Steven Van Zandt: The Fixer

Bruce Springsteen's first lieutenant goes top dog on Netflix

Bruce Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt on the cover of our second SXSW daily supplement, 3.16.2012
Bruce Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt on the cover of our second SXSW daily supplement, 3.16.2012 (by Gary Miller)

Steven Van Zandt's always played lieutenant. He's the man on Bruce Springsteen's left in the E Street Band, and second in command on The Sopranos. For Lilyhammer, which premiered on Netflix in February, he plays top mob boss Frank "The Fixer" Tagliano, a former Mafioso who enters the witness protection program and gets shipped to Norway.

We cornered Van Zandt minutes before he split for Springsteen's South by Southwest Music keynote address a few weeks ago and managed to eke out a few questions about the Lilyhammer, the first original programming on Netflix.

Austin Chronicle: Where did you come up with the idea to send a mobster to Norway?

Stevie Van Zandt: This husband and wife in Norway came up with the idea and they found me there. I was mixing my Cocktail Slippers album for Wicked Cool [Van Zandt's record label], and they said, "We've got a cool idea." They gave me the pitch: "Gangster goes into the Witness Protection Program and gets sent to Lilyhammer, Norway."

AC: Why Norway?

SVZ: I don't think anybody knows anything about Norway, really, and I wanted the country to be like a character in the show. This is the first time that a Norwegian show has traveled overseas, and I'm proud of that.

The circumstances are so different over there. You drop [Tagliano] into a country where there's no crime. They're a total monoculture over there. They all do the same thing. They're all very much the same ethnic group, pretty much.

It's very different. Very interesting people, very tough. I'd be out there at 15 below zero, 10 below zero, and nobody would complain. I saw one stuntman in six months.

AC: The show's funny. The Sopranos wasn't exactly funny.

SVZ: We call it a dramedy nowadays, which just means you can have a casual moment now and then. It's certainly lighter than The Sopranos. My charcater Silvio was a little more uptight, a little more cautious. He had a lot more responsibility with this crazy Tony Soprano. He had to keep him alive, keep his business together. Silvio seemed like the only guy who didn't want to be the boss. He was very happy being Tony's second.

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Steven Van Zandt, Lilyhammer, Netflix, Bruce Springsteen, The Sporanos, The Cocktail Slippers, Wicked Cool Records

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