In a small wood-clad hut, Lucas Lynggaard Tønnesen is the only one awake. He is clutching a steaming coffee and grinning infectiously, as his distinguishable mop of blonde hair casually falls into his face as he talks. When we meet on Zoom for our conversation, Lucas is nestled in a spot by the ocean where he is distancing from his girlfriend’s family as he visits them at their summer house in North Zealand, Denmark. A magnetic energy emits from the 20-year-old that is impossible not to be entranced by.
But there’s a seriousness about the actor too, that makes Lucas the perfect person to play the character of Rasmus in Netflix’s dystopian drama The Rain, the third season of which will be released on August 6. In the Scandinavian series, two Danish siblings Simone and Rasmus survive a biological event that has caused the rain to contain a toxic virus that has killed most of civilization. When they run low on food, they must leave the bunker where they have been hiding for six years and try to figure out the cause of the disaster. It’s the first Danish show to debut on Netflix and has given the cast of The Rain an international platform.
Escaping the outside world and the pressures of the times - both spotlight and turmoil - photographer Emilia Staugaard and Lucas retreat to Sauntehus Slotshotel in Denmark. Stolen hours surrounded by a savanna of parkland, the camera intimately documents youth on the brink of seriousness. With this 1914 estate as his playground, Lucas is at once vivacious and pensive, and stylist Christian Schleisner blurs gender boundaries with flamboyant outfits in mustard, blues, and purples that match the elaborate interiors.
How was your experience with lockdown?
Lockdown went all right. I think boredom took over a bit, but I tried to keep myself occupied with things that I wanted to do and haven't done. I played a lot of chess. I start the day off with one game, and then I think around lunchtime, five to seven games could be played. It’s such good training for your brain. I didn't get to see my friends, but I think it was better that way. We really understood the necessity of everyone helping each other and staying at home and respecting everything.
Where were you quarantining and who were you with?
I was quarantining with my girlfriend in Copenhagen. We were at my place basically 24/7, and she helped me with a lot of interior design. We had to make a lot of things, so she helped me with that, as well as all the “do's” and “don't’s” of design - she was the whole mastermind behind how my apartment looks now.
Did you find the lockdown revealed anything about your personality that you hadn't given much thought to before?
I mean, I'm a guy with a lot of energy. I'm already drinking coffee and it's like 9.30, and after an hour, I'll be like this *clicks his fingers and moves around*. I think preserving that energy in lockdown was kind of a difficult task. I'm used to using my body all the time, so it was hard for me in a little flat in Copenhagen. But lockdown was also a thoughtful cleansing experience, where I could relieve a lot of thoughts - a lot of negative thoughts - bring in some new ones, and just think about what I wanted to do next. What's the next step? I love to keep myself occupied with work, but for those two months to do absolutely nothing. It was strange, but it was really good.
What did it make you think about in terms of the future?
There's a passion project that I'm working on, and hopefully, after the whole situation, we can get that going. I've written my own short film. We’ve just got funding, so we're going to shoot that, hopefully, at the start of next year.
That sounds really cool. Did you always know that you wanted to be an actor?
I think I was nine years old, and I went to singing school here in Copenhagen. It's a really prestigious school and singing was so important, everyone wanted to be the best singer. They had a little boy choir, and we got to sing for the Queen, and I got to travel the world. But I think for me, it was never enough because I couldn't sit still. So my father one day got a casting call for this children's circus throughout the summer. It was for the leading role. He just filmed me in our backyard, being crazy, full of energy, singing, dancing, hopping, and on the trampoline. And they called me in for an audition. At that time, I was part-time living with my dad on this cool little island called Fyn. I got the part and that was my summer in the circus. I remember feeling as though nothing else had made more sense to me than that, in my entire life. I was sold. After that, I never looked back. I just got small roles and different parts in shows and films. But the circus was the only time I've used my singing voice in a project, but I would love to do more, like a little La La Land.
That's interesting because you’ve now starred in The Rain and a Scandinavian thriller, Kvinden i buret (Department Q: The Keeper of Lost Causes), which is about a police department that reopens a cold case and goes on the trail of a psychopathic killer. Do you think a comedy could be on the horizon too?
Yeah, I've been doing some pretty depressing films and shows, I should probably mix it up with some sunshine and lollipop films.
Let's talk about The Rain. What was it that kind of drew you to Rasmus as a character?
I think just the naïve innocence of experiencing everything for the first time after nearly the whole population of Scandinavia gets wiped off the earth. It was really easy to relate with Rasmus: just the way he looked at things with new eyes and asked, “Who do I want to be when I grow up? Who do I want to compel myself to be? Who do I look up to?”. I do that to myself. I think I learn something new every day, being on set with the best cast members and mirroring myself on them. I'm still trying to figure out who I want to be. Also, bringing that young, naïve innocence of a 16-year old - I think in his brain he is still 13 or 14 - was really easy because I love to be childish. To bring that into the character was a nice opportunity to release some energy in another way.
Yes, I can imagine. You must have become very close to Alba August, who plays Simone in The Rain, did you two become good friends?
Alba is the best. I can't really describe how much I appreciate her. Just from what I learned from her - and to gain the extra sister that I got for life. I couldn't replace her with anyone. We really had a special bond in the series and still do.
How would she describe you?
A happy, energy bop. But hopefully also a second brother.
Do you ever get nervous when you're on set?
I think it's a very natural thing to get nervous. It doesn't matter what career you're chasing or doing. But after some time, when you've been nervous for a while, and maybe you still are, the nervousness turns into excitement. And when it does that, I think you can use that for so much. You can use that to push yourself. I don't think it will just go away and that's good because then you know you care.
What was it like pretending to be in the bunker?
It was a lot of fun but it was really hard because there were so many people compacted into this little studio, which was the bunker. When there are so many people down in the studio, the temperature really rises, so after takes, people had to move out so we could have this tube of air down there. I remember Alba and I talked about the fact that we wanted to stay in the bunker before rehearsals, to get the natural feeling of being down there, and to be isolated from the world. Then we got to the set and were like, 'nah we don't need it,' because it was so hot. I think if we'd done that it would have probably killed us.
Where was The Rain filmed?
A lot was filmed around Copenhagen but also in Norway and Sweden. We had the chance to see these wonderful Scandinavia cultures, and nature is just wonderful. I'm really missing travelling to Norway.
Are you more of a nature or city person?
I'm a nature person, definitely. I can just imagine myself right now being in a cabin again with my little chess game, and just looking out into the horizon.
One of the film’s creators, Jannik Tai Mosholt, has said in an interview that he thought it would be interesting to set the story in Scandinavian society, where they take pride in the welfare system and rules, and then take all that away to see how civilised they are, or whether they’d turn more animalistic. Do you think humans are innately good or will do anything to survive?
I think both. I'd like to believe that humans are initially good, but I think if humans are under extreme pressure or threatened, or if someone they love is threatened, we tend to react more instinctively to survive. But I would love to believe that we could all work to get through and keep our head calm and remember how things were if something like The Rain ever happened.
In many ways, The Rain is your big break. It’s propelled you onto the world stage being streamed by Netflix. Do you believe in the idea of a ‘big break’?
I don't know if I believe in the, you know, “big break”. Of course, I feel very privileged to be part of this bigger series and part of this work with all these different people putting in so much energy, and part of the bigger platform that is Netflix. But I think by practising and doing what improves yourself and your craft, it will show in your work. And I think, luckily for us, all the things we've been doing for the last three years now get out to so many people, even though we just made the series in Denmark.
What's your dream for the type of films you'd like to be involved in the future?
I have an idea. Have you seen Whiplash? It's by the same director that made La La Land, but I think if you take Whiplash, and you make it about a competition choir. I would love to be that one kid that wants to be the best, but the competition is so tough, and his teammates are douchebags. I think that could be a really great compelling story. I would love to play Peter Pan as well, at some point.
I can see that.
But I mean, I have so many directors that I want to work with. We have Paul Thomas Anderson. We have Ari Aster and Christopher Nolan. I have a lot of people that I would love to work with. Tarantino, the Coen brothers, Martin Scorsese, David Fincher.
What's your process when you're prepping for a film? Do you have a ritual to get yourself in the zone?
I think it's just by calibrating the library in your head of the things you want to do and want to express. Every time I watch a movie, I try to really focus on how the actors portray different things. Sometimes I can catch myself after the movie trying to do the same thing and trying to express the same feeling or project their voice. For The Rain, I watched this film a lot called Captain Fantastic. It's really good, with a Danish actor Viggo Mortensen, who is also in Green Book. It's about a family that lives outside society, and one of the kids experiences love for the first time. Just the way he sees society and how humans behave and tries to figure out who he wants to be - I took a lot of that character and put it into Rasmus. I remember, in the beginning, I created a mood board. I always do that. I visually see how the show is going to be. I had stills from Captain Fantastic, so that film was a huge inspiration for the Rasmus role in The Rain.
Do you have people that you look to for advice and guidance?
I was thinking about this recently: who do I go to for opinions and career choices and just for the basic, ‘how do I feel?’. I'm a really sensitive guy, so opening myself completely is something I can do with my girlfriend. I think her opinion really means a lot to me because she's in the same brand of work. She's a director, so she knows what she's talking about. I know she tells me what she really thinks. She says what she feels is right, and what she means.
What are you passionate about outside of acting?
I love chess as I said before, but also sports of any kind. As you can imagine, anything using a lot of energy: I love golf, tennis, football - here in the summer break we dress everyone up in complete football kits and play very seriously. It is a lot of fun. But spending time with friends, I have a lot of friends that are also actors or directors or photographers. We tend to meet up, write a script for hours and the same day go out and shoot it. We have our own cameras and equipment, so we sometimes just meet up to practice. It's so lovely to try some characters that you won't have the chance to try professionally.
Do you have a first memory of being performative?
I just remember being this kid who couldn't sit still in school at all and would have to go out and perform and put on a show - put a wig or hat on. When I lived with my mum, me and my sister always wanted to make a circus - funnily enough. I was the mysterious guy, who did lots of things with my body and put on strange voices, and my sister was an acrobat. She was lifting me up, and every time she did, my mum had to clap.
Let’s end with an existential one: Who is Lucas now and who do you want to be?
I would say I am a positive, happy-minded guy but also very sensitive. When you give yourself out a lot to others it is a good thing, but I have figured out that maybe you shouldn't empty the chamber inside of yourself completely - just in case you don't get the same back from other people. That's something I have been working on and thinking about throughout the whole of quarantine: how to not give yourself fully to everyone you meet. Try to give some portions and then you can give more if you get something of the same back.
The Rain is available to watch on Netflix 6th August, 2020.