Steven Van Zandt, best known as Silvio Dante in The Sopranos and as the guitarist in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, has a new role in Lilyhammer, RadioTimes reports. Van Zandt plays Frank Tagliano — aka Giovanni Henriksen or “Johnny” — a New York gangster who moves to Norway after testifying against a mobster. The town, Lillehammer, hosted the 1994 Winter Olympics, and Tagliano fell in love with it.
Van Zandt is not only an actor on the show, but a producer and writer as well. He told the producers he wanted to “make thing as Norwegian as possible,” and then focus on his character struggling to fit into the culture. As such, the show explores the differences between American and Norwegian cultures, as well as the differences between Muslims, Europeans and Americans.
Lilyhammer is a departure from the darker tone of The Sopranos, but it does include some allusions to the hit show. Van Zandt had to work around his commitments to the E Street Band and his radio station, the Underground Garage. He said:
“I told the directors that I couldn’t come for four or five months in a row, but I could come every other week from January to June. And that was a wonderful way to work because every time I got back on set, I was refreshed and ready to work.”
The show has been wildly popular in Norway, and has been available in the US through Netflix. Unlike The Killing, another Scandinavian series, Lilyhammer has not been remade for American audiences. It is broadcast in its original format with subtitles. And even though he’s used to playing a sidekick, Steven Van Zandy had no problem adjusting to his new role as a leading man.
“The best thing is that everyone bases their schedule around you. So when you are the star you wait around a whole lot less, and it turns out it’s fun to be the boss,” he said.
Lilyhammer airs tonight on BBC4 at 10:00 pm.