An interview with Dutch actor Tim Haars from NEW KIDS TURBO and NEW KIDS NITRO
While only now being discovered by North American audiences, the New Kids series – which started as a web show in 2007 and hit notoriety after being picked up by Comedy Central in 2009 – is Holland’s closest export to a South Park/Apatow/Jackass hybrid. It focuses on 5 obnoxious characters – Richard, Barrie, Robbie, Gerrie and Rikkert – who drive like maniacs, scarf down junk food, call women whores and drink beer constantly. Most importantly, they have mulleted coifs that clearly place them in the backwaters of 90s culture.
In the New Kids universe, the schlubby, accident-prone character Gerrie is brought to life by Tim Haars, brother of Steffen Haars (Robbbie), who co-writes and directs the series with Flip Van der Kuil (Barrie). After a few mishaps involving miscalculated time zone differences and wrong phone numbers, I was able to chat briefly on the phone with Tim, where I was hit with a few surprises about his life before and after New Kids.
Just for context, how many Dutch films or TV shows are in production in any given year?
Maybe 50 or 60? But I’m not sure about those numbers, because a lot of movies I’m not really interested in. I don’t like a lot of movies.
A lot of the movies from Holland, or a lot of movies period?
Well, period. I mean I watch a lot of movies, but I only like a couple. My tastes are very specific.
So how did the New Kids form, in the beginning?
Well we were not really a group that was brought together; we knew each other already for a long time. Wesley van Gaalen (Rikkert) is my best friend, Flip Van der Kuil (Barrie) is the best friend of Steffen Haars (Robbie), and Huub Smit (Richard) I knew from back in the day – I used to be a pro skater and he was as well.
A pro skater, like skateboarder? Or ice skater?
Hardcore aggressive inline skating. Yeah, we were really good; I was the best in Holland a couple of times . So we all knew eachother already for a long time. And when we finished skating we didn’t know what to do, so we just started to make small sketches and road trips and we filmed them. And then Steffen Haars went to the film academy, he went to school to become a director and a cameraman. And Huub Smit went to acting school, me as well. So then we actually continued to make small sketches for an internet site called Flabber.nl, and we noticed a lot of hits, we had like 10 million hits in a really short period, so we were like ‘hmm!’ And after that success we continued at Comedy Central, and then it really became a national hit here in Holland, and also in Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Belgium. And then a big producer in Eyeworks came and actually gave us money to make a movie. And we were not used to making movies because we were making small sketches, and we asked if we could make the movie without making any concessions, because our ideas are pretty controversial, but we didn’t want to have any restrictions. So they gave us all responsibility and all freedom to make it. And it became a big hit.
And where are you guys based?
Almost everybody lives in Amsterdam.
OK. I don’t know how much of an in-joke the characters are regionally – are they hitting on stereotypes about people who live in the south of Holland or are these character types totally fictionalized?
Well we were raised in Maaskantje ourselves, and during our childhood we say a lot of people doing nothing and complaining and destroying our skate ramps and actually fucking up the neighbourhood. And they more or less inspired us to make this kind of work. Because they were already different, they were like – how do you say it – white trash? Like the European version of white trash. There are people like that everywhere in Europe, in Germany there are a lot of them, so I think everybody recognizes the characters.
But they’re kind of like the protagonists. I mean even though they’re really destructive and dumb, they’re still kind of the heroes of the movies.
That’s true, yeah. They’re like anti-heroes.
I would guess just from watching the movies that you like these characters.
Well with characters like this you can do anything, because the logic in how they think is so completely stupid. We made them bigger than life. We exaggerated them.
I heard that a lot of fans of the show really identified with these characters a lot.
It’s true, a lot of people recognize themselves in these characters. In the beginning everybody thought we were real. And for the original show we did choose to shoot it in a way that it looks like someone took a camera and filmed themselves. So in a way they felt like they could do this themselves. And lot of people when they would see me on the street would say ‘Hey man, what happened to your moustache and your haircut?’ and would have to explain that I was playing a character. And also we don’t speak like that at all. It’s a dialect that is very specific to a small area in the south of Holland. But everyone thought we were real until they brought us on a television show as ourselves; it was a really funny way for people to find out it was all fake.
So the guy who plays Barrie doesn’t look as scary in real life?
No, actually he does. His face is really good; he’s not a really good actor, because he’s one of the directors, so that’s why he doesn’t say much. He’s sort of like a Silent Bob. Actually all the characters are a bit like we are in real life.
So if that’s true are you really clumsy in real life? Your character is really accident-prone.
Well, he’s a guy who wants to be a part of the group and look good in front of his friends, but it never works out. I’m a physical guy, that’s true, but I’m not that clumsy. It’s a great character to play – you don’t even think about yourself anymore, you just go and be a complete ass.
So tell me about the Gabber music in the soundtrack. I had never heard this term before.
It’s one of the biggest musical influences in the 80s and 90s in Holland.
So is it just specific to Holland?
It used to be, it was an underground scene and then it got really big in Holland. And again it’s for people who use drugs and go completely insane and they’re really aggressive. But nowadays it’s not popular anymore, and so the movie really feels like the 80s or 90s, with the cars and the way they dress. The music really fits the movie.
What’s happening with the New Kids now?
We quit doing it, so that it remains what it was, instead of continuing until everybody is fed up with you. So now we’re writing some new stuff.
So you guys are still going to work together but just doing different characters, but still doing comedy?
Yeah, yeah, I think so. We’re an ensemble so we work together. And instead of casting roles we just look around at the people around us and get them involved.
Do you do the writing together?
Back in the day when we did sketches we all wrote stuff, but now it’s all Steffen and Flip, who are the directors. They write, direct and act in the movies, so they do everything.
And are you doing other projects on your own aside from New Kids?
Yeah I’m doing other movies and I’m also a television host for children, and I do TV shows on other networks for adults.
That’s funny because over here if you did a movie like New Kids Turbo and Nitro they would never let you near children.
Yeah, but Holland is very open-minded. I also was a little but afraid of it, but it never became a problem. In Holland there are commercial networks and the national networks, and I work for the national network which is very open minded, so I can just be myself. I’m not one of those hosts who says ‘Welcome everybody to the show…’ I’m just being myself .
But with little kids around you?
No. I don’t like to work with children, they’re annoying. Because with children it’s the most important day to them, but then after four hours rolling they’re, like, done. They get all excited but then they just collapse because they didn’t sleep the night before or whatever. But the working day is longer. So it’s not nice to work with children but it’s really cool to make something for children.
See an earlier article on the New Kids phenomenon in Spectacular Optical HERE.