Netflix Marks Original Content Milestones With Steven Van Zandt at 'Lilyhammer' Premiere
"There’s a lot of firsts associated with Lilyhammer, and tonight’s another one, which is our first second season of a Netflix original show," said Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos at the beginning of the Lilyhammer season two premiere.
Lilyhammer – which stars veteran Sopranos actor and Bruce Springsteen’s E Street guitarist Steven Van Zandt as a mob fixer hiding out in Lillehammer, Norway – was Netflix’s first dive into original content, released all at once, in multiple languages and in multiple countries. “Before there was a House of Cards, there was a Lilyhammer. Before Orange Is the New Black, there was a Lilyhammer. Before Hemlock even had a Grove, there was a Lilyhammer!”
At the Nov. 19 premiere, Van Zandt greeted guests Joan Jett and Richie Sambora as they arrived at the NYIT Auditorium in NYC, as well as fellow Lilyhammer actors Trond Fausa, Fridtjov Saheim and Tommy Karlsen Sandhum. Netflix also provided red carpet reinforcements: Orange Is the New Black cast members Alysia Reiner, Jackie Cruz, Lea Delaria and Selenis Leyva, along with Sebastian Arcelus and Michael Kelly from House of Cards.
But the first guest to arrive at the premiere was none other than Van Zandt’s Sopranos co-star Tony Sarico. "He took his wig with him and ran right to it!" Sarico joked of the Lilyhammer lead. "He thinks it’s a little cold to film, but he likes that wig. Stevie’s my pal and I love him. Nobody can mug like Stevie; nobody got faces like Stevie, nobody."
He couldn’t help but drop his own season two spoiler: “Well personally, between me and you, I think I’m in it!” he said. “Might be, might be – or, somebody who looks a lot like me."
Season two guest stars also include Paul Kaye (Game of Thrones), Tony Pitts (Sherlock), Alan Ford (Snatch), Amy Beth Hayes (Doctor Who) and Amit Shah (The Infidel). The eight-episode return also was partially shot in New York City, which Sandhum particularly loved. "It’s not every day you can block off some roads in Manhattan – that was a special thing."
Lilyhammer first debuted on Netflix in February 2012, and though the show was quickly renewed, season two’s production was put on hold for multiple reasons. "It worked out well because NRK was really not used to doing a season every year – they very rarely repeat anything," said Van Zandt of working with the Norwegian broadcasting company. "They decided to pick up the show, but do it every other year, and at first I thought, that could be a problem, but then Bruce called, and it worked out very well for me. Just stick a little rock ‘n’ roll tour in the middle!"
The E Street musician, who stars and produces Lilyhammer, also scored and helped write the second season. "Scoring is nothing but fun – the hardest part is licensing," he said, with the same mob tone his character Frank "The Fixer" Tagliano uses onscreen. "The licensing world, man, we gotta have a conversation. Everyone just has to sit down and have a conversation, okay? Because it’s a little harder than it should be, okay? A little harder than it needs to be. I got a lot of friends at record companies, I got a lot of friends in publishing, so I’m one of the lucky ones. It’s a little bit more difficult than it should be, and we all need to sit down and discuss that, and really try to sort that out."
The cast also shared how they prefer to watch the show – Sandhum binge-watches with his wife, Fousa watches weekly on NRK’s schedule, and Saheim prefers not to watch himself as much as possible. While Netflix audiences have the option to watch the eight-episode seasons in one sitting, audiences in Norway are flocking to their televisions week after week, as season two debuted to a 51.9 percent share of the 12-plus demographic in Norway, with one in five Norwegians tuning in.
"I’m excited to see how the Americans will respond in comparison to the Norwegian premiere," said Fousa, who flew in from Norway for the event. "Steven has grown Lilyhammer globally, instead of just in Norway – maybe in Norway, we think the same, and then here comes this American with ideas and thoughts about selling the series to the States, and I was laughing inside of me, like, ‘That’s never gonna happen!' But he actually made it, and I’m so grateful."
After the two-episode screening, guests were shuttled to the Russian Tea Room to further celebrate the original content milestones.
The entire second season of Lilyhammer will be able to stream on Netflix beginning on Friday, Dec. 13, at 12:01 a.m. PST.