Noomi Rapace
Photo by Lenita Visan

Noomi Rapace: “Embrace the cracks”

Short Profile

Name: Noomi Rapace
DOB: 28 December 1979
Place of birth: Hudiksvall, Gävleborg, Sweden
Occupation: Actor

The first series finale of Apple TV's Constellation, starring Noomi Rapace, airs 27 March 2024.

Ms. Rapace, are you the kind of actor who immerses themselves entirely in each role?

Yes, totally. I really can't do things halfway. Sometimes I wish I could though, I wish I could be a bit more mellow or that I could work at 60 percent, but it doesn't work for me. That's why I really get along with filmmakers because they often have the same kind of all or nothing, let's go attitude. They have a fearless approach rather than playing it safe. That's why I really get along with people that have a bit of a mad approach: let's see how far we will go and how far this will take us.

Is that true even if you have a smaller supporting role?

Sure, it’s about something bigger than yourself. You Won’t Be Alone is probably the smallest part I've done, I mean, I was only in that for 15 minutes, but it's one of my favorite films I’ve done because I was sharing the part with five other actors. It an amazing experience, I really connected with the director. I loved the script, and the shooting was fun because we did so much improvising and running around like in a weird dream. And I read the script, I was like, I'm just in a tiny little chapter. So even being a tiny part in a big creation, I really don't mind! Because if you're with the right people, it comes down to that.

“There’s only one of you in the world. No one else is like you and that's a superpower.”

But that “all or nothing” approach must take its toll as well — especially for films that ask a lot from you as an actor, like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, which was filmed over more than a year.

Oh, all the roles I take on go quite deep in me! I think with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo specifically, I was also in a quite fragile a frail state in my life. So a few different things that played into that. But you’re right that it was a very long shooting, I think it was my longest so afar. She was very intense, she was not a really balanced or happy character, so it felt like this weight. Now I know that when I'm coming out of a film or a series, the first two weeks will be turbulent, almost like a limbo or this middle space before I'm back to myself fully, when the character is coming out of my system. And sometimes that is hard and confusing. Like, when I came back from the thriller What Happened to Monday, where I played a set of seven identical sisters, I remember I came back to London and I had no short term memory. Like, I was out driving, and I called my sister and I was like, “Am I seeing you? Like, do we have a plan today?” It was like I’d used up all the space in my head.

I can imagine! You had to learn seven different sets of lines for characters who spent much of the film talking to one another.

It was very extreme! Just to learn the lines for one scene, I had to learn it first as Monday, then as Wednesday, and then Saturday answers, and then Friday. It was one of the hardest things I've done. But my series Constellation, that’s been a challenge too, it’s been really long shoots and I’ve had to merge things and allow the character to take me on a journey.  When I came off Constellation, I felt like I was coming back to Earth, or coming back to life. It feels like I've been away for a while! I was a bit scared, to be honest, because I’ve done series before, but this was really like my baby. It’s very close to my heart, and I was really blessed to work with three really strong directors with very different strengths and personalities. They allowed me to carry my character Jo, to embrace her and live with her. It was a really incredible journey.

Apparently you really cherish your relationships with directors; you’ve even credited Ridley Scott’s advice in helping you gain confidence as an actor.

Yes, Ridley’s film Prometheus was my first movie where I was the lead, it was on my shoulders to carry it. My first day on set Ridley said to me, “You don’t have to prove anything. Just come as you are,” and to have a legendary, iconic director say to me that I should not change, that I should be me and trust what I knew… It was so reassuring. Prometheus was the first bridge in my international foundation, if that makes sense. I think everyone has this fear or self doubt, like, “Okay, now I’m in the game, I need to change, to be more like that.” But the older I get, I realize it’s exactly what Ridley said: Just be you. I’ve been trying to communicate that when I meet young actors and actresses: There’s only one of you in the world. No one else is like you and that's a superpower. That’s something that I’ve been adapting to my life more too.

“I need to find the truth in every scene and go as deep as I can.”

What do you mean?

Oh, just that we all have issues with ourselves, you know? We are highly aware of with ourselves, but we don't see that with others. I’m a perfectionist, I work really hard, I put in a lot of effort, I prepare myself, I come ready for a role… But there's always something that happens the first week, maybe I get injured or it’s raining so we can't shoot outside, or even something like COVID! There’s always something, so I try to embrace the now and accept that I have no control. It’s about doing the best with what you have. Perfection does not exist, so embrace the cracks, embrace all the imperfections and faults and the wrongdoings, and just let it be okay. There's this beautiful Japanese culture of repairing pottery with gold, it’s called kintsugi. It’s really something that I think we should adapt into our lives. Our cracks should be celebrated. Our lines should be celebrated. Broken hearts will grow stronger, so we should celebrate it with gold.

Is that something you struggled with when you first came to Hollywood from the Scandinavian film industry?

Yeah, I mean, I always thought, “I don't want to go to Hollywood. I don't want to become a glossy doll. I want to be real.” I love cinema, above all, I'm obsessed with films, cinema is my medicine, it really saved me when I was younger — and still does when I have a dark day or feel in doubt or empty, I watch a film and it gives me this rush of possibilities and acceptance. And I guess I was scared that Hollywood and this whole industry was just about the glamour, or about this pure, perfect beauty. I don't know how to exist in that. I had this fear that Hollywood would be like that! But then I came there and realized that some of my favorite actors and filmmakers are there. There are so many people here that share my common ground, who really want to do something real and have this same energy.

I bet it was also a bit of a culture shock, even just in terms of the production scale.

To be honest, in that sense, I was very much in my own bubble because it was so much pressure on me. Especially coming from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which was sort of my opening act for my international journey. I had this sort of self-defense mechanism where I just pointed my concentration into where it needs to be, rather than thinking about anything else. I had to focus on: What is required from me? What do they need from me? What am I here to do? And I think that’s the same for me, whether it’s a small indie film or a big production with loads of people and a huge studio. I need to find the truth in every scene and go as deep as I can.