Netflix, the popular streaming platform, has come a long way since its inception in 1997 as a DVD-by-mail rental service.
In 2013, the company made a bold move by releasing its very first original series, Lilyhammed, which marked the beginning of a new era for the entertainment industry.
The show was a critical and commercial success, receiving numerous awards and nominations, and it paved the way for many more original series to come.
In this article, we will take a closer look at Lilyhammer, its impact on Netflix and the entertainment industry, and how it paved the way for the streaming giant’s continued success.
What is the first Netflix original?
Lilyhammer is a Norwegian-American television series that premiered in 2012.
It is a unique combination of crime drama, dark comedy, and fish-out-of-water story that follows the life of a former New York City mobster, Frank Tagliano Steven Van Zandt, who enters the witness protection program and relocates to Lillehammer, Norway.
The series begins with Frank Tagliano, also known as The Fixer, testifying against his former boss in court.
Fearing for his life, he chooses to enter the witness protection program and requests to be relocated to Lillehammer, a small town in Norway that he had seen during the 1994 Winter Olympics.
Upon arriving in Lillehammer, Frank takes on a new identity, Giovanni Henriksen, and tries to start a new life in a new country.
However, he quickly discovers that adjusting to his new environment is not as easy as he thought it would be.
He faces cultural differences, language barriers, and a lack of familiarity with the local customs and traditions.
Despite these challenges, Frank quickly finds himself drawn into the town’s criminal underworld, which is dominated by a biker gang called the Ducati’s and a nightclub owner named Jan Johansen alias Fridtjov Såheim.
Frank soon becomes involved in various criminal activities, using his connections from his former life to help him establish himself in the criminal world of Lillehammer.
As the series progresses, Frank becomes more and more intertwined with the town’s criminal elements, while also trying to maintain his cover and stay one step ahead of the authorities.
He is aided in his endeavors by a local police officer named Geir Tvedt, who is initially suspicious of Frank but eventually becomes his ally.
Throughout the series, Frank’s interactions with the local residents of Lillehammer provide some of the show’s comedic moments, as he struggles to adapt to the Norwegian way of life.
His relationship with his neighbor, the free-spirited teacher Sigrid Haugli, is a recurring theme, as Frank tries to balance his criminal activities with his desire for a more normal life.
The series is notable for its picturesque settings and cinematography, showcasing the stunning landscapes and architecture of Lillehammer and the surrounding area.
The show’s soundtrack, which features a mix of classic rock and Norwegian pop music, is also a highlight.
1. Steven Van Zandt – Frank Tagliano / Giovanni “Johnny” Henriksen
Steven Van Zandt is an American musician, songwriter, record producer, and actor.
He is best known as a guitarist and backing vocalist in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.
Van Zandt has also been involved in music production and has produced albums for various artists.
As an actor, Van Zandt is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Silvio Dante in the hit television series, The Sopranos.
He appeared in all six seasons of the show, which aired from 1999 to 2007.
In addition to his work on The Sopranos, Van Zandt has appeared in several other television shows and films, including Lillyhammer, The Deuce, and The Irishman.
Van Zandt has also been involved in activism, particularly in support of workers’ rights and against apartheid in South Africa.
He was a founding member of Artists United Against Apartheid and played a leading role in the recording of the anti-apartheid song Sun City.
Van Zandt has continued to use his platform to support social justice causes throughout his career.
2. Trond Fausa Aurvåg – Torgeir Lien
Trond Fausa Aurvåg is a Norwegian actor known for his work in both Norwegian and international films and television series.
He was born on October 2, 1972, in Trondheim, Norway.
Aurvåg started his acting career in the late 1990s, primarily in Norwegian theater productions. He made his feature film debut in the 2000 Norwegian film Junk Mail.
He has since appeared in several Norwegian films, including Kitchen Stories (2003), The Bothersome Man (2006), and King Curling (2011).
Aurvåg has also acted in a number of international productions. He appeared in the 2008 British film Mamma Mia! and in the 2011 American film The Thing.
He has also had roles in the TV series Lilyhammer (2012-2014) and Norsemen (2016-2020), both of which are Netflix original productions.
Aurvåg’s acting has been praised for its naturalism and ability to convey a range of emotions, from comedy to drama.
He has won several awards for his work, including a Best Actor award at the 2006 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival for his performance in The Bothersome Man.
3. Steinar Sagen – Rooar Lien
Steinar Sagen is a Norwegian actor, comedian, and writer who has gained recognition for his work in the entertainment industry.
He was born on December 12, 1975, in Bergen, Norway.
Sagen first rose to prominence as a writer and performer on the Norwegian television show Nytt på nytt, which is a satirical news program.
He has since appeared in several other popular TV shows and movies in Norway, including Lilyhammer, Neste Sommer, and Solsidan.
In addition to his work as an actor, Sagen is also known for his stand-up comedy performances.
He has toured extensively throughout Norway and has released several comedy albums.
Sagen is known for his dry humor, wit, and ability to deliver deadpan jokes.
He is also known for his talent as a voice actor and has lent his voice to several animated films and TV shows in Norway.
4. Marian Saastad Ottesen – Sigrid Haugli
Marian Saastad Ottesen is a Norwegian actor who was born on November 24, 1976.
She is best known for her work in Norwegian television and film, as well as her performances on stage.
Ottesen began her career in the late 1990s, appearing in several Norwegian television shows and films.
She gained wider recognition for her role as Unn in the critically acclaimed Norwegian film Elling (2001), which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
In the years that followed, Ottesen continued to work in Norwegian film and television, earning praise for her performances in projects such as Hawaii, Oslo (2004) and Max Manus: Man of War (2008).
She has also appeared in several international productions, including the British TV series The Inspector Lynley Mysteries (2005) and the American film The Spiral (2012).
Aside from her work in film and television, Ottesen has also acted on stage, including performances at the Norwegian National Theatre in Oslo.
In addition, she has worked as a voice actor, lending her voice to Norwegian versions of animated films such as The Incredibles (2004) and Monsters, Inc. (2001).
5. Fridtjov Såheim – Julius Backe
Fridtjov Såheim is a Norwegian actor born on October 22, 1966, in Bryne, Norway.
He is best known for his work on stage and screen in Norway.
Såheim began his acting career in the early 1990s, and his first major role was in the Norwegian TV series Offshore in 1996.
Since then, he has appeared in numerous TV series, films, and stage productions in Norway.
Some of his notable works include the TV series Dag, Lilyhammer, and Beforeigners, as well as the films The Last King and Kon-Tiki.
He has also worked extensively in theater and has won several awards for his stage performances.
In addition to his acting career, Såheim is also a playwright and has written several plays that have been produced in Norway.
He is considered one of Norway’s most accomplished actors and is highly regarded for his versatility and range as a performer.
6. Anne Krigsvoll – Laila Hovland
Anne Krigsvoll is a Norwegian actress. She was born on March 8, 1952, in Oslo, Norway. Krigsvoll has a long and distinguished career in Norwegian theater, film, and television.
She has performed on stage at a number of theaters in Norway, including the National Theatre, Oslo Nye Teater, and Trøndelag Teater.
Her performances in theater have earned her numerous awards and accolades throughout her career.
Krigsvoll has also appeared in several Norwegian films and television series. Some of her notable film credits include Elling (2001), Kitchen Stories (2003), and The King’s Choice (2016).
She has also appeared in popular television series such as Lilyhammer and Occupied.
In addition to her acting work, Krigsvoll has also been involved in Norwegian cultural organizations, and has served as the leader of the Norwegian Actors’ Equity Association.
- Robert Skjærstad as Roy “Fingern” Aass
- Nils Jørgen Kaalstad as Dag Solstad
- Mikael Aksnes-Pehrson as Jonas Haugli
- Kyrre Hellum as Geir “Elvis” Tvedt
- Finn Schau as Arve Østli
- Anne Marie Ottersen as Birgitte Henriksen
- Sven Nordin as Julius Endresen
- Pål Espen Kilstad as Trond “Teo” Tessem
Note: Some actors and characters may have appeared in only a few episodes or in different seasons.
1. Rotten Tomatoes
Rotten Tomatoes, Lilyhammer has an approval rating of 78%, with an average rating of 6.99/10, based on 32 reviews.
The critical consensus states, “Lilyhammer may not be the most inventive crime series, but its fish-out-of-water premise and quirky characters are entertaining enough.”
On IMDb, the show has a rating of 8.0/10 based on 28,000+ user reviews, indicating generally positive reception from viewers.
On Metacritic, Lilyhammer has a score of 68/100 based on 14 reviews, indicating “generally favorable reviews.”