Gabriel Odenhammar

Håkan bråkan, Gabriel Odenhammar - about being a child actor and children seeking validation

Gabriel Odenhammar became Håkan Bråkan with the entire Swedish people. We have talked to him about being a child actor and children who receive validation and later lose it. 

Gabriel Odenhammar became Håkan bråkan and Max in Svensson Svensson with the entire Swedish people. But what happened then? Today he is an air traffic controller, father of three and has taken the time to reflect on his childhood as an actor. Children seek validation, but what happens when you take it away from them? And what happens to child actors who grow up and become parents themselves?

Gabriel Odenhammar has written a book about his upbringing and how being a child actor has shaped him. Sofia has met him and talked about this very thing.

Gabriel Odenhammar

"I think it is important as a parent to show that the children are good because they are just who they are, not because they are funny, good at soccer or at drawing. Affirmation should be about who you are, not what you do. Children's brains grow, almost like little balloons, and you have to be careful as a parent."

Hello Gabriel! How are you today?

Great! I feel like there's so much fun stuff going on and I feel like I'm in control of my life situation, which is a great feeling. There is a lot going on, which is nice and fun!

What is happening in your life right now?

I have three children, I am an air traffic controller, union representative, chairman of the association where I live, assistant coach for the children in soccer and now I have written a book that I will launch. When I tell people this, they usually say that those who enter the wall had a lot of fun on the way there. I am aware that the program is getting busy, but I really like when there are many irons in the fire.

The stoic in me means that everything I do should not only serve me, but also serve others. That is to say, there must be a purpose to what I do. Money is generally not a good driving force, I think.

There are probably not many people in "our" age who do not remember Sune and Håkan Bråkan. How did you become Håkan Bråkan? What do you remember from that time?

I started at a small stage studio when I was a child. My mother was financially responsible for the studio and volunteered. Thomas Bergholtz was a theater manager and knew the caster at SVT who was currently looking for actors for Sune.

I remember the caster wanted to talk to me, and she did but only if I got a Ramlösa. My theater director drank Ramlösa, so that was probably why. My parents thought I was making it up when I said it was someone from TV who wanted to meet me, but a few days later I had a test shoot and that's how it went.

My big roles were Håkan bråkan from Sune and Max in Svensson Svensson, but in addition to that I was in "Macbeth" at Stadsteatern and "Det susar i säven" and also Joe Labero's first big show. In addition, I have made TV commercials and sitcoms. That's how I became a child star. I think I was good because I was good at working and talking to adults.

I remember that I thought everything was fun, while I also liked school and my friends. My parents talked about it all like it was fun, but I probably took it more like a job early on.

Gabriel Odenhammar emotional card

"Sune's family and my family are identical, I didn't have to act that much. It was problematic in and of itself, because I took a lot from the script and used it in my real life. When you're a child, you don't understand that limit. So who was I?”

What happened when the spotlight went out and everything suddenly disappeared?

What happened was I discovered I was a child actor, not an actor. By the way, I don't think you should put a professional title on a child, it's not fair or ethical to do that. Being an actor is connected with education and a foundation to stand on. It's clear that I've learned a lot from the people I've worked with, but a child who's on TV gets told what to do. It's not like that for an adult, professional actor. There you get the prerequisites from the director, then the magic must be created. You can't work with children that way.

One of the last big things I did was Svensson Svensson at the theater -99. After that the phone stopped ringing. It became a deep identity crisis for me. Who was I when I didn't go off and do acting stuff? I bit the bullet, graduated from high school, did rags and became an airport firefighter and traveled a bit. Looking back at that time, I think I did everything in my power not to have to make any decisions for my future, and when I finally had to, the first crash came.

I was bedridden at my parents' house and knew absolutely nothing. In the end I was able to get up and a lot of it was because I figured out what I was missing in my life. One of the things was that I didn't feel like I had the power in my own life. After all, I had always been told what to do, and received attention, validation and standing ovations when I did what others said. When it disappeared and I suddenly had to make my own decisions, I was paralyzed, and it's not so strange when you think about it.

Did it get better later on?

Well. Then they called from Svensson Svensson and wanted me to play Max again. It felt like shit fun then and there! But there was chaos instead. I wasn't an actor. Instead, I ended up eating my way through an entire recording. It didn't show outwardly, but it was there. I got into a situation where I was getting a lot of money per line, but wanted to just strangle myself in every scene. I had the feeling, or knew, that I wasn't good enough, and thought that the others probably felt the same way. If I had let those feelings out, I would have ruined the entire production. I chose to keep the mask and self-medicated.

I found myself in a strange situation where I did everything to not ruin it for everyone else. The big problem was that I was loved as a child actor, but then when I was supposed to perform as an adult actor it didn't work out.

How did the role as Håkan Bråkan affect your social life during this time?

A lot! People still stop me and say; "Hello, are you Håkan Bråkan?". I've never had a problem with celebrity, but I've probably handled it in a stupid way for me that hasn't protected my personal integrity. When I was younger and I was out and maybe in a bar and people came up I always wanted to be available. I got that from Suzanne Reuter, to always be nice. But she is also "politician-talented"; nice but ends the conversation quickly. I was so young and couldn't put an end to it in the same way. I was always nice, always answered the same questions, but quickly tried to turn the conversation around and talk about the other person instead. It often ended with incredibly long conversations with people unknown to me. Maybe they offered a drink too. However, the consequence was that I was away for an hour from my company and my friends. I didn't hang out with my friends then, who of course got tired. Once is never once, but when it happens every time, people around you eventually get tired of you never being present.

It's so divisive. It's great fun when people think you're good! But in this particular period, as a young adult, it becomes quite strange to constantly hear that I was cute as a child. Yes? Now then? I wanted to be, and still want to be, a kind and nice person. One who stops and talks and is nice, but it became heavy to carry in the long run. But of course it has died down.

“We never know when that moment happens, when children listen and what is said actually sticks. What I do not want to stick with my children they should not hear from me. This idea has helped me a lot in my parenting. "

Do you think the adults did wrong when they cast you as a child actor?

No not at all. It was a very good casting from the beginning. Sune's family and my family are identical, I didn't have to play so much. It was problematic in and of itself, because I took a lot from the script and used it in my real life. When you're a child, you don't understand that limit. So who was I?

How do you think your experiences have affected you as a parent?

I have three children, 9, 8 and 3. They have seen the productions I have been in and know that I have been on TV. They think it's cool and are proud that I'm their dad. My son is trying to sell my book now at school.

My oldest daughter goes to the theater and thinks it's great fun. She wants to be a veterinarian and an actress. I support her in whatever she wants, but when it comes to acting, of course, I feel like I have to set boundaries that are important to explain to her.

I overheard a conversation between her and her friend, where her friend told me that she has auditioned, and my daughter said that daddy won't let me do it. Then it was a good idea to have that conversation and explain what I mean. I will never be the one to find and push her into projects. For me, it is important that she gets to play and explore emotions and life itself. It's something amazing that the theater can provide!

If she then did something, I would support her 100%. The difference is of course my own experience. Many pushy parents think that if the child is on TV now, there is a greater chance of becoming an adult actress. I say that the chances are greater that you feel mentally ill or end up in prison.

Gabriel Odenhammar

In Emotion cards 3- Me in the world, there is the card validation. One of the questions is ”is validation always good? Can it hurt?”. How would you answer?

Being validated the way child actors are is fundamentally not good for a child. I think the industry can do better. Maybe some organization gets in touch after a recording and asks how the child is doing. As a child, you end up in a very special situation that few can understand after a recording. There was no time for reflection. That is actually exactly what you make room for here at Bonki. So important!

As a father, how do you deal with themes of affirmation and giving your own children attention?

In my book I compare the validation I received to a drug. Drugs destroy the happiness centers in the brain, and I want to say that the same thing happened to me a little. It was simply too much. I think it is important as a parent to show that the children are good because they are just who they are, not because they are funny, good at soccer or at drawing. Affirmation should be about who you are, not what you do. Children's brains grow, almost like little balloons, and you have to be careful as a parent. Sometimes one wonders why one's children get stuck in certain things that they remember. You remember this, but don't remember how to eat with a knife and fork? We adults can't know at which second the children's brains are perceptive. Therefore, we try not to shout, talk meanly or stupidly about others. We never know when that gap is, when the children listen and what is said sticks. What I don't want to stick with my children, they shouldn't hear from me. That thought has helped me a lot in my parenting.

Is there something you actively and concretely do to live that idea?

Two years ago, my wife and I started a thing when we go home from school: now you have to tell two things, one that is true and one that is false. Like a game. So much fun and what wonderful conversations it will be. We talk so much at home and come up with different stories that start conversations.

In the end, it's about the inner self and the inner drive and morality. I try to affirm my children with attention. It is difficult! I've been working on myself for the past few years, and then I haven't been the best father in the world. I wasn't feeling well and dealt with it by writing my book. My wife noticed that as soon as I got the hang of it myself that I was more cautious with the kids.

It is important to be able to cope as a parent!

Besides the book, how have you actively worked on your parenting?

My wife and I have started meditating, which has helped a lot not to lose our temper when, for example, my son loses his temper. That millisecond when I don't lose my temper allows my son to calm himself down and we can hug and talk instead. Sometimes you obviously lose your temper, but it is a magical experience to be able to bring about a completely different situation with the help of meditation.

Everyone is in need of validation, but I think I may be in extra need of it with my experiences. Maybe that's why I stand up for many different things. But I believe in being an example for the kids and actually getting involved in the community and trying to help. I would like to give my children commitment! Maybe I do too many things at once, but maybe it can "infect" others that it's fun to get involved?

Emotion cards 3- "the demands you have on yourself and your future, do you know if it was you or someone else who made them?". How would you answer?

Many people ask all the time why I am not an actor or on TV anymore. Our whole society is so focused on being seen. In the influencer thing, there is a form of built-in spiritual death spiral, for example, in my opinion.

It is mainly my mother who has pushed me to get an education. Although it doesn't matter, I think, she was right!

Society makes very high demands on us. We must work 100% because otherwise we will not get a pension. However, I have never set financial goals, such as a house or that I would necessarily have three children. We are well off, but not living in abundance. I don't really feel that I have any special financial requirements. But society's demands creep in, the kids have toads, we have two televisions, and so on, and so on. It is very difficult not to be influenced by society's invisible demands.

What would you like to bring to the Bonki parents?

Think about yourself and "ignore" the children! We have so many relationships in life, and children are one of the strongest. What I mean is that you must not forget the other relationships and run over yourself. If you do that, you can't bear it, so how can you bear the children then? It is important to take care of yourself, so you can be a parent who counts for your children.

Gabriel's book "This he will get hell for"- the book about playing Håkan Bråkan, Max and myself" will be on sale 20/9.

Gabriel Odenhammar as Håkan Bråkan