A record one fifth of Norway’s population (50% of their television viewing audience) watched the premier of Liliyhammer on 25 January 2012. Although it had already aired in Norway, Netflix promoted it a month later as exclusive content (the first time this was done) creating a brand new era of television.
Lead actor Steven Van Zandt is a singer, songwriter, musician, producer and activist. He is a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, having been friends with Springsteen since the early 70s. His first ever acting role was starring in The Sopranos as Silvio Dante, Tony Soprano’s second-in-command.
Husband-and-wife writing team Anne Bjørnstad and Eilif Skodvin created the idea of Lilyhammer with Van Zandt in mind. They approached him whilst he was in Norway producing the Oslo based, all-girl rockband Cocktail Slippers. To begin with Van Zandt was unsure about being typecast as a member of a mob, but he had so much faith in the idea he became an executive producer, co-writer and composer on the show.
Production of the second season was delayed due to Van Zandt’s schedule performing with Bruce Springsteen in the Wrecking Ball Tour. Van Zandt was replaced on the Australian leg of the tour by guitarist Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine) so that filming for Lilyhammer could proceed.
In season 3 Van Zandt makes his directorial debut. The episode sees Bruce Springsteen playing Frank’s brother Giuseppe Tagliano. Van Zandt said it was an honour that Springsteen agreed to appear in the episode.
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Angelina ‘The Ex’ Tagliano is portrayed by Steven Van Zandt’s real life wife Maureen Van Zandt. Maureen also played Steven’s on screen wife in The Sopranos.
Lilyhammer was cancelled after 3 seasons as according to Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, it had “become a very economically challenged deal”. There were reports of conflict between “NRK” (the Norwegian broadcaster) and Netflix, due to NRK publishing the third season on its website earlier than Netflix.
Teh show begins after Frank ‘The Fixer’ Tagliano (Steven Van Zandt) testifies against his Mafia boss in New York, he enters the Witness Protection Programme and makes an unusual demand: he wants to set up with a new life in the Norwegian town of Lillehammer after falling in love with the place while watching the ‘94 Winter Olympic Games. Frank knows he is a marked man and figures nobody will ever look for him there. However, vengeful gangsters are only a part of his problems and adjusting to the Scandinavian way of life is driving him crazy! Thrust into a brand new world, it is not long before Frank is back to his old ruthless ways and involved in shady dealings with the locals. Confronted with a colourful cast of characters totally unlike the New York variety, he soon finds out, the past always has a way of catching up with you…