How Andreas Lykke Jørgensen swapped gardening in Aarhus for a Nicolas Winding Refn show

By Allyson Shiffman

Photo: Magnus Jønck

The breakout star of new series Copenhagen Cowboy talks how he landed his plum first roll, playing the bad boy and what it's like to film a fight scene in a hall full of squealing pigs

Andreas Lykke Jørgensen has a face that looks like a painting. The sort of face that makes you go “who is that”? That’s surely the common question for those bingeing Copenhagen Cowboy, director Nicolas Winding Refn’s neon-drenched Netflix series in which the 25-year-old Dane makes his onscreen debut. Lykke plays Niklas, a brooding enigma who lives in a sprawling manor with his creepy parents and undead sister. It’s a violent, unsettling and wildly compelling performance, only made more impressive when you consider that Lykke has never actually acted before.

Lykke stumbled upon his budding new career quite by accident. One of his sister’s friends, whom he met on a whim a couple months earlier while hanging out in Nørrebro, happened to be working in the Copenhagen Cowboy casting department and thought Lykke might be perfect to play Niklas. At the time, Lykke was living in Aarhus studying greenhouse gardening following a several year stint working on boats. He had never even considered acting. “He asked me if I wanted to try it out and I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t have the money to go to Copenhagen – the train and the trip and all that’. And he was like ‘Oh, no no no, they’ll pay for it’,” Lykke says. “It just ended up working 100 per cent perfectly.” I note that it isn’t necessarily a compliment to be told you’re “perfect” to play Niklas – a character whose primary trait is creepiness. He laughs and says, “I don’t think I seem creepy.”

Photo: Nikolaj Thaning Rentzmann

Photo: Nikolaj Thaning Rentzmann

The process began with a self tape, one that consisted of Lykke “making myself ready for a party”. “I just strapped my phone up to the wall with some tape and I would just stand there half naked,” he says. “I put on some hardcore techno in the background in my little speaker and I had this little window where I could put my head out and imagine I was doing a line. I was just standing there, looking at myself and talking like a madman. Like the person you really, really hate at the bar.” It landed; a couple days later Lykke was in Copenhagen, auditioning in person, but he already had a hunch he was going to get it. “I was just the character [Nicolas] needed for his painting,” he says.

Working with Winding Refn is a singular experience, one that entails shooting chronologically, oft with many takes for a single scene. “He’s a perfectionist at heart, and so am I,” Lykke says. “I don’t mind redoing everything until it’s perfect.” Still, there was one scene he was quite eager to move on from. It takes place about midway through the series, in a large warehouse full of very vocal pigs. Lykke’s Niklas is facing off against his nemesis, the unusually strong and not-so-chatty protagonist Miu (Angela Bundalovic).

Lykke got his first taste of shooting in the pen on his very first day on set. “It was midsummer, it was hot as f*** and we turned off the ventilation inside to not mess up the sound and it was just so extremely hot and disgusting. It smells so unbearably bad,” he says. “So from the very first day, we’re getting the feeling that this place is not nice to be in.” When he returned to film the fight scene, somehow everything had gotten “kind of worse” – the smell, the sound, the heat. “We’re in this area where the pigs are shitting – this is not the area where everything was nice and clean. The floor was covered in shit,” he says. “I have these glossy boots on so I’m sliding everywhere.”

Some friendlier pigs . Photo: Magnus Jønck

Miu preparing to fight in the pig hall . Photo: Magnus Jønck

In the scene, he’s supposed to be getting beaten up by a person roughly half of his size (“I was so afraid of hurting [Angela],” he says), which meant Lykke had to throw himself around quite a bit. He wore pads for some protection, but that only made the situation sweatier. “I would just slip and fall,” he says. “I had shit in my hair, shit in my mouth. Just covered in shit.”

Aside from a passing familiarity with the Pusher trilogy (“If you grew up in Denmark and you haven’t watched the Pusher films, it’s kind of weird”), Lykke didn’t come into the project with much knowledge of Winding Refn’s catalogue of work. In fact, he isn’t a big movie or TV guy at all. “I only really knew about Tarantino,” he says, summing up his past film knowledge. “I feel like I still don’t understand the gravity of how big this is.”

Starring in a Netflix series helmed by a beloved director is, I assure him, a big deal. Whatever that means, he’s up for it. “I think it’s going to be a trip,” he says. “I think it’s going to be f***ing dope, honestly.” Lykke, who says he’s really going to give this acting thing a shot, isn’t the type to sit at home and do nothing. He likes going to techno clubs, socialising, skateboarding with his pals. He’s recently gotten into kendama, a Japanese toy consisting of a wooden stick with two cups attached to a ball on a string. He’s been (unsurprisingly) dabbling in modelling. “I love people – I love meeting people,” he says. “And I feel like this is going to give me the greatest opportunity to go up to any table and be like, ‘Hi’.”

Photo: Magnus Jønck

Photo: Magnus Jønck