Diversity Leads Actor Matti Leinikka to Success in the Theatre and On Screen
While we tend to think of the actors that perform on stage and those on-screen as essentially doing the same job and requiring the same skillset to embody their characters, the truth is that there are massive differences between the two mediums. Whereas the theatre actor has to project their voice loud enough for the entire audience to hear them and bring an ‘over-the-top’ element to their gestures, not to mention that they only get one shot to get their performance right, those on camera have to bring their character to life with subtlety. Though film, TV and commercial actors have the luxury of more takes, they also need to adjust to the director’s notes quickly, otherwise they risk keeping their costars and crew on set until they get it right; and nobody is happy about that.
Though the two mediums are unequivocally different, there are a handful of actors out there who have proven their capacity to flawlessly perform on both the stage and screen with equal grace and magnetism. Actor Matti Leinikka, who hails from Umeå, Sweden is among the uniquely skilled few who have managed to transition between on stage roles to those on screen with ease.
Leinikka, who recently played the starring role of Josef in the Umeå Theatre Company’s staging of “Morbid Curiosity,” as well as Mike in the upcoming comedy film “Exposed,” which is due out next year, has been taking on roles on both the stage and screen for several years and his skill in both is what keeps directors calling him back time and time again.
“There are mainly technical differences for me. Everything has to be very clear on stage, tone of voice and a stronger emphasis on the important aspects of the character and their interactions in the story,” explains Leinikka. “Knowing your angles are very important on camera, and there are more tricks you can use, little details that will completely make the scene better, these are things you pick up with experience.”
Experience and talent are two things that Leinikka has in spades, and it shows every time he takes to the stage or screen. In the interactive theatre production “Morbid Curiosity” directed by Elin Hallberg, the stage is set in Denmark in the 1940s where a middle-aged couple are mysteriously murdered. The story centers on the hunt to find the murderer, and Leinikka’s character Josef, a tailor by trade and the rival of the murdered man, is the prime suspect.
“It was a juicy story for sure,” recalls Leinikka. “It was intense playing this role, villain roles are always so interesting to play. I enjoyed it a lot because there were so many things to work with to create a living character in the 1940s.”
Leinikka gave a powerful and intensely captivating performance in “Morbid Curiosity,” which had a successful week-long run in Sweden earlier this year where it was met with sold out shows every night. Leinikka, who’s good looks and gentle demeanor might lead someone to think otherwise at first glance, plays a surprisingly good villain. Aside from his recent role in “Morbid Curiosity” he previously solidified his gift for portraying this style of character in the multi-award winning film “The Gateway.”
Taking on the key role of Gaunt Yokel, a mysterious and rather demonic villain that inhabits a desolate forest where he haunts those who dare to wander too deep into the backwoods, Leinikka gave a memorable and frightening performance that helped lead “The Gateway” to widespread success. Released in 2015, “The Gateway” earned extensive critical acclaim with numerous awards including the Another Hole in the Head Award from the Another Hole in the Head Genre Film Festival, the Special Jury Prize and the Honorable Mention Awards from the Nashville Film Festival, the Best Sci-Fi Feature and Best Screenplay Awards from the New York City Horror Film Festival and more.
While Leinikka has proven himself capable of portraying a fearsome villain on countless occasions, it’s his adaptability that makes him such a strong talent, and that goes beyond just being able to take on roles in both the theatre and on screen. His vast range as an actor allows him to take on roles across genres, and the way he brings each character to life makes him almost unrecognizable from one performance to the next.
He admits, “Comedy is my favorite genre to work in as an actor. I can do everything in comedy, its like I have more layers to work with… I have a strong timing, I can mix very serious tones and the comedic aspects together at the same time.”
Earlier this year the dark comedy film “Superbowl of Love,” which was chosen as an Official Selection of the 2019 Prague Independent Film Festival, revealed just how adept Leinikka is at taking on comedic roles. Taking place in a small town where a talk show host sparks up a contest offering 100 million dollars to the contestant who’s had the worst life, “Superbowl of Love” follows the townspeople who rush to apply and dish about their suffering in order to win the money.
Leinikka says, “It becomes both deep and slightly funny in a dark way. It’s the kind of dark comedy that I really love. The whole town applies to win the money and the talk show has detailed comparisons weighing the pros and cons about the peoples lives.”
Leinikka takes on the starring role of Tom in the film, the town virgin, who feels that he’s definitely suffered the most and exists in a league of his own since he’s the only adult in town who’s never been with a woman.
“It was the idea. It has something that resonates with all of us,” explained Leinikka when asked about what made him want to be apart of this project. “We all think we’ve suffered uniquely and worse than most others. It also becomes a bit strange and bizarrely funny when people try to one up each other to prove that they’ve had it even worse. There was so much to explore in this story and topic.”
For Leinikka, who has definitely had his fair share of experience playing a diverse range of characters, projects like “Superbowl of Love” and characters like the awkward Tom are among his favorite to perform.
“The scenes where very slow and tense, like in a sad comedic way. I find it exciting to work with pauses and quiet moments. I love playing awkward characters and I had great actors to work with in my scenes.”
In “Superbowl of Love” Leinikka stars alongside Tatiana Ronderos from the Taurus Stunt Award nominated film “Mile 22” and Nicole Cardoni from the Gemini and Leo Award winning series “Being Erica. ”
With credits that also include playing key roles in films such as Andres Zarta’s (“Tim”) romance film “The Race,” the crime film “Jimmy Swan” with Mazin Akar from the five-time Golden Globe Award winning series “Homeland,” and dramatic films including Golden Hugo Award nominated director David Schmudde’s film “Distant Apologies,” Singapore International Film Festival Award winner Oday Rasheed’s “Contact” and “Scrying” with Bryan Hamilton from the People’s Choice Award nominated series “Bull,” Matti Leinikka has proven himself to be a powerhouse talent across genres.
In addition to his leading performance in “Morbid Curiosity,” he’s also made a strong name for himself in the theatre through his lead roles in “Stop Kiss” staged at the Umea Theatre Company in Sweden and “Sleep,” which was performed at the Scandinavian American Theatre Company in New York.
“Matti is very versatile in his acting style. Furthermore, he is a joy to work with and he gives feedback that lifts the quality of the entire production,” says Johann Jung, who costarred alongside Leinikka in “Stop Kiss.” “Matti understands his role to a degree that few actors do. He lives and breathes his character, something that adds layers to every production he is working on.”
While it takes undeniable talent to perform across various mediums like Leinikka does, that diversity is precisely what he loves most about his work.
He says, “I like the variations in this industry, one day I work with classical theatre, the next day a voice over and the third day I’m filming something, I enjoy that.”
With talent, diversity and a deep love for his craft, there are many projects on the horizon for actor Matti Leinikka. Aside from the upcoming film “Exposed,” Leinikka has also been tapped to take on a leading role in Mariya Somovas upcoming film “What’s Left of Us.”
“Matti has full commitment, a never ending positive attitude and an eye for details, which is a rare combination in this line of work. Working together with Matti is inspiring because of his ability to always find solutions to challenges,” says Mathias Olofsson, who worked with Leinikka on “Exposed.” “He is a constant developer of ideas and he doesn’t settle with something just because it’s the easy way out. He has a great knowledge of the human mind and a persistence that always takes him forward towards his goals.”