When Jakob Oftebro first appears on screen, the eyes have it. It proved true in the Oscar-nominated survivalist drama Kon-Tiki, when he fell for a werewolf in When Animals Dream, and when he ranked among one of the few highlights in this year’s Michael Fassbender-starring crime thriller The Snowman.
There’s more where they come from, but the Lilyhammer, The Bridge, Young & Promising, and Monster star’s striking gaze isn’t simply alluring window dressing. The eyes might be the window to the soul, as the old adage goes, but where Oftebro is concerned, they also provide a sparkling initial glimpse into one of Scandinavia’s rising talents.
Conquering screens big and small
In 2004, Oftebro made his debut on both the big and small screens — in the coming-of-age film Just Bea and in three episodes of Norwegian TV drama Skolen. It’s the start every actor dreams of, and it proved a sign of things to come. With 40 credits to his name in the 13 years since, he still splits his time between cinema and television, with both filled with highlights. Kon-Tiki helped increase Oftebro’s profile, while Heaven on Earth and Tom of Finland helped that momentum keep building. On TV, he swiftly started jumping from Norwegian drama Maria to Swedish-Danish thriller The Bridge, and then to a stint in Lilyhammer.
Range, range and more range
As Oftebro has continued to amass a sizeable resume, has also demonstrated his considerable talents as the type of actor who can fit into any situation. Where the film Victoria saw him caught in a tragic love affair, In Order of Disappearance had him flirting with comedy of the blackest, bleakest type, while Young & Promising steeps him in millennial malaise. Dubbed Norway’s answer to Girls or Fleabag, the amusing series casts Oftebro in a softer light than he’s often seen. When you’re playing one of the male supporting characters in a series about 20-something women searching for life’s answers — with ample laughs — that’s understandable.
A Scandi Noir mainstay
Of course, it’s darker material that Oftebro has become known for thanks to his fondness for Scandi Noir. After The Bridge immersed him in the genre during its second season, A Conspiracy of Faith continued the trend — in cinemas, as the third film adaptation of the acclaimed Department Q novels. Next came clicking-tock thriller Below the Surface, from the creators of The Killing and Borgen, with Monster the similarly moody and brooding next step. Here, Oftebro plays detective Joel Dreyer, who pairs up with police inspector Hedda Hersoug to solve a disappearance and murder in a small Norwegian town.
Bringing depth to true tales
In addition to his Scandi Noir highlights, Oftebro has made the past his playground via a growing contingent of historical efforts — Danish wars and its dark colonial past in particular. Where Gold Coast fictionalizes and dramatises a botanist’s voyage to West Africa, with Oftebro taking on the guise of real-life figure Wulff Joseph Wulff, 1864: Denmark’s War marches straight into combat, chronicling the nineteenth-century outbreak of hostilities between the country, Austria and Prussia. In showpiece parts with moving emotional arcs, he leads both with aplomb.
Yes, he has a brother
If his on-screen skills weren’t enough, Oftebro also has a younger brother, Jonas, who has followed his sibling into acting. Jonas’ credits to-date include TV series Erobreren and Neste Sommer, plus and box office-busting disaster film The Wave and its forthcoming sequel The Quake. And yes, that makes Jakob Norway’s answer to Chris Hemsworth.
Catch up with Oftebro’s work on SBS On Demand — and pencil Monster into your diary for January 11, 2018.