Joel Kinnaman: How Netflix’s ‘Altered Carbon’ Is Particularly Relevant Today

Netflix Altered Carbon Joel Kinnaman Interview
Netflix’s ‘Altered Carbon.’ Courtesy Netflix

The current television landscape is positively beset by big-budget sci-fi series.

Between Stranger Things, Westworld, Game of Thrones (sci-fi/fantasy, close enough) and the deluge of superhero shows, the medium can’t get enough of the genre.


Because these kinds of shows typically have broad appeal and often emerge as mainstream commercial hits.

That’s what Netflix is hoping for with its new expensive sci-fi drama Altered Carbon, based on Richard K. Morgan’s novel of the same name. The show is set more than 300 years in the future, where society has been transformed by new technology that allows humans to digitize their consciousness and upload it into new bodies. This essentially renders death and disease obsolete, but only for the one percent.

That’s where series star Joel Kinnaman believes Altered Carbon (read our review here) shows off its relevancy in today’s world. The show may take place centuries ahead of us, but he sees parallels to the present day.

“I think that medical advances are great, but not if they’re only available to the ultra rich,” Kinnaman told Observer and other assorted media last week. “We’re seeing that in our society today, and I think Altered Carbon is very relevant because it becomes a window into the future if we don’t sort of deal with this inequality now. This is where we might end up. In America, this generation is the first generation to live shorter lives than their parents. But at the same time, the richest are getting medical treatments so they’re living longer than humans have ever lived before.”

Altered Carbon does take a look at the socioeconomic divides between classes and how it affects everyday life. It also explores a richly textured futuristic setting that is a sight to be seen on the small screen.

Kinnaman has described it as “a world that’s got a bigger budget than the first three seasons of Game of Thrones,” and we all know Netflix isn’t afraid to spend to get what it wants. This is the same streamer that is prepared to drop $8 billion on content alone in 2018.

“I think for me… at first I was a little skeptical, checking up on the source material,” Kinnaman explained. “This kind of world really needs some muscles behind it to be able to realize it in a proper way. Usually, that’s only in big budget Hollywood movies that can deliver that. Then, when I met with Netflix and Skydance, they sort of walked me through the whole scale of what they wanted to do with it. I just really understood that this was going to be a one-of-a-kind kind of show, so I jumped right in.”

Hey, if that’s the price of bringing socially conscious and relevant material to life, then Netflix is happy to pay it.

Altered Carbon is available for streaming now. Joel Kinnaman: How Netflix’s ‘Altered Carbon’ Is Particularly Relevant Today