Bill Skarsgård isn't messing around - he knows he's got a hit on his hands.


It's widely believed that the Swedish actor dropped out of appearing alongside his brother Alexander in Robert Eggers' The Northman to star in the Netflix series Clark, so you'd have to assume he knew he was on to something special.

When we speak on Zoom, Skarsgård is utterly effusive and passionate about the series, telling viewers: "I dare you to watch it and I don't think you'll be bored. Once you start this thing, it's going to be hard to turn it off. That was one of our main objectives with it."

He's right. Clark is many things but it's certainly never boring. From the very first moment you feel as though you've been given a shot of adrenaline (and maybe some hallucinogens) and the pace doesn't slow. The fact that it's telling a true story makes the amount of outrageous content packed into this show all the more remarkable.

For those who aren't aware, Clark Olofsson is a Swedish criminal, whose high profile prison breaks and bank robberies made him an unlikely celebrity. He is perhaps best known for his involvement in the Norrmalmstorg Robbery, which gave rise to the term Stockholm Syndrome after the hostages publicly defended their captors.

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Skarsgård explains that he was approached by director Jonas Åkerlund very early on in development for the Swedish language series, which led him on a deep dive into Olofsson's story.

"I'm too young to have lived through Clark as a public figure, most of my life he's been in jail," Skarsgård explains. "So growing up, I didn't know more about him than just this kind of vague name. If you asked me when I was younger who I thought Clark Olofsson was I would probably say, 'isn't he some kind of criminal?'

Bill Skarsgård and Vilhelm Blomgren in Clark
Bill Skarsgård and Vilhelm Blomgren in Clark Eric Broms / Netflix

"And then literally just reading his Wikipedia page, it’s like, how can one person be involved in so many things in one lifetime? It's just one thing over the next, over the next, over the next and some of these very historical moments. Like the Stockholm Syndrome is obviously something that everybody knows what it is, and of course he was involved in coining that!

"So I was just like, 'how do you even begin to tell this story?' because it's just so much to tell."

For starters, you need a star that is also, at his heart, a character actor, unafraid to go to dark places and portray a deeply complex figure. He needs to be at the height of his powers, fully committed to what is an astonishingly energetic role that shifts and changes across multiple decades. Check.

Next, you need a director who's up to the challenge, so it's a good thing Jonas Åkerlund was on board. Åkerlund has been behind such films as Polar and Lords of Chaos and, as Skarsgård puts it, is "probably the most iconic music video director of all time". His work seems to live and die by the motto 'go big or go home'.

"I knew from Jonas' previous works that he's very extravagant and flamboyant. There’s so much flair in everything that he does," Skarsgård explains. "Which is funny, because it's very anti-Swedish almost. We're known for being subtle, timid, minimalistic, and we're great at that, just look at our cars or look at our interior design. Everything is understated. And Jonas is overstated. It's so unique and refreshing in television today, it's just not like anything you've ever seen before."

The pairing seems perfect. Everything about Olofsson's life was crying out for an exaggerated and bombastic approach. You don't become a celebrity criminal without a flair for the dramatic.

"If you look at Jonas’ style and you look at Clark’s story, they fit very well together," Skarsgård continues. "You can tell this story in a very exaggerated way, and in a very subjective way. You're in the head of this crazy person and you probably shouldn't believe everything that he's telling you as the audience. You know this is probably not exactly how the robbery took place but maybe it is sort of what it was like for him."

So, you've got the style sorted - next, the structure of the show needs to be set, and Skarsgård confirms the series' break-neck pace was no accident.

Clark at the Norrmalmstorg robbery
Clark at the Norrmalmstorg robbery Netflix / Eric Broms

"What Jonas and I talked about even early on was like, 'we're gonna cram so much into this. This show is never going to be boring, and it's never going to be lacking, right? It's going to be like a reduced sauce, where it's just so rich and there's never a beat, it's just constant'.

"Of course the real Clark would have these big pauses of like four years of isolation in a cell. We don't go into that very much but it's a crazy lifestyle - either you're locked up and everything's the same and it's so boring, but for him maybe even relaxing, and then he breaks out and it’s just chaos, chaos, chaos until he gets caught, on repeat for decades. It takes a particular type of character to sustain that type of lifestyle."

But who is that character? The series is notably not about the Norrmalmstorg robbery. That touchpoint in Olofsson's life does of course appear, making up the bulk of episode 4. But this is a six-part season, and while Skarsgård confirms he was at one point involved in the development of a different project, one revolving more around the robbery, this show is far more interested in the man behind it, and what makes someone like that tick.

"For me it was like, 'OK, I love the heightened reality, but I also need to ground the character in something that's very real'," Skarsgård confirms. "And hopefully people will see either themselves or people they know in Clark."

"I think he's one of these eccentric characters that a lot of people have in their families," he continued. "This kind of super eccentric crazy guy who’s doing everything wrong but somehow you can't help but forgive him, because of how he twists reality. You go, 'I'm going to sit down with my uncle and I'm going to tell him that he screwed up' and then you sit down with him and you leave afterwards going, 'now I'm the bad guy'. And you're like, 'how did he do that?'"

This ability is key throughout the series, as Clark utilises his charisma and good looks to get exactly what he wants at every turn, managing to convince even those most alert to his tricks that, this time, he truly has changed. Of course, the show is told from his perspective, so just how charming Olofsson actually was is left somewhat in doubt. However, there's clearly some truth to it.

Skarsgård tells a story about how, when looking back through the Swedish television institution's archives, he came across footage of Clark at 15 when he was working on a ship. "This was in the early '60s when, like, nobody was on camera. And there was a documentary team on the boat filming," Skarsgård explains.

"The documentary was supposed to be about someone else, another kid, but Clark was so charismatic that it ended up being about him. It’s like the camera, or fame, was gravitating towards him even before he began his journey."

Bill Skarsgård in Clark
Bill Skarsgård in Clark Eric Broms / Netflix

Of course, as with any series revolving around a real life criminal, our own fascination with such a morally murky figure comes under the microscope. Skarsgård notes that public interest in Olofsson marked the beginning of sensationalised news, as personal TVs started appearing in homes in the '60s.

"He became notorious because of a police shooting when he was 18. And you had a manhunt for this guy who looked incredibly dangerous but good looking with the black eye on that headshot, and nobody knew where he was. You had a whole media frenzy about him and he hadn't even turned 19 yet.

"This guy was basically famous his entire life for doing everything wrong, and I don't know what it says about our culture at that time or even our culture today, it's just whatever it is, it was worth sensationalising."

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That's not to say the series lets Olofsson off lightly. For as much as it portrays his own self-aggrandised image - a heroic lothario destined to have films made about his brilliance - it also portrays the damage done to those left in his wake. Everything is about Clark, and those around him continually suffer because of his self-serving manipulations.

"I was almost embarrassed playing him at times because he just doesn't give a s**t about anyone ever except for himself," Skarsgård says. "He so shamelessly manipulates everyone, and it's just a game for him. He lives life as if it's a video game, where the stakes are just 'how do I get the most fun out of anything?'"

When it comes down to it though, Clark is designed to be a fast-paced bolt of pure entertainment, a crime series so outlandish that, in Skarsgård's own words from when he was first cast, "would even make Scorsese blush". We can but guess at what the master director's reaction to the series would be, but it's fair to say - mission accomplished.

Clark is available to stream on Netflix now. Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.


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