×

‘Echo 3’ Star Michiel Huisman on Playing a ‘Control Freak’ Soldier, Working With Mark Boal — and What People Recognize Him From

"Echo 3," Michiel Huisman, Apple TV+
Courtesy of Apple TV+

In Apple TV+’s “Echo 3,” created by Oscar-winner Mark Boal, Michiel Huisman — of “The Flight Attendant,” “The Haunting of Hill House,” “Game of Thrones” and much more — plays Prince, an elite soldier whose wife, Amber (Jessica Ann Collins), has been kidnapped in Colombia. With her brother, Bambi (Luke Evans), a fellow Special Forces member and Prince’s estranged best friend, he goes on a mission to free her without, he hopes, causing an international incident.

How did the role of Prince come to you?

For a while after “The Flight Attendant,” we were looking for a project that would feel like another step up. This character is very different from anything I’d ever played before. And it would really allow me to flex my acting muscles, so to speak. So I had to fight a bit to land the role.

Why did you have to fight?

Oh my God! What I mean was I had to show that I could do it. It was not just given to me on a silver platter. I showed them.

Michiel Huisman, left, with Luke Evans in “Echo 3.” Courtesy of Pablo Arellano Spataro/Apple TV+

The series just drops you into the story. What did you know about Prince when you took the role?

Prince is a man who grew up pretty privileged. He has, and comes from, money. He decides to join the military, and eventually makes it all the way up to the Special Forces. I’ve been studying a lot about these elite soldiers, and it is not very common — but it happens — that highly educated people like Prince decide to join the Special Forces. But for me, I had to understand why this man has such a desire to prove himself, and to measure himself amongst the bravest of bravest men.

Mark and I talked a lot about the way Prince behaves, holds himself — he exudes a certain confidence, maybe a certain arrogance. And he’s a man that is just used to getting his way. And that is a nice way of saying he’s a bit of a control freak.

What was it like working with Mark Boal? Had you been a big “Hurt Locker,” “Zero Dark Thirty” person?

I was, yes. Mark being the showrunner of this project was a huge draw for me because of those films. He really knows this military world, as well as the geopolitical part of it. That, especially in the latter part of the season, becomes a more prominent part of the storytelling.

At the end of the fourth episode, Prince — almost reluctantly! — had sex with a woman who is not his kidnapped wife, Amber. What’s going on with Prince in that episode?

Well, I think that the characters in our show are complex human beings with many flaws. I get to play a character who is a decorated war hero. And then he gets so low — he’s so hurt, he’s disappointed — that he cheats on his wife. While she’s being kidnapped! So let’s just say that, maybe the low of doing that gives at least an opportunity to rise up again.

“Echo 3” was mostly shot in Colombia. What was that like?

All in all, with a couple of small breaks, the total shoot almost took us 10 months. It was a big part of my life. We started in Atlanta, but I would say 80% of the show shot in Colombia. You get to know the country and its people a little bit better. Some of the locations that we worked from were very challenging. There were many moments where I was getting slightly confused as to whether I was running through our extras, which we had — or locals, which there were many of. Mark’s like, “You wanted real? This is real. Let’s go!”

CAITLIN CRONENBERG

Let’s have some fun. I want to read you something from your Wikipedia page, which is always dicey. “Huisman began his acting career with a supporting role on” — I’m not going to try to pronounce this Dutch soap opera — “the longest running soap opera on Dutch television where he played Rover, a 14-year-old model who accuses his employees of engaging in child pornography.” What in the world …?

When you’re reading that, I’m like, “Really? That was what it was about?” It’s not accurate!

And it’s not my first job. My first job was when I was 10 years old, and it was a film for the Dutch Film Academy. So it is true that I started at a very young age. After that, I started hosting a kids show for a couple of years. Throughout my teens, I was doing all kinds of stuff. And it wasn’t until probably my late teens, early 20s, as I was thinking about what I wanted to do with my life, or what I wanted to be, I thought maybe I’m already doing that.

When you’re gathering steam as an actor in the Netherlands and in Europe, how do you decide, “And now I want to try to do projects that are in English in the U.S.?” How does that work?

That’s a big step. I came to a point where I really wasn’t enjoying the work as much anymore. Because I felt by the time I was in my mid-20s that I’d done everything twice that there was to do back in Holland. I remember talking about this with my wife — of course we had been dreaming, daydreaming, about starting a career abroad. So we decided to not just dip our toes, but really go for it.

And of course, it’s not, like, overnight. But we really made a plan — sold our apartment in Amsterdam so that we had time to get our feet on the ground in the U.S. I was just very fortunate to land a great role within no time of being here — that first role was “Tremé” on HBO. It gave me the gift of New Orleans — I really fell in love with that city. But also, it lasted for a couple of seasons. So I literally had a bit of time to settle in and build and work on my dialects. Those first years, I was not nearly as comfortable in English as I am now. Acting in a language that’s not yours, or that you’re not completely comfortable with yet, is the hardest thing in the world.

I mean, I can’t even imagine acting in English. What was it like when you took over the role of Daario on “Game of Thrones”? Did that feel huge?

I felt like it was gonna be a great opportunity, but I wasn’t really aware of how big that show already was. That was a little bit of a surprise to me. Because I wasn’t watching it before I joined it.

What do people recognize you from the most?

I mean, it’s always something else. I was at a party not so long ago, and met somebody, I had a nice conversation with the person. At some point, he asked me, “So what do I know you from?” I think every actor hates that question. Because then you start going down your list and your resume.

“No, not that. And not that —”

Exactly!  So I usually try and avoid it, and not answer. This time, I thought, “Nice guy — we’re having a nice conversation, let’s do it.” He told me that he likes scary stuff, so I said “The Haunting of Hill House.” And he had seen that, and but hadn’t recognized me. Then I went the completely opposite route: “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society,” and he had seen that, but he didn’t know that I was the same guy in those two. I mentioned a third, and he couldn’t believe that I was the same guy. And that just made my day!

I thought, this is amazing. This is a great place to be in. I’m enjoying the work I get to do, and I still have a lot of privacy. Good.

Things you didn’t know about Michiel Huisman

Age: 41

Hometown: Amstelveen, Netherlands

Lover of dragons: He hadn’t watched “Game of Thrones” before joining the show in Season 4 as Daario Naharis, Daenerys’ boyfriend: “I wasn’t really aware of how big that show already was.”

What’s next: After “Echo 3,” he went straight into “Rebel Moon,” Zack Snyder’s massive upcoming space movie for Netflix. “That was about seven months for me — amazing experience.”

A version of this interview originally appeared in Variety‘s print magazine as a Facetime in the Dec. 7 issue. It has been edited and condensed.