Interview Sofia Helin
Following the huge international success of series such as Wallander, The Killing and political thriller Borgen, it seemed almost impossible for Scandinavia’s thriving television world to bring anything as original, stylish or exciting as we have seen in the last few years. Then came The Bridge, a bi-national investigation series which follows two detectives as they struggle to solve a series of gruesome and seemingly politically-motivated murders which take place between Denmark and Sweden.
Not only does the series deliver a wonderful plot and a vast, dynamic cast of characters, it focuses closely on the various quirks and flaws of its detectives, going into an intriguing character development with Saga Noren (Sofia Helin), the Swedish half of the crime-fighting duo. Saga has Aspergers: she is professionally brilliant, yet socially dysfunctional. It quickly becomes clear that her partner, Danish detective Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia), is not only a colleague but a personal mentor.
From teaching Saga the importance of eating breakfast to social etiquette with victims and witnesses, Martin is an essential ingredient in relating this estranged character to the viewer. She is not like anybody we have seen before – her various quirks include a brilliantly blunt delivery of accidental insults, and a respect for ‘the rules’ which is more than frustrating after the maverick rule-breaking of The Killing’s Sarah Lund. These are what make both Saga and The Bridge an equally thrilling and warming watch.
subtitledonline.com spoke with Sofia Helin to find out more about her character, and to get her thoughts on the series…
Why were you drawn to the script for The Bridge?
At first I was very skeptical and very irritated by Saga’s character. But I started working with it, and I met the scriptwriter and the director, and Kim (Bodnia), and I started realising “this is interesting, this is the opposite of me.” I couldn’t understand her in any way.
She’s a very distinguished character and, at times, quite funny. How did you go about creating her?
It’s so difficult to describe how you create her. It’s like, I could see at the beginning of the series that I didn’t know her very well, and then, after a while, I got into it. It’s like when you do a sculpture – you start with nothing, and then you add and take away parts, and suddenly it’s there. It’s very hard to describe. But I tried to get into her way of thinking by studying people with Aspergers.
Did you feel an added sense of responsibility in portraying somebody with Aspergers?
Yes, I did, of course. It feels more important, but you always have to take care of your characters.
How does she compare to other roles you’ve played in your career?
She’s not like anyone I’ve played before.
There seems to be a trend emerging for somewhat odd, emotionally unavailable female leads…
I think that female characters are just starting to take the stage. We’ve seen so many complex men before. I think this is a development. We cannot accept (all of) these very superficial women on the screen, or anywhere. We’re tired of it.
So, you see this as part of a more fundamental change in the depiction of women?
Yeah, I think so. I hope so.
You must be aware of the huge international success enjoyed by Scandinavian crime thrillers, such as The Killing and Wallander. Have you followed these programmes?
I’ve not seen The Killing so much. I’ve seen Wallander and I’ve seen some of Borgen. So, some of it.
I think that female characters are just starting to take the stage. We’ve seen so many complex men before.
The opening episode of The Bridge is quite provocative. Is there a competitive element between these shows to come up with the goriest murders, to deliver the biggest shock?
It is difficult. At first, when I heard about the job, my agent told me, “Okay, it’s another crime series,” and I was thinking, “Can you do anything more in this genre?”. But obviously we can, and, of course, there have to be new ideas all the time.
You probably heard about this terrible thing that happened in Norway in the summer (neo-Nazi Anders Breivik murdered 93 innocents in July 2011). When we did The Bridge, they said, “This is too much, no-one will believe this story about so many people being murdered.” And then this terrible thing came up and I just thought “Okay, the reality is always worse.” You can’t make up worse things yourself.
There is an element of competition in The Bridge between the Swedish and Danish police departments. Does this represent an inherent cultural competition between the two?
I never think about it that way. You know, we just tease each other and laugh about each other. But I think we have a feeling of Scandinavian friendship.
Any news on the second series?
Yes, they’re writing it right now. We’re starting shooting in October.
Would you ever take on a role in a British production?
Yes, of course, I would be delighted. If you can stand my English, I would be delighted!
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