Meet the conductor behind TNT's action-packed new thriller 'Snowpiercer'
Actor Iddo Goldberg opens up about getting the role of his dreams, despite bombing his audition.
Picture this: The world has frozen over. Whatever is left of the human race now lives on a fast-moving train whose tracks span the globe. Like the movie "Speed" with a bus that can never slow down, this train has to be in constant, perpetual motion in order to provide the energy to warm the people inside. This is the premise of the new TNT dramatic action series "Snowpiercer."
At the helm of this gigantic train is an enigmatic engineer named Bennett, played by Israeli actor Iddo Goldberg. He's the brains behind the operation, dubbed the Great Ark Train. Watch him on screen and – in scene after scene – he's cool, calm and collected. What you won't see is what happened on a take that was left on the cutting room floor. "I'm supposed to be in control of a train that is just bashing through ice and snow, and sometimes it just gets the better of you," he told From The Grapevine when we reached him by phone. "I had a moment when I just couldn't stop laughing. It was just so embarrassing. I just got the giggles."
The laughter was merely release of nerves and energy for the 44-year-old Goldberg, who is known for his dramatic roles. Fans may recognize him from the popular British import "Peaky Blinders" on Netflix, NBC's monster-themed "Salem," or the World War II epic "The Zookeeper's Wife." And in his new role in "Snowpiercer," he doesn't disappoint.
The show features actors with long resumes: Alumni from "The Walking Dead," "Breaking Bad," "The Good Place," "A Beautiful Mind" and "Hamilton" on Broadway just to name a few. The TV series is based on the 2013 movie of the same name, which was directed by South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho. He was behind last year's "Parasite" which swept the Academy Awards. "I think what's great about the TV show is that we kind of hop from character to character and so you get to meet everyone really quickly. And then you're invested in all of these stories right away," Goldberg said.
The show premieres May 17 on TNT. The network has already ordered a second season, which they were nearly finished filming in Vancouver when the coronavirus pandemic struck.
Inspired by a childhood of dreaming
Goldberg grew up in Haifa, one of four children in a household he described as "full of love." His dad was an architect and his mom was a medical secretary. "It was a pretty good childhood," he said of his Israeli upbringing. He always looked up to his grandmother, who passed away in 2010 at the age of 99. "My maternal grandma was a huge influence in my life. She was just an incredible woman. She was born in 1911 in eastern Poland. She went from selling dried salted fish from inside of a barrel to using an iPhone."
As a teenager, he admits, he was not the best student. "I was such a dreamer. I had my head in the clouds," he revealed. "I didn't really do well at school. I think my mind was just all over the place. Definitely kind of like an ADD situation. Until this day, I need to read while I'm walking, because I find it very hard to concentrate on just one thing. So I am usually walking around the block here when I need to read something like a Hollywood script."
He began taking acting classes and got bit parts here and there. He eventually moved to London where he had a starring role on "Secret Diaries of a Call Girl," a British interpretation of "Sex and the City." It's where he met his wife, actress Ashley Madekwe, who was also on the show. They have since moved to California where both of their careers have taken off.
Iddo Goldberg (left) and fellow actor Ashley Madekwe (right) have been married since 2012. (Photo: Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock)
But that success didn't make auditioning for "Snowpiercer" any easier. "I wanted very much to be a part of it," he said. "I did my audition a couple of times and I knew it wasn't good enough." He told the casting director that he needed to leave, and that's exactly what he did. "I was sucking so bad," he said with a laugh. He got a call a week later asking if he wanted to try again. "I did and it went much better. It was really exciting."
Asked where he sees himself in five years, he's quick with a reply. "I'll be honest with you: I would love to be making my own little films." He's also pursuing his love of photography and is working on a series of images where he snaps pictures of complete strangers on Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles. "I'm never really happy watching myself on TV. It's really difficult. I think a lot of actors deal with that."
Like his role in "Snowpiercer," he prefers working behind the scenes. "These people are all dealing with severe loss and anxiety and worry – and it's all under a layer of just straight-up survival," he says of the characters on the show. "And so that's who Bennett is. He sometimes jumps on the controls, sometimes he fixes stuff. He is essentially a toolbox for the train."
And, occasionally, he's good for a laugh.
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