New stacks, new sleeves, and even more vengeance.
Netflix’s action-packed series Altered Carbon is back for season two and will have viewers at the edge of their seat the entire time. Takeshi Kovacs, played by Anthony Mackie, the lone surviving soldier, continues his quest to find his long-lost love Quellcrist Falconer, played by Renée Elise Goldsberry. Kovacs’ returns to his home planet on the hunt for his new mission while partnering with new and familiar allies along the way.
We sat down with cast members Anthony Mackie, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Simone Missick, Will Yun Lee, Chris Conner, Dina Shihabi, Torben Liebrecht, and Lela Loren to see what’s in store for Netflix’s Altered Carbon season two.
The Knockturnal: Season 2, absolutely love Altered Carbon. How did it feel playing Takeshi Kovacs?
Anthony Mackie: You know, it was a lot of fun. I think there’s a great feeling when you can walk around and kick people’s ass with no inhibition whatsoever.
The Knockturnal: And one of my favorite parts of the series is when you were in that circle fight and you got to fight all of the characters from season one. How was it working with season one characters?
Anthony Mackie: It was a lot of fun, everybody came in and they were ready to play. You know, that was a week-long sequence that we did every single day for fourteen hours a day. It was unforgiving and relentless and everybody played fair and there were no divas. That was one thing about this, we were so lucky with our cast and even when the actors from season one came it was still just fun and everybody had a good time. We all knew how lucky we were to be on season two of the show.
The Knockturnal: You’ve played so many soldiers in your career. What about that role intrigues you?
Anthony Mackie: I’ve recognized people who can do what I can’t do, who have the backbone to be the man that I am not. (Laughs) I got kicked out of ROTC three days in so I know I can never be a soldier but I feel like when I look at soldiers because I have soldiers in my family, veterans, it’s humbling, you know, because we’re able to live the life that we live because of the sacrifices they make. So I always try to portray them in a respectable light. So with Takeshi it’s the same thing. If you’re a soldier on the right side or the left side you still believe what you believe and it’s not my job to tell you if it’s right or wrong. So I always try to be the best I can be when I play a solider.
The Knockturnal: And this series is based on the Richard Morgan book. Did his work influence your role?
Anthony Mackie: Oh no, not at all. I read a little bit of some of the material for season two. I saw season one but I never read the book. So it was more of an experience of taking that character and putting him in the second season and putting my flavor on it.
The Knockturnal: Well this entire series had me at the edge of my seat every single episode. Do you think this concept would happen in real life?
Anthony Mackie: I doubt it, you know. We haven’t even figured how to make cars not run into each other. So, I don’t see it in the near future but I would love the ability to be somebody else for a day.
The Knockturnal: Is there a message you want to give to anyone watching this series?
Anthony Mackie: You know, everyone deserves to be happy and don’t look for your happiness outside you. You have to find your happiness within you. You know, one thing about Takeshi in this season that I wanted to make on the forefront of this story was you know he spent all this time looking for this person, looking for this love but he was really unhappy with himself. So he had to go back home and find his happiness, so you know, be happy with you and everything else will fall into place.
The Knockturnal: So you guys play such powerful female characters in Altered Carbon. I love season two, I’m so glad Quell is back. How was playing Quell in season two compared to season one?
Renée Elise Goldsberry: I love Quell too. In season one she is really, what I think attracted me to her is you know there’s this love story and she is the prize. I think so often I felt as an actress like I exist to make other couples interesting. Do you hear me? Do you get what I’m saying? I just love the fact when this main character closed his eyes no matter who he was with, no matter what body he was in, no matter what other body he was dealing with in any romantic situation, when he closed his eyes he saw the face of this black woman. I loved that, I needed it, I think I needed it and that’s what really attracted me to her in season one is you know being that, just being this woman that was that in this world. And in season two, what I love is she isn’t defined by being anybody’s dream. Right? She actually just, you actually meet her and she’s real and she’s still powerful but she’s vulnerable and she has her own journey to figure out who she is and you know you’ll see that she figures it out. But those two things were things that I felt I needed to see on a show and Altered Carbon gave it to me.
The Knockturnal: I love the love story in season two, I think that’s what really got it for me in season two. First off, congratulations on your NAACP nomination.
Renée Elise Goldsberry: What! Slow clap, slow clap.
The Knockturnal: Yes, you know you deserve it, it was amazing. So how was playing the bounty hunter in Altered Carbon compared to all of your other roles like in Luke Cage?
Renée Elise Goldsberry: Yes, let’s talk about the range that Simone Missick, the range. The range of roles.
Simone Missick: Oh, you know Trepp was a role that was quite the departure from a character that I was introduced to the world as which is Misty Knight on Marvel’s Luke Cage. She is to me the polar opposite of Misty Knight, the idea of you know, it’s me or you, I will kill you and take your stack if I need to, and what is the cost, how much is it worth? The difference in that and yet at the same time her deep need is still family, it’s still community, it’s still protecting those who are closest to her, which is very much like every character that I have gotten the pleasure and the good fortune and blessing to play, and so for me, I loved the dichotomy of who Trepp is on the outside. You see this woman, she’s tough, you can take nothing from her and yet on the inside she is a wife, she is a mother, she’s fiercely protective of her family and she is daughter, sister.
The Knockturnal: I love Trepp, so how is working with Anthony Mackie?
Simone Missick: Wonderful. Anthony…so we, our characters, have a different relationship with Anthony and I think that bled into the off-camera as well as the on-camera. So, off-camera, or on-camera, Trepp and Kovacs are not BFFs. Off-camera, Simone and Anthony, we’re not always BFFs.
Renée Elise Goldsberry: They have an amazingly wonderful relationship. They are hilarious together, they knew each other before, so they came in with a chemistry that’s amazing, it’s so fun to watch them. I’ve been a fan of Anthony Mackie for years and I pinch myself honestly, that I got to play, you know I had all these scenes with him, you know, he’s longingly looking to me, I mean, you know, someone had to write him to do that, but no, he’s really wonderful to work with. I’m so grateful that he took this job and I’m so grateful that he did what he did in this role because I couldn’t of, I could never have lived out the fulfillment of this character’s journey without a very strong leading male actor to come in and hold down, and you know I think it’s like for a man to be as powerful as you have to be to play Kovacs and understand that you’re kind of looking to and belief and kind of allegiance to and sometimes submitting to a strong woman, does not weaken you as a man, and understanding that. I just think, thank God that he does, and that he did, and I think when I watch the show I just get goosebumps watching it.
The Knockturnal: Well, I got goosebumps the entire time.
The Knockturnal: You’re the original Takeshi Kovacs, how does it feel playing in season one and season two.
Will Yun Lee: Two very different experiences, but the same. The training for it was the same, it was just brutal, and a lot of dieting, a lot of cardio, a lot of punching and kicking, but that to me is the adrenaline rush I love, you know it’s kind of a big part of movie-making that I love to be a part of. Season two is different, in the best possible way, and if I can say the world building that happened in season one was fantastical, season two, you’re literally getting on this bullet train from season one and it just goes, and it’s a mind bend F-U and that’s what I love is that Netflix takes these big risks, and it’s a big risk season, and it pays off.
The Knockturnal: And you also have a background of being a martial artist, can you tell me a little bit about that, and how that benefited your training?
Will Yun Lee: My father was one of the first TaeKwonDo masters to come to the United States and I put on my first belt when I was three, and competed for half my life, got a fight scholarship to Berkeley and then eventually I wanted to become an actor, and it served me well, in terms of timing, and knowing how not to get hit, and then coming to the world of filmmaking and understanding cameras and angles, and so you know, when you get the right dance partner like Anthony, it’s so hard not to give away spoilers, but all I can say is watching him train, you know, you have to find the right dance partner, or otherwise, you have to bring in the stunt guy, so it’s definitely benefited me.
The Knockturnal: How was working with Anthony Mackie?
Will Yun Lee: He’s one of my favorite, he’s one of my favorite dudes, and when I say he was the captain of the ship this season, he’s kind but strong, and it’s the whole cast, like everyone came to play and if you weren’t on your A-game, you were going to get run over and so Anthony Mackie is the constant professional but you never felt the days to be sixteen hours with him, because he kept it moving, and between Simone and Renee, and Anthony we laughed a lot, and then there would be action, and all of a sudden there’s guns and fights and fists, and blades.
The Knockturnal: Well, I was definitely at the edge of my seat watching every episode. How does it feel to be an Asian-American actor in this industry?
Will Yun Lee: You know, it’s been a tough twenty-year ride, but I think, and I was explaining this earlier, Simone Missick and I were sitting last night at the after party, and were like gosh, remember that day? And the day was, it was me, Anthony Mackie, Renee Goldsberry and Salli Richardson who directed it, so it was three African-American leads and myself, and we were like that scene particular, you know, I was in it, and it’s so hard not to give spoilers, but essentially, to have four people of color, holding center frame, that didn’t happen five years ago, and we were so proud of the moment, we stopped, and we go, we have to take a picture of this, and for Netflix to kind of just be brave to reflect the world we live in, I mean, it’s special. We knew it was a special moment and so we sent each other those pictures, and said ‘Can you believe this? This is amazing.’ So being Asian-American to see ‘Crazy Rich Asians,’ to see Awkwafina do its thing, Sandra Oh, I feel like the needle is moving in the right direction and being a part of this show where you see in like episode seven, this Romeo-Juliet kind of love story, and this very epic love story, between a black woman and a Korean-American male, I mean you wouldn’t of seen that five years ago.
The Knockturnal: Well, thank you so much for representing the Asian-American community.
The Knockturnal: So, I love both of your characters in season two. So great to be here with you guys. Your character disappeared in season one, and now he’s back for season two. Why do you think Poe kind of struggled to reboot as a character?
Chris Conner: The moment of reconception in this show right, the regeneration of Poe is he comes back but there’s something a little broken. So that was the best part about playing in season two, is having this obstacle and getting to play a character that is striving for something greater than himself, and in doing so, meeting a fellow partner-in-crime, and finding a new journey through it.
The Knockturnal: Well, I’m so glad he’s back for season two. I love Poe as a character. Dig is such a great addition to season two, how did it feel playing season two and being a part of it?
Dina Shihabi: The best, I get to play with this guy, I mean the most fun and I was honored because I’m such a huge fan of him, and while you were talking I was thinking about something which was your brokenness, I think oftentimes in stories or in life, we’re inspired by people that we think have it better than us or are put together and enlightened in some way, and I think it’s quite special that Dig is moved by and inspired by someone who’s broken, and that says a lot about her as a character, that there’s, you know what I mean?
Chris Conner: Yeah, there’s an intimacy there.
Dina Shihabi: There’s an intimacy there, she sees and I think often when I really, really been inspired by someone there is a brokenness to them, and I think that’s such a reflection of humanity. We are all broken in our own ways, and it’s through the cracks that we get to connect to each other, and I really think that’s a wonderful thing about their connection.
The Knockturnal: Well, you guys have such great chemistry on camera, I especially love Dig, when she’s doing all of the technology and everything with the screens, so I’m sure it was such a great experience.
Dina Shihabi: Screens were wild, I’ve never done anything like it before, and we basically just had to choreograph hand movements together and figure it out without any visuals and then they add the visuals after which is crazy, as an actor. Fun though.
The Knockturnal: Do you think we can expect a season three? Are you guys working on anything?
Chris Conner: Oh, I think we can definitely think that there’s a future but season two will stand alone on its own because of the amazing amount of work that’s gone into it, with the addition of Dina, and Anthony, and the new cast.
Dina Shihabi: They’re all so incredible.
Chris Conner: Yeah, season two is going to be a life unto itself, and if season three ever happened, it will be way down the road. So right now just the eight episodes of season two will be the rebirth of Altered Carbon.
The Knockturnal: Well I’ll definitely be on the lookout for it, and I love how you guys ended season two. I think that was the perfect ending.
The Knockturnal: You guys make such a dynamic pair. How does it feel to play a governor of an entire planet?
Lela Loren: It was awesome. I was like ‘Oh, I get to rule a planet.’ Yeah, really, really, fun.
The Knockturnal: You play such a powerful role, I absolutely love it. How was playing the colonel?
Torben Liebrecht: You know he’s still in charge of the protectorate’s interest in a way. That makes it so interesting because both of these parties are not really bound by a common set of values but just by trade in a way, so that lays out a beautiful dynamic throughout the whole season that it’s playing with. So it’s been really fun because Lela is a great actress and she came up with a couple of interesting challenges that always kept me awake and that was just great and I’m super grateful for that because I think it shows and it’s far away from being something that’s very obvious.
The Knockturnal: And speaking of challenges, can you talk a little bit about any challenges you guys faced filming this, season 2?
Lela Loren: No, it was a really great set and really great bunch of actors. I always feel like the challenge is being far away from home and in another country and sometimes feeling like you’re a little bit in space and in limbo and so I would find that part challenging but once you get on set it’s all play and that’s a blast. I didn’t really, I wasn’t…you had a lot of stunts. That must’ve been really challenging to learn.
Torben Liebrecht: Oh yeah, but it was great because it was learning and getting to pick the brain of some of the greatest stunt performers and coordinators in the industry was just mind-blowing. It’s incredible and it helped me learn so much and I do have a little bit of a martial arts background but you know getting to learn how you sell these things for the camera really is a completely different thing.
Lela Loren: Here’s a challenge, going to the bathroom in your costume. Some of those costumes you’re just like ‘How? I need attendance.’
The Knockturnal: The costumes were amazing.
Lela Loren: So worth it!
Torben Liebrecht: Some of the designers did an incredible job. I remember this is one of the funny anecdotes that I remember day one, I had this crazy armor plate here on the chest that had to, you know, had been molded for I think like 72 hours before it really dried out. So first thing when I had the costume on, I would take out the gun and try to see if I can move and do like that with the gun and I looked down and it cracked and that was day one for me and I was like that’s a funny start but they made it work, they fixed it. Nobody was angry with me.
Lela Loren: It worked out.