Harry Hole, Joe Nesbø, The Devil's Star

Who Will Be the Next Harry Hole? The 5 Best Norwegian Actors for the Role

The complex detective in Norwegian noir writer Jo Nesbø’s novels needs the perfect actor for the upcoming series. Who will be – who can be – the next Harry Hole?

The recent news about the upcoming Netflix adaptation of Jo Nesbø’s noir novel The Devil’s Star, the fifth installment in the renowned Harry Hole saga, stirred the stale waters of Nordic crime fiction television productions. What makes the case even more enticing is that the Norwegian superstar author will be the one to sign the show’s screenplay. Nesbø has learned a lot from the fiasco of Tomas Alfredson’s 2017 mystery The Snowman, a film panned by most critics and a letdown for Nesbø fans around the globe.

Initially, Michael Fassbender seemed like a solid choice for the role of Harry Hole (pronounced “HOO-leh” and of a different meaning in Norwegian than might be inferred in English), whose character would be realized on celluloid for the first time. However, in The Snowman, the American actor delivered one of the most underwhelming performances of his career, carrying himself around looking weary and entirely dispassionate about the project. Nesbø has stated that he hadn’t even watched the film and proclaimed that Alfredson’s rendition of the story bears no resemblance to the 2007 novel’s spirit.

Most likely, his disappointment with The Snowman made Nesbø’ realize that the only way to be sure about the quality of a Harry Hole onscreen adaptation is to be the sole screenwriter himself. And that’s what he did. The Devil’s Star has no set release date thus far, but it will probably be aired on Netflix sometime in 2026. Oystein Karlsen, a young filmmaker known for his involvement in productions that rocked the Norwegian audience, such as Dag (2010-15), Exit (2019-23), and Lilyhammer (2012-14), will direct the series, and his exceptional career so far heralds a show that is bound to become memorable. 

Harry Hole is as difficult a character as they come. Nesbø introduced him to the international crime fiction readership in the first book in the series, 1997’s The Bat. The first of Harry Holes’ adventures took place in Australia. That setting was not a random choice, as Nesbø penned the first draft while in Sydney, feeling exhausted and jetlagged in a stuffy hotel room with a tiny escritoire, nevertheless in a creative mood. Harry Hole is described as a rather solemn and brooding young detective with a flair for clearing up gridlocked investigations. He struggles with serious personal issues, the most prominent being his insatiable thirst for alcohol, more specifically, the flagship Jim Beam bourbon.

As the book series progresses, Harry Holes’ state of mind is critically affected by the human depravity he witnesses as a homicide detective, and the character’s arc evolves in tandem with the plot of each book. Harry has no real friends; he is a lone wolf by nature. The exception is his paramour, Rakel, a single mother with a kid, Oleg. For a long time in the Harry Hole universe, Rakel and Oleg remain the best thing in the Norwegian sleuth’s life, but as years pass, his relationship with them suffers many injuries, and the majority of them are caused by Harry’s obsession to catch the killer. Harry is the definition of the driven investigator, and the tension by which he works each case puts his loved ones in grave danger. 

Harry Holes’ meta-narrative spans the diverse ensemble of the 13 novels, and his character develops naturally in time, growing older as it becomes evident in the most recent installments, 2019’s Knife (#12) and 2022’s Killing Moon (#13). While Nesbø provides an elementary physical description of his character, tall and blonde-haired, etc., he leaves a great deal to the reader’s imagination. One of the main reasons why the Norwegian author refrained from giving the green light to prospective onscreen adaptations in the past was that he didn’t want the audience to associate Harry’s image with that of an actor.

The consensual condemnation of Harry’s first silver screen appearance in The Snowman amplified the yearning for a proper adaptation, regardless of whether it will be on cinema or television. Since both the creators, Nesbø and Karlsen, are compatriots, it is reasonable to think that a Norwegian actor will play the role of Harry Hole in the screen adaptation of The Devil’s Star. There is no lack of talent among the country’s male performers, and there are several who would set a solid candidacy for the role of Harry. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Trond Espen Seim

Trond Espen Seim in Varg Veum (2007-12)

Trond Espen Seim, whom Norwegians loved as Varg Veum in the namesake television show based on Gunnar Staalesen’s novels, has also been involved in worthwhile productions such as Acquitted (2015-16), Mammon (2016 episode), and Hawaii, Oslo (2004). His physique bears an uncanny resemblance to Nesbø’s descriptions of Harry Hole, and his career irrefutably proves that he is a flexible actor whose transformative skills leave a lasting impression. Trond Espen Seim would be one of my first choices to take the lead in the upcoming Netflix show.

Anders Danielsen Lie

Anders Danielsen Lie in Reprise (2006)

Anders Danielsen Lie is one of the hottest names in contemporary Norwegian cinema. Despite his young age, he has starred in an expansive field of diverse films and television series, taking up tough roles of characters struggling with inner and exterior demons, often wallowing in loneliness and self-pity. His experience deems him a prime candidate for the role of Harry Hole, who is torn from within and fighting an uneven and seemingly futile battle with himself. Anders Danielsen Lie’s facial characteristics do not match Nesbø’s description of Harry Holes. However, as all cinema enthusiasts have long grasped, acting talent can redeem such discrepancies. 

Aksel Hennie

Aksel Hennie in Mad Manus: Man of War (2008)

Another bright example of Norwegian acting talent is Aksel Hennie, who has already played the protagonist in the film adaptation of Nesbø’s standalone novel Headhunters (2011), directed by Morten Tyldum. Hennie is as prolific as Danielsen Lie and has given several memorable performances in demanding roles. Who can forget his shattering portrayal of Trond in Eva Sørhaug’s 2012 drama, 90 Minutes? As Trond, his role was a profound exploration of the dark side within humans. He gave a nuanced portrait of the Norwegian national hero Max Manus in Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg’s Max Manus: Man of War (2008). Hennie has also been cast in action roles that require agility and elasticity, which could be useful in his portrayal of Jo Nesbø’s Harry Hole. 

Mads Ousdal

Mads Ousdal in Witch Hunt (2020)

Mads Ousdal’s filmography indicates that portraying men of authority is one of his strongest suits. Ousdal gave his most outstanding performance as Peer Engen in the 2020 Norwegian financial thriller series Witch Hunt. Engen was a truly loathsome villain, filthy rich and entirely corrupt, a lively character that made the story move forward and fully engaged the audience. Ousdal could best ascribe that unique trait to Harry Hole, who renders him the leader and the man who is always summoned to make the toughest calls when needed.   

Kristover Hivju

Kristofer Hivju in Beck, Series 5 (2016)

The last of the selected few Norweigen actors capable of portraying Nesbø’s Harry Hole is Kristofer Hivju. His name became known outside Norway from his involvement in the emblematic crime series Beck (1997-2021). Hivju played Steinar Hovland, Martin Beck’s sidekick and the successor of the deceased Gunvald Larsson (Mikael Persbrandt), a brilliant though idiosyncratic investigator who always nails the bad guy in the end. Those familiar with Beck should be able to imagine Hivju as Harry Hole, as Steinar closely resembles Joe Nesbø’s most revered fictional creation. 

 These actors may be a small sample of the Norwegian pool of actors who could potentially incarnate the legendary detective Harry Hole, but they are the best choice for the role. Jo Nesbø’s entanglement with the production rules out the possibility that The Devil’s Star will share the same fate as The Snowman. The upcoming show is bound to attract a lot of attention on an international scale and become one of the hottest Netflix releases of Nordic crime shows.


Jo Nesbo at Onassis Stegi“. Onassis Foundation. YouTube. 17 October 2017.