there anything you would like to be a specialist in that you aren’t?

N. Coster-Waldau : I would love to be really good at history, to be able to quote various people throughout history.  That would be great.  That’s what I can think of at the top of my head.

If you could actually live to be 400 years old, when do you think boredom would start to kick in?

N. Coster-Waldau :   That’s a good question.  I think anxiety would kick in a little sooner, and fear.  I guess John Amsterdam is a little lucky.  He’s lucky the way he happens to be blessed or cursed in New York.  Doing this show, of course, I’ve been reading a lot on the history of New York, and its breathtaking the amount of events that have unfolded in this city.  So, I’m not sure he’s been bored.

What attracted you to this role?

N. Coster-Waldau :   I liked the script.  I heard the concept first and I was a little, does this mean I have to have false teeth and all, but then I read the script and I really liked it.  You know that feeling.  I went up in the attic the other day and I found old notebooks that I wrote when I was in my teens, and it was funny, because I kind of recognized the guy, but still, he was someone else.  

To have a character here, John Amsterdam, where you get to go back in his life, and you go back a long time and you have to find the common ground, like 100 years ago, for example, he was working as a coachman and there was a whole different set of social circumstances.  To do that every week was just intriguing, and it’s been really interesting to make some choices that, of course, the audience would still recognize John and John Amsterdam, but also make sure that it made sense that he was who he was at that given time.  

Then, on top of that, of course, for the pilot, I’ve been a fan of Lasse Hallstrom a long time.  When I found out he was doing the pilot, that was also a big draw, and they offered me the part.  That’s a big part.

The show is going to be starting up post-strike, a lot of shows because the production is being forced into reruns.  Do you think this is an advantage for you to draw viewers who maybe would not otherwise have known that the show was even on, or does it make it more difficult knowing that?

N. Coster-Waldau :  Yes, I’ve speculated.  I have no idea.  The only thing I know now is that we have these two post American Idol slots, and, of course, that is huge.  It gives an opportunity to reach a big audience to begin with.  Would we have done those slots without the strike?  I don’t know.  I guess if you call me four weeks from now and ask me, I can tell you if it was good or bad.

It feels like this show has been on our radar for a long time, and with the strike, obviously, things have been on hold even longer for you.  Can you just take us through when you did the episodes and what it’s been like?  You must have been on hold for a while now, haven’t you?  

N. Coster-Waldau :   We finished shooting the last episode three days before the strike started, and then I did my last work, sound-wise, in December, so it hasn’t been that long.  Of course, early in May, we were told it was a fall show, so, of course, we were pushed back to mid-season, but yes, it’s been a long way, but it’s only on Tuesday.  That’s all that really matters to me.

Doing a one-hour drama is so time consuming, and it’s really tough being the lead of the show.  What surprised you either in terms of being really rewarding?  Also, the challenges and the rigors of doing a show like this.

N. Coster-Waldau :   There were some surprises.  Of course, the workload, before you tried it you can’t really imagine.  I’d never done television before, so you work hard and you work long hours, but I had such a good time.  The part is, because, I think, of the mix of stories in a way.  We have the crime stories, and you have the ongoing love story throughout the show, and then you have the flashbacks.  It was always exciting to go to work, because you knew there were some great scenes to do every day, and nothing really felt the same.  

I guess a thing that surprised me is how alike it is, and, of course, you shoot faster, but people that do television, do movies, you get the same sense of team spirit, which is really rewarding.  I think I’ve experienced it in every film set I’ve ever been on really that there’s just something unique about it. 

Are the later episodes very different?  Did you adjust and adapt as the show went on, or is what we see in the pilot is pretty much representative of what we’re going to be seeing in later shows?

N. Coster-Waldau :    I think it did change a bit from the first pilot.  Then we did some re-shoots, once we got picked up.  Then, of course, this show evolves, and I think there’s a truth in the way that the series takes a while to really understand what a show can do.  I think we discovered in the last three or four episodes, more and more where we could take the show, and what we could achieve with going back and forth in time with the love story.  So, yes, it does.  It’s the same guy, more or less.  It’s the same basic story, but the way we tell it does change a bit.

What is your sense of John?  If the woman is really the one, he’ll become mortal and eventually die, and he’ll end up losing everything he’s had all this time, while gaining love.  What’s your sense of what he wants out of the rest of his life?

N. Coster-Waldau : I think what he wants is some kind of normality, and also experience what it’s like to be with someone, to have a relationship that lasts and to grow old with someone.  I think that’s the biggest dream he has, to actually spend his life with one person and have a family and to be able to be there for his children, and also when they grow up.  All of that has been something he’s only been able to watch at a distance.  I don’t think he sees it as a loss, but of course, I think that’s one of the things that would be interesting to examine is basically, be careful what you wish for.  If this is really what he wants, how will that affect him if he actually does become mortal?  It will affect the way he performs his job as a homicide detective, that’s for sure.

I wanted to ask a little bit about the whole concept, the idea of being immortal.  There’s been other series that have played on that fact.  What do you think it is about that concept?

N. Coster-Waldau :   I think immortality is if there’s one thing that unites all of us, it’s the fact that were dying, and for a lot of us, I think myself included, you look at he idea of death with some anxiety and fear.  Of course, immortality, I guess it’s always been part of literature.  We’ve had that forever really, using what would it be like.  What if we were immortal, what could we do, time travel and all that stuff?  

I think it’s like with anything you do in a dramatic context.  You use something that enables you and gives you some freedom to tell a story in a different way.  Here it gives us the freedom to go back and explore, first of all, the history of New York, but also that whole thing about learning from your past mistakes.  That’s very much what John does, and I guess that’s what I wish I would be able to do more.  He’s able to remember and able to look back and see, well, that happened then, how can that affect my life or my work now. 

Could you talk to us a little bit about your co-stars?

N. Coster-Waldau :    Yes.  My partner, Eva Marquez, is played by Zuleikha Robinson, who is a British actress, whose been living in Los Angeles for ten years, I think.   She’s great.  She was in the movie The Namesake, and Rome, and I don’t know her CV.  She’s a great actress.

Then there’s the guy who plays Omar, Stephen Henderson.  He’s just a wonderful man.  He’s done a lot of stage work in New York.  He plays my best friend.  He plays the one guy in the show who knows my secret, and he’s really the guy who is very important for the show to work, because he gives the audience the information they need by being able for me to be honest with this guy.

Then, of course, there is Alexie Gilmore, who plays the girl I think is the one.  She’s done loads of great work.  I know she did the movie that’s coming out later with Matthew McConaughey.  

I was very lucky to get to work with those guys, and also, I heard it before when they say that the reason that some shows shot in New York have great supporting casts, and it really is true.  I was amazed, because I’ve tried a number of times myself to come on a show or a movie and have three or four days.  It’s always difficult, and these guys, they just nailed it.  I was really impressed.