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Live for Films talks to the brooding star of Heartless: Sebastian Jessen

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Heartless was created by the writer of ‘The Bridge’ and the director of ‘The Killing’, and features a standout performance from Nikolaj Kopernicus (the assassin of ‘The Killing’) alongside Allan Hyde (True Blood), Sebastian Jessen and Julie Christiansen (Borgen), and Julie Zangenberg. As compulsive and violent as The Bridge and as visually stunning as The Killing – Heartless is a sexy mix of teenage vampires and the best of Nordic drama.

A beautiful supernatural thriller set in an elite Danish boarding school. Twins Sofie and Sebastian (Sebastian Jessen and Julie Zangenberg, Borgen) are no ordinary students. They were born with a curse and carry a dark and fatal secret: in order to live, they need to suck the energy out of other people. However, if they don’t stop their sucking in time, their victims will burn to death.

Sofie and Sebastian try to find a way to overcome their curse but their new life at the school does not make it easy for them, especially as they have to contend with other more normal teen emotions. However, the siblings are not the only ones with secrets – a mystery that dates back to the year 1666 emerges, with elements of sin, life, death and mysterious powers.

Heartless is a spellbinding, saucy vampire thriller set against a magnificent backdrop of ancient forests, dark lakes and crumbling country houses. The series launched as a full box set on January 3, 2016, exclusively on All4.com/WalterPresents.

Launched on January 3, 2016, Walter Presents is a brand new on-demand service showcasing the world’s best foreign-language drama. The service will be exclusively available FREE in the UK, via Channel 4’s new digital hub, All 4.

I recently caught up with the stars of Heartless when they visited Channel 4. You can check out what happened when I met Julie Christensen, who plays Emilie Just, here; but next up is Sebastian Jessen.

Sebastian plays Sebastian (stretch) a vampire, and the twin brother of Sofie (Julie Zangenberg). Sebastian struggles with what he is and, while searching for the truth about himself, his sister and his mother, also juggles love affairs with both classmate Nadja (Frederikke Dahl Hansen), and kitchen maid Josefine (Julie Grundtvig Wester).

The whole series is available to watch for free right now – which you should totally do because it sizzling, horrifying and addicting – but consider this a spoiler warning.

 

How’s it going?

Good. Thank you.

 

Excellent. Let’s crack straight on as I have lots of things I am dying to ask you about Heartless.

OK!

 

I especially want to talk about how the series ended, but first off: what was it like going back to school?

It was… Well thank God I didn’t have to go to classes! Let me put it that way. I didn’t like school in real life, but it was fun experiencing school again. I mean I like recess, and we had a lot of recess!

 

Julie mentioned that you all actually stayed in the building you were shooting in too. Was that helpful for you as an actor? Actually boarding in the boarding school your character is supposed to be enrolled in?

It was… I wasn’t really thinking about that. I have a girlfriend and a child as well, so I went home a lot, but I did also sleep there. It was quite easy to stay because it was a long drive back and forth! But, yeah, all the surroundings and buildings and stuff really helped, yeah.

 

What was it that initially attracted you to the role?

He’s a complex guy. I like that. I liked it. It was frightening, I wasn’t sure whether I dared to do it or not, but thank God I did!

 

What was frightening you about it?

It was all this supernatural stuff.

 

Are you not a fan of that kind of thing?

Well, umm… It was a first for me, so I was like [funny exaggerated contemplative sound] “Is Denmark ready for this? But I am happy I did. I liked the script and stuff – it wasn’t that.

 

So would you be happy to do other supernatral stuff now?

Yeah, yeah, definitely.

 

Now obviously you guys play vampires, but not vampires like we’ve ever seen before.

No. That was a tricky one.

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Was the idea of how your take on vampirism would work already fully formed when you read the script? Or was it something you all worked at to create this new portrayal that would work on screen?

We worked on it all the time because it was difficult. We had to invent something new. Er… That was a tricky one, because that was the intersting thing. I mean, vampires… Maybe it’s a bit boring now: garlic, sunlight, stuff like that silver. So this was interesting, but it was difficult – you didn’t know what you were getting into.

 

Yeah, yeah. I guess “the traditional vampire” is a bit played out…

Exactly. That was the reason why I did it. Like “Let’s try something else”.

 

…and coming up with something geuinely new is hard, but I honestly think you have done that. One of the more subtle ways I think you do that is your character does have that vampiric brooding nature, but I don’t think that overpowers your character – you have a lot of other stuff going on, and all the characters in Heartless are complex, but all in different ways.

Yeah.

 

There’s some fencing in the show which I really liked.

You liked the fencing?

 

I loved the fencing! I’d never really thought about it before, but I was watching the show thinking “That’s actually really cool”.

And fencing in a stable.

 

Yeah, yeah, well that’s it too – the environment and the dust motes in the air and the shafts of light…

Had it been more classical it would have been quite boring.

 

You think so? I think that form and structure and elegance looks great on screen too. I think fencing is just genuinely cool.

[laughs] It is!

 

Did you get to do much? You have a few fencing scenes, but I suppose a lot of it was done by stunt people.

No, actually, no. We were just taught how to do it! Except Julie, because… err… what she does…

 

Oh, yeah. Well that big scene she has fighting Ditlev is a lot more violent and dangerous.

Yeah! I have fenced before.

 

Oh, at acting school?

No. It was for fun.

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Just for kicks?

Just for kicks, yeah.

 

How did you and Julie go about portraying yourselves as twins on screen? Did you do anything in particular, preperation wise, to establish that invisible bond?

Yeah, we were teasing each other, as siblings do. I wasn’t afraid of saying anything to her, and she wasn’t afraid of saying anything to me. It was “just act like siblings”.

 

And we talked about Ditlev and his prefects that bully you two – what was your off-screen relationship like with them? Did you keep your distance to feed that hatred?

Maybe I’m going to really disappoint you, but they are really wonderful guys. We had a lot of fun! He (Ditlev) can smile!

 

I have to ask you about the girls in the show. You are involved with both Nadja and Josefine, and I was firmly Team Nadja, so was dismayed when you chose Josefine…

You were keen on who?

 

Nadja. I think you should have stayed with her.

I think so too, but what about the ending?

 

Well that’s what I was super keen to talk to you about.

That was Nadja, right?

 

Right. Do you know what’s going to happen now, because that was huge!

What? We died?

 

But then you get brought back…

Yep.

 

And your eyes change…

Yep.

 

But they don’t go black – like you’re still a vampire…

Nope.

 

They go like a misty grey…

Yep.

 

Like… you’re both… zombies?

Who knows?! I don’t.

 

Oh! Do you honestly not know?

Nope.

 

Would you want to be zombies?

Why not? I mean, come on, why not? I don’t know… I haven’t thought about zombies.

 

But, again, like the vampire thing, zombies are a trad movie monster that’s been around and popular a long time and could benefit from a fresh take.

I, I would prefer, I’d rather stay a “black eye”. But I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’ve heard something about the setting. I’ve heard the setting might be more like an underground city setting – not like at school again.

 

That sounds cool – an underground vampire city. So now that we’ve started with vampires, introduced witches, and maybe now too zombies, would you be keen to see more different creatures added to the mix?

Why not?!

 

Like werewolves and…

No! Not werewolves!

 

Not werewolves?! You’ve got everything else!

I would prefer it just as it is: witches and “black eyes”. I like that it’s something new, something simple.

 

Fair enough. I have two last questions for you. The first is: if you could be killed by any movie monster which one would it be, and what would your last words be?

It would be the kraken, and er… I would say “To hell with it!”

 

Cool. I’ve never had the kraken before. Cool. My last question for you today is if you could star in the remake of any film, which one would it be, and what part would you like to play?

Ahhh… The Green Mile, and Tom Hanks’s character. It’s one of my favourites. Actually… I’ve never thought about it before… but… the sucking in that is quite similar – but it’s healing, not killing like in (Heartless).

 

Oh, yeah! Maybe that’s why you were subconsciously attracted to Heartless. We’ve just had a breakthrough!

[laughing] Maybe!

 

Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me today.

Thank you – that was fun!

 

Heartless is available to watch in full NOW and FREE at All4.com/WalterPresents, the brand new on-demand service showcasing the world’s best foreign-language drama.

If you enjoyed that interview, then stayed tuned to Live for Films as we will also have an interview with Julie Zangenberg – who plays the other vampire twin shortly – and you can check out our previous interview with Julie Christensen (who plays Emilie) here.

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