Pop-Culturalist Chats with Noel Johansen
Noel Johansen is one actor to keep your eye on. This summer, he’ll star in the highly anticipated ABC thriller, Somewhere Between. He shines in one of his most challenging and rewarding roles to date. Pop-Culturalist was lucky enough to chat with him ahead of tonight’s premiere.
P-C: Tell us about Somewhere Between and your character in the series.
Noel: Somewhere Between is a thriller with a lot of family drama. It’s full of twists and turns. It has a bit of violence and nail-biting moments, but it also has a lot of deep emotional family issues and challenges. In terms of my character, Danny, he is mentally challenged. He feels a huge responsibility in terms of his family, but loves them deeply, especially his daughter and mother; secondarily, his brother. My character’s Lesch syndrome affects what I do, how I deal with traumatic circumstances, how I respond to things, and the choices I make. It’s very heartfelt for me.
The syndrome has a lot of variation. The version that we chose has an immense emotional vulnerability. It’s incredibly exhilarating to play.
P-C: What was the audition process like?
Noel: It was extremely challenging! I’ve never played a character like this. I was skeptical, initially, seeing the description of the character. After I read the sides, something started coming alive in me and the audition process was exciting because I’ve never really had a character that gripped me like this. This character inhabited me quite quickly in an unexpected way. When I read the sides and I started feeling who he was, it kind of possessed me in a way because of his vulnerability. I went to the audition, and I did the initial read for casting. I did it a couple of ways. They brought me back and that was exciting because I got to explore different versions of what the Lesch syndrome could look like. It’s funny because I can normally come in and out of character quite easily as an actor. Danny took control of me as soon as I walked on-set and stayed until I left.
P-C: Would you say that was probably one of the biggest challenges bringing his character to life?
Noe: Yes, absolutely. Danny kind of ruled my world. He needed a lot of space because he was vulnerable. Because he is mentally challenged, he is more vulnerable socially and, as a result, that made me more vulnerable socially on-set. It wasn’t so easy for me, but I had an incredible experience. People took care of me as a result–not of me, Noel the actor, but more just of the process, which was really great.
P-C: The series is based off a Korean television drama. Were you familiar with that prior to the audition?
Noel: Yeah! I would say to some degree it’s similar, but I think it’s more of an inspiration to be honest. Obviously, the Korean version has a lot of its own cultural context and, in some ways, it portrays drama, which is really apparent–I watched one of the episodes. It’s quite culturally specific.
P-C: Do you remember when you learned that Somewhere Between had been picked up as a straight-to-series order by ABC, or did you know that going into filming?
Noel: I did know that going into filming. I didn’t know that going into the audition. I didn’t know what the extent would be and that was revealed to me. I guess they kept pretty hushed-up throughout that process, and then they let everybody know what was going on. When I got the role, I knew that I’d be in at least seven or eight episodes.
P-C: What was it like filming a limited series as opposed to other projects you’ve done?
Noel: There’s an uncertainty when you do pilots regarding what will happen with your character. When you work on a limited series, you’re able to flush out your character. I knew going in I could create a story that’s larger than an episode. It creates a lot of possibilities.
P-C: Do you have a favorite on-or off-set moment?
Noel: I do! One of my favorite on-set moments was a scene I was filming with Nico, my brother, and I guess I didn’t know which way the cameras were facing (we’re obviously taking lots of angles), and I realized that we’ve been on my coverage for about an hour and a half. Then we switched to his coverage, and he was exactly the same actor and as present for me as I was for my coverage and that doesn’t always happen. It’s just that it was so amazing to have somebody be as present and so involved with me for my coverage as it is for theirs. It lifted me, and I just felt so grateful for that because TV land is tough.
P-C: How did you and Devon (who plays Nico) build your brotherly bond?
Noel: Right from the read through, we chatted. After the read through, we got together on-set on the first day, and we really bonded as people. We talked about our past and talked about acting and what it meant to us. Devon is really such a committed actor and wanted to make sure that every moment of the story was organic between us and that our brotherly relationship had depth and history. There’s a lot of subtle ways brothers would interact when they see each other and how they care for one another. So, when it got time to film big emotional scenes, we were really very much connected, and he was very complementary to my work as I was to his. It’s nice to know you’re respected and your work is appreciated by who you’re working with. Especially for me, hearing that from Devon was really a big gift; I, of course, reciprocated that and believed the same thing. There was a lot of trust and mutual understanding, and this is important. When there were scenes of quite high drama where we got physical, there was absolutely no issue in my mind about where we could go and how we could play out. We had incredible trust between each other. Between actors, there’s a lot of caution and it affects the scene and it affects the reality of the story.
P-C: If you had to pick one thing that you’re most excited for fans to see, what would it be?
Noel: I’m really excited for fans to see a story that you expect to go one way and then completely flips and to make assumptions about who’s the hero and who’s not and who you think is good and who you think is bad.