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Interview: Torben Liebrecht Talks Season Two of ‘Altered Carbon’

February 27, 2020Ben MK

The way that humanity — and, indeed, what it means to be human — has been augmented by technology is something that's never far from the minds of the characters in season one of Altered Carbon, which saw Joel Kinnaman playing a formerly deceased soldier who finds himself inhabiting a new body in order to solve a murder. Now Kinnaman's character, Takeshi Kovacs (this time played by Anthony Mackie), is back for season two, and this time he's got a new body and a whole new mission. But in order to complete it, he'll have to go up against a formidable enemy — the Protectorate, and the leader of its elite military force, Colonel Ivan Carerra (German actor Torben Leibrecht).

I caught up with Torben Leibrecht to chat about playing the villain on Altered Carbon, and to find out what viewers can expect from season two.

You play a character named Colonel Ivan Carrera, who is the leader of an elite military organization called the Wedge. Can you tell me more about him and what drew you to the Altered Carbon universe?

Liebrecht: I can say this much — He's the rather dogged leader of the Special Forces unit of the Protectorate called the Wedge, so he is deployed to the planet of Harlan's World to supervise any sort of military action on the planet where this season is set. And he is going to be on a rather relentless chase for the main character — for Takeshi Kovacs.

In Germany, we don't really have that much of a tradition of sci-fi shows. Especially not cyberpunk, like this show. It was a great opportunity that showed up on the horizon, and I auditioned for it. And I was very fond of season one; I enjoyed the thoroughness of the world-building a lot. It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance.

Were you a fan of the first season of the show?

Liebrecht: I was, I loved it. I was in Los Angeles when I saw season one. And every morning when I would go to my boxing gym that was on Sunset, I would walk by the gigantic billboards that had Joel Kinnaman in this plastic bag on it. So I saw that every day, and that made me watch the show and I was blown away. It was unlike anything I had every seen before.

The interesting thing is that season two has the same DNA, but it just has a different tone to it. And I think the great thing is that you can jump on the wagon any time without missing out on too much. But, on the other hand, you will be rewarded as a hardcore fan that has been with the show since day one.

Episode eight of season two is titled "Broken Angels," which is also the name of the second novel in Richard K. Morgan's book trilogy on which the show is based. Did you happen to read the book?

Liebrecht: I started reading Broken Angels during the course of my preparation. But at one point, I thought that I wanted to have, let's say, an innocent view of what our writers and show runners had come up with, as a basic idea of how they wanted to lay out the season. So [the book is] where I jumped in on first, and that's where I drew my inspiration from.

As with season one, there's a lot of action in season two, and your character is responsible for dishing out his fair share of the violence. What kind of physical training did you have to do for your role?

Liebrecht: I have a background in martial arts. I'm trained in Krav Maga, and I'm also a certified Krav Maga instructor, so that helped a little bit, on the one hand, to prepare for the part. The other thing that really helped was working out, because I felt that the level of physicality, as you said before, had been established in season one. There was a certain legacy that Joel Kinnaman had left from season one; his level of physical preparedness was just amazing and astounding. And I felt like I wanted to live up to that, so as soon as I knew that I had the part I started working out twice a day and changed my diet.

How many of the stunts did you perform yourself?

Liebrecht: You do them all, to a certain extent. The question is whether your moves will make it to the final edit. [laughs] Or whether the moves of the stunt performer will look better. But if there was a fight scene and I was in it, I did what the stunt performer did as well. The other thing was that I got to pick the brain of some of the best stunt coordinators and stunt performers in the industry. Learning from them, working with them was just one of the many perks that this gig had for me.

Was there an episode or a scene that was particularly memorable for you?

Liebrecht: I would love to tell you so much, but I have to avoid spoilers. [laughs] I think one of my favorite episodes is episode number three, where we meet something of a punishment method that is called the Circle. And that's gonna be a rather spectacular episode to watch. Especially for the people who know the whole story from the first season.

Of course, being a primary antagonist on the show, Carrera has to contend with our protagonist, Kovacs, played this season by Anthony Mackie. What was it like working with him?

Liebrecht: Oh, it was a lot of fun. First of all, he gives a great performance as the new sleeve — or the new embodiment of Takeshi Kovacs. And working with [Anthony] was just a treat. He's a very, very upbeat character. He likes to keep a good mood and good spirits, he has a great level of energy and commitment, and he likes to keep people together. It's been a lot of fun. It's also been hard work — the whole thing. But with him, a lot of fun. And he's so generous, as well. I remember one day he just brought in a food truck and ordered poutine for the whole team that was there all day. He invited us all for some Canadian trademark food, so that was very cool of him.

Speaking of Canada, what was it like shooting in Vancouver?

Liebrecht: When I told some friends I was going to be on a science fiction show, they said, "Hey, enjoy your green screen time." But the funny thing is that hardly anything was shot on green screen. Carey Meyer, the Production Designer on the show, did an amazing job and he built all these sets on this gigantic soundstage that we were working on. And there are also a lot of exterior scenes that had to be shot. British Columbia is just beautiful — and it was amazing to be there, surrounded by many talented people for such an extended timespan.

Canadians are extraordinarily friendly and supportive, so it was a great, great experience off-camera as well. I love Canada, I have to say. It was just nice to be there a little longer, because I was on this other Canadian show called X Company for three seasons, but we shot in Europe. We had a great Canadian head of department there, but getting to experience Canadian hospitality — that was something else. That was really nice.

Last but not least, what are you working on next?

Liebrecht: I'm going to do something back in my home country, in Germany. And afterwards, hopefully, another production that is here in North America, but I don't want to jinx anything. But, of course, I'm grateful that I get to present myself in this market. I grew up with American television — I wanted to be Batman or James Bond when I was a child — and years later, I find myself on television on some of my favorite programs, so that's a treat. I'm very, very lucky.

Season two of Altered Carbon is now streaming on Netflix.

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