The last case for Sarah Lund.
There were a few gasps of surprise from the audience at the British Film Institute in London last Friday (Nov 9) night when “the third and final series of The Killing” was introduced.
Which just goes to show not everyone keeps up with the news.
We have, of course, known for a long time now that Denmark’s compelling television export would be no more after the end of series three.
It was confirmed when Sofie Grabol appeared at BAFTA in London this time last year.
Click here to read my transcript of that November 2011 Q&A.
But it’s still hard to come to terms with the fact that there are just 10 more episodes of this BAFTA award-winning production left.
My full transcript of Friday’s fascinating BFI Q&A is below.
Chaired by Ben Preston, the editor of Radio Times, it featured Sofie Grabol, who plays Sarah Lund, creator, writer and showrunner Soren Sveistrup and producer Piv Bernth, who is now also Head of Drama at the Danish Broadcasting Corporation.
As ever, their English puts me to shame – and you’ll have to watch out in the transcript for Soren’s very dry sense of humour.
The Q&A session followed a preview screening of episode one, introduced by the Danish Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Anne Hedensted Steffensen.
Perhaps just as well that I’d already seen it, as well as episode two, as the lady’s head in front of me mostly obscured the English subtitles.
I’ve since watched episodes three and four and am, of course, now desperate to see the rest.
The Killing III begins on BBC4 at 9pm next Saturday (Nov 17), starting a run of double episodes over the next five weeks.
With episode eight screened in Denmark tonight (Sunday Nov 11) and the tenth and final episode still being edited.
You will only find the very mildest of spoilers below.
It’s not giving too much away to say that a distracted Detective Chief Inspector Sarah Lund does not have her mind fully on the job when we meet her again.
She is trying to look after herself for a change, having applied for a job away from the police front line with the OPA – Operative, Planning and Analysis – department.
Also hoping to build broken bridges with her now grown up son.
As you can see from the photo at the top of this page, there is a pre-jumper, jumper before we meet the real new deal in episode four.
Sarah also appears in her police dress uniform, complete with tie – worn for an anniversary ceremony marking her – and others – 25 years of police service.
You’ll find a photo of Lund in that uniform further down this page.
Soren has set the story of Forbrydelsen III against the backdrop of the global financial crisis and its domestic impact in Denmark.
With the Prime Minister involved in a bitter election campaign.
There is, of course, a killer. But with a twist.
Soren warned us not to risk our money betting on the identity of the murderer.
“We changed the story because we wanted to do something different,” he said.
This time around viewers are also, of course, desperate to know how Sarah Lund’s own story will end.
Copenhagen and surrounds still appear to have an acute shortage of mains electricity.
Leading to plenty of renewed use for police issue torches in dark and scary places, including a nod to the woods in series one.
While the opening scenes on the old freight ship Medea will have you gripped from the very start.
The Killing’s soundtrack is again hard wired to the hairs on the back of your neck.
Not least in the four episode ending cliffhangers I’ve seen so far, which absolutely demand that you watch the next hour immediately.
There’s a scene in episode three where some of the characters speak in English, which is a bit of a strange experience.
And the Danish Ambassador teased us that “we will see more” of Sarah in this series”, with speculation that the jumper may come off at some point.
It’s generally accepted that while The Killing series two was excellent, it did not match the 20 episode first series. How could it?
That classic first year will probably not be surpassed.
But from what I’ve watched so far, this finale aims to give it a very good run for its money.
The transcript is quite long but well worth reading in full.
Highlights include Sofie recalling how she filmed Sarah Lund’s final three key scenes on her very last day on set.
And how ending her role as Lund suddenly “hit me like a hammer” once she stopped work.
She revealed: “Well actually it has been much more emotional for me to finish this project than I really want to admit, because I think it’s pathetic…I mean, it is work.”
Sofie also reflected on the visit of Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, to one of the locations during filming for this series.
Without, of course, revealing what they were, Soren spoke about the options for Sarah Lund’s end story.
Also maintaining that there will definitely not be a fourth series:
“It’s been a great party, this The Killing party. We had great fun and it’s been very, very hard. But we agreed from the start that it wasn’t going to be a never-ending story.
“I’d hate it to just be another show, another mass produced show, ongoing and not really reflecting anything.”
Soren, Piv and Sofie told us how the pressures of the “crazy pace” of filming and last minute delivery of scripts were part of what made The Killing such a success.
Along with relationships built up by those working on the drama for several years.
While Soren summed up how he viewed The Killing.
“Basically, it’s just a chase.”
Piv, Soren and Sofie spoke about the courage to end The Killing when it was still a huge success and avoid being one of those drama series that goes on for far too long with a subsequent drop in quality.
“Really I think that so much television stinks,” Soren told us.
“It doesn’t have to. It’s a perfect medium. Why not use it for something good? Why not use it for making cinema?”
Q: (Ben Preston in the chair) Sofie – that’s a very different Sarah Lund in the first episode…what’s ahead in this series?
Sofie Grabol: “Well in my view, hopefully it is Sarah Lund. Of course we had a lot of discussions before starting off this third series. And we all agreed that the place we left her at the end of the second season…she’d lost everything. She’d lost her belief in people, in the system, in everything. She was totally stripped of innocence. So we had a lot of talks about…that it wouldn’t be realistic…and that’s the thing for me, luxury as an actor, that there is a continuity, it is one story. So we carry the past seasons with her and we talked about how many times can you as a person, if you live like that…and I identify with that a bit, actually…how many times can you throw yourself, risk everything, throw everything on the table and lose. And still the next time just risk it all. And we thought, well, she’s also reached an age where it’s hard to just every time go out there with your innocent belief in everything, so we thought well maybe she actually wants a life now, she wants what other people have – a home. She wants to get in touch with her son again, whom she’d lost. And maybe find love. Just the normal life. Is that too much to ask? And that is, of course, I mean because she turns down the volume in her work, it allows her to lead a more normal life. So that’s where we meet her. In heels also! Not dressed for practical work in dark alleys.”
Q: Sarah is not quite focused on work at the start of this series?
Sofie Grabol: “No. Certainly not. Everything has a price. You can’t be a hundred thousand per cent everywhere and so if you want to put some of your percentage in your private life, then of course you might miss some points at work, important details.”
Q: Lots of important details, which sounded like you talked for hours, days, weeks, months before you started about where this series three should begin?
Soren Sveistrup: “We usually do that, you know. (laughter) It’s a friendly conversation – it starts out like a friendly conversation. And then we get very stubborn. And then we start arguing. And then we start fighting. And then we go each, separate ways. and then we team up again. And usually we agree. And I get my way. (laughter) It’s been very quiet..”
Q: And with every series the canvas gets larger. Series one was Copenhagen, it was mayoral politics. Series two was Afghanistan, a conspiracy in the Ministry of Justice. And in series three, here we are the financial crisis, globalised capitalism, a prime minister…you love grappling with politics?
Soren Sveistrup: “Yes – I think it’s exciting to take part in some of the discussions from the newspapers and the medias. But it’s more like a carpet or a curtain behind the story, actually. Sometimes I think when I hear it myself, I think, ‘Wow, that sounds really clever.’ But I didn’t get it. (laughter) I know something about emotions and the feelings. But of course the issues are important, I think. And you mentioned before, Sarah Lund is in a different way now. I think that it has a good reflection because of the financial crisis. Because everybody – well not everybody, but the times are hard and we have to look after number one. And Sarah Lund is looking after number one…not minding all the maybe moral issues at work. Not burning her flame too much this time. Trying to avoid that, cultivating her own garden. For me it’s a picture on how we people…usually we act in a financial crisis, it’s tough and who can save Africa? So at that point, at that stage…and it’s provocative…when we are trying to isolate ourselves from society. We say, ‘OK, I really have to look after myself because of my job.’ And so I thought, she’s a survivor and this time she’s trying to look after herself.”
Q: And you’re looking also at how business has responded to the downturn?
Soren Sveistrup: “Yes. It’s my version of it, anyway. Money is important. But we’ll see what it ends up as.”
Q: We always follow Danish politics. And we thought Cameron and Clegg meeting in The Rose Garden was good enough. But you have a Centre Party having a secret affair on the election trail?
Soren Sveistrup: “Yes. Actually I think – not to talk a lot about that, but I think politics is important. Important issues. But also I think it’s a sexy world because it has this glamorous side. Of course there’s a lot of backstabbing. It’s fighting arenas, like boxers doing rounds with each other and they’re just wearing suits. There’s a lot of hidden agendas and politics is just very good for the genre of a thriller. Because nobody’s talking the truth. So what’s your real agenda? Then, of course, the mix with the filthy side of society. It’s an upscale arena and it’s a good match with the docks and the dark side of society.”
Q: Piv, you presumably were very keen to get a bit more about Sarah’s hinterland. We’ve not known much about Sarah in the first two series, her personal side. And then suddenly this comes very much to the fore here. We’ve had on the authority of the Danish Ambassador that we may be seeing more of Sophie?
Piv Bernth: (laughs) “Yeah, well no. Actually no, not really because, I mean, one of the important things of the character is that she is still an enigma to everyone. So we all read different things into her. I know the Americans are really trying to work out her background story. But we’re not. We’ve talked about it and we know enough…so everybody has to read their own story into the character. That’s the fascinating thing about Sarah Lund. You never really know.”
Soren Sveistrup: “I’d say every time we’ve done a story, the real challenge has been to…the whole enigma, so to speak, it’s basically just to make a lot of stuff hard for Sophie. Because everytime – OK, we have to find a story that makes sure Sophie goes to dark places, basements and big…”
Q: Who needs a cellar when you’ve got the hull of a ship?
Piv Bernth: “She’s brave. She’s doing things that I wouldn’t do.”
Soren Sveistrup: “Yes. And then if you…concentrate on what it is. Basically it’s just a chase. At the very beginning it’s just a chase. It’s one long chase. It just takes 10 episodes. During the 10 episodes it’s my challenge and obligation, of course, to make a lot of hard work for Sophie and Piv, of course. And make sure that the challenges are different from series one and series two.”
Sofie Grabol: “You succeeded if that was the task. Giving us hard work.”
Piv Bernth: “Absolutely.”
Q: “And of course this chase is the last chase. When did you know what would happen in the last scene?”
Soren Sveistrup: “Actually, this time we talked a lot about how we would finish Lund. Not finish her off but finish Lund. And we didn’t talk that much about whodunit. We talked a lot about your (Sofie’s) character and what we wanted to say at the end. So actually what was going to happen to Sarah Lund in the end, we knew, I think, from the very beginning. But what the consequences were going to be, we had two options there…and I really can’t talk about that.” (laughter)
Q: When did you tell Sofie which of the options…?
Soren Sveistrup: “They were there from the very start.”
Sofie Grabol: “The only thing that Soren keeps as a national secret is the crime plot and the whodunit. And for this third season I personally…because in the first season I was completely obsessed with whodunit and I was a policeman when I was off acting every day. I was sitting discussing with Marie (Marie Askehave who played Rie Skovgaard) at our local cafe, ‘Who can it be?’ But this third season I really haven’t had my focus there. I mean I’ve had my theories. I was wrong. Again. For the third time. But, no, my main focus has been on the journey of Sarah Lund. We’ve been discussing that the whole way. All discussing. I’d say that I’ve been following Sarah, because it hadn’t been decided from the beginning – or there was a decision but you (Soren) changed it.”
Soren Sveistrup: “Yes.”
Sofie Grabol: “Yes. And yeah, that’s been my main focus.”
Soren Sveistrup: “But not because you said it.” (laughter)
Sofie Grabol: “No, no…”
Soren Sveistrup: “I changed it…because I run things.” (laughter)
Piv Bernth: “With a little bit of help from your friends.”
Q: Piv, is it right that you insisted that on the last day of filming, that Sofie would be in the last day of filming?”
Piv Bernth: “Well, yes. And it didn’t work. Because she wasn’t. Sofie ended in the last week of filming and actually that first day of the last week of filming. But the very final shot, she wasn’t in that. No. And actually Sofie said that she would like not to be. So no.”
Sofie Grabol: “I said that it didn’t matter because you were like, ‘It’s very important that you are in the last..’ And it doesn’t fit with the production…”
Piv Bernth: “No, and it didn’t. And with your plans and all. But the reason why I thought it would be something special was because you were in the very first shot in the first season of the first episode. And I thought that would be very nice just to wrap up in that way.”
Sofie Grabol: “So we have to make a fourth season where I can be in the very, very, very last…” (Applause and laughter)
Piv Bernth: “In the end of the day it was not important. It was just a little curious thing for me. But you were in the first day of the last week. And we finished that…”
Soren Sveistrup: “Then the last scene was actually Sarah Lund’s last in the story.”
Piv Bernth: “It was.”
Q: Sofie, you’ve lived with Sarah for eight years. How did you prepare for the last day of shooting?
Sofie Grabol: “Well actually it has been much more emotional for me to finish this project than I really want to admit, because I think it’s pathetic…I mean, it is work. But one of the good things about our crazy pace on this series – because it really is a crazy working pace. The crazy pace, combined with very short time for preparation…and I’m so glad that you’re here Soren so you can (laughs)…no, but the scripts are delivered very late. (laughter) So everyone is busy, slash, in a panic because there’s no time to prepare. But there are actually a lot of good things about it. (laughter) As an actor, one of the good things…actually sometimes you can have too much time. I find if I get endless time, then I get lost in the…because I can see things from so many angles. And you could do it like this and like this…”
Soren Sveistrup: “That’s why the scripts are so late.” (laughter)
Sofie Grabol: “They’re actually finished but you keep them?”
Soren Sveistrup: “It’s much easier when you hear the director shout, ‘Action.’ OK, now I know how to finish it.”
Sofie Grabol: “No, but the good thing is, as an actor anyway, that it’s good for courage. Because it forces you to just go with your impulse and your thoughts and believe in them. Because there’s no time to say, ‘Wait, wait, wait. I think this might be the wrong way.’ You just have to go with your…and shoot, when something moves. And that’s actually, for me it has been good and it has made me more courageous. But to get back to your question, another thing that it does, this pace, is that, for me, I didn’t…we were so extremely busy. Especially the last three months were just crazy. And so I noticed that during the last episode, people from the crew would, from time to time, come up to me and say, ‘Isn’t it strange for you that this is the last…’ And I was like, ‘What, what? Yes, yes.’ I just didn’t…so consequently it hit me like a hammer when I finished. And the very last day of shooting was, for some reason, had the most, for me, for Lund, the three key scenes of the last episode, lots of dialogue which we changed last minute, as usual. So it was just very stressful. We went two hours late. Emotional scenes and it was just a hard day at work. But the very last scene for me was in a studio, a car scene where I was in a car. And I love doing those car scenes because it’s like there are four doors and they are closed. It’s dark outside, so you don’t really see the crew. It’s like you have your own little world in those car scenes. So I didn’t really pay attention to the people outside until they said, ‘That was it, that’s a wrap.’ And I opened the door and you (Piv) were there with a bottle of champagne and everyone had gathered around, staring at me. And then I feel, ‘I just can’t. I can’t’ So I just grabbed the bottle and ran off. (laughter) Pathetic to cry at work. But I cried all the way home. It was emotional. It was special.”
Q: Did you keep the jumper?
Sofie Grabol: “Yes.”
Q: We’ll come back to the jumper.
Sofie Grabol: “Oh, what a relief.” (laughter)
Q: I tweeted out last night and said, ‘You might have some questions.’ And so I got a lot of questions. But before we come to the jumpers, of which there are many…the first came from someone called @gwizardry who said, ‘Is there any way possible we can get a fourth series agreed. We can use UK taxes if necessary?’ Is it really the end? Is there a glimmer of a crack open for a return?
Soren Sveistrup: “Er, no. No, no. I think I’ve said it before, but it’s been a great party, this The Killing party. We had great fun and it’s been very, very hard. But we agreed from the start that it wasn’t going to be a never-ending story. We weren’t going to be rich, we agreed. We weren’t going to make any money. Actually, we’re very proud of what we did and these stories, they speak for themselves. And I’d hate it to just be another show, another mass produced show, ongoing and not really reflecting anything.”
Q: So that’s a no?”
Piv Bernth: “Yeah, but I think you should appreciate the courage to stop. I think that’s important. It takes courage to stop something which is a success in that way. I think that’s great.”
Soren Sveistrup: “Yeah, but also I think we could make another one thousand episodes of Sarah Lund cases. I think you could do that. But they wouldn’t be good ones. The problem with television – there’s no quality of television. It isn’t about quality. It’s about something…I don’t know what it is. Maybe only entertainment.”
Q: But that’s something that you came into this whole process thinking?
Soren Sveistrup: “Yes. Because I’m provoked. Really I think that so much television stinks. It doesn’t have to. It’s a perfect medium. Why not use it for something good? Why not use it for making cinema? Or something with just a little bit of content, exciting issues. The whole problem…when I started writing for television about 10 years ago, it was still…I think it talked down to people. You had to be stupid to look at some of those shows. That was a recipe. The recipe was a hospital, a good-looking doctor or…I’m sure you could write it now. You all know that kind of recipe. That’s the whole problem. If something gets to be a success, for example The Killing, then it just re-generates…it gets too big for itself. And then we are going to be the next recipe. It has to be smashed by some guy, maybe from Finald coming to…I think it’s very, very important to try to reinvent yourself because there are so many traps and compromises in our daily lives. If you can just do something and then be proud of it and then try not to…that would be fine.”
Q: Because when you pitched the original story to DR (who make The Killing) you didn’t even tell them it was a police procedural, did you?
Soren Sveistrup: “No. There was another police show at the time. Piv told me, ‘Soren, please, don’t mention much about…the whole word police, please don’t.’ So we called it…?? investigation, destiny drama.”
Piv Bernth: “We actually called it, ‘The Story of a Murder.’ That was the working title at the beginning. So it was a story about people who were influenced by a murder that happens in a city. And then we slowly turned it into The Killing.”
Soren Sveistrup: “But nmy personal pleasure doing this has been to work with you guys (Piv and Sofie) because it has been very personal and built on relationships. All the opinions from Piv and from Sofie. I mean, of course, we’ve had our battles and I think a lot of people would say, from the whole crew, they’d say, ‘OK, they’re really fighting today.’ But for us it wasn’t a fight that bad. It was just opinions thrown by that person.”
Sofie Grabol: (Smiling) “We actually had one meeting, in this third season we had this female director called Natasha Arthy – and really great. The way it goes is that Soren writes the script and we all gather to read it together, the cast and the director, the writers and Piv. And then after that we have meetings…each plot, the main actors from the police plot, from the political plot and the third plot have meetings with the writers and the directors there. And it was like her first day at school. And we had a great meeting that day. And we had great discussions. And, yeah, I left the meeting and thought, ‘Whoo, that was…cheeks are burning but, you know, it was…”
Soren Sveistrup: “You slammed the door. I remember.”
Sofie Grabol: “No, no. That’s not true” (laughter)
Soren Sveistrup: “Actually, she slammed the door. And then from the outside I heard her, ‘Oh sorry!’” (laughter)
Sofie Grabol: “It was the draught! It slammed like that! It was really a good meeting. And then I got home and at first I had some strange texts from this woman, saying, ‘Do you want to talk?’ (laughter) And then she phoned me at the evening and said, ‘I’m so sorry. I think we should try to pick you up after this. You must really, really, really feel terrible.’ And I was like, ‘What?’ Oh the tone. She was just in shock. And I was like, ‘That was a GOOD meeting!’ So yeah. Maybe we just know each other so well. That’s another gift as an actor anyway, to work on a longer running project, is that I know that you (Soren and Piv) know me and I can behave…I didn’t slam the door. But I could slam the door and it would be OK. It’s like a family that you can fight and you can show all your not so flattering sights. And you know that we’ll be seeing each other next family birthday or Christmas. And that’s how I feel about it…yeah.”
Q: It’s a very different way of working. You’re (Soren) producing a script at the last minute. You’re (Sofie) learning quickly and you’re doing 10 episodes of one story. It took the CSI model of…
Piv Bernth: “Yeah, but it is a matter of confidence as well. And that’s what you build from all these years we’ve been working together. Because we have the confidence, we know that it’s going to happen. I wouldn’t have the same confidence in other people as the one that we have built here. We’ve been working together ever since 2000 really, 2001. And it’s a lot of years and we’ve built that confidence in each other. And that’s why…it’s often a matter of timing and relations that makes things happen in this way, with the immense pressure we’ve all had. We’ve really had it in every department of the production, But, of course, very much on Soren because if he doesn’t deliver…so the pressure is very tough there. But it is confidence and relations that makes it work.”
Q: Piv, you’re now in control of Danish drama, which is, Krona for Krona, probably the world’s biggest drama hit factory around – The Killing, Borgen, The Bridge and so on. What principles are you trying to take from The Killing and push out into other projects? What are the principles that make Danish drama so astonishingly successful at the moment?
Piv Bernth: “But it’s the people. It’s not the principles, it’s the people. As you know, we’ve got excellent writers and, of course, Soren is the most exquisite and excellent writer we have just now. Soren has a saying which is very, very special, which is, ‘The best idea will always win.’ Whoever or whenever it comes. Which is the challenge, really. Because it could come the day before shooting, or the night before, the same morning…you can keep working. They have a dialogue going on all the time about every scene you’re in. And you can’t transfer that as a principle to other productions. There’s no other production in Danish Broadcasting where they work the way we do. It’s very special for us. And I’m not sure as Head of Drama I would allow anyone to do that. (laughter) Because we need deliverance for…but this is the way this show had come out. And the confidence between the whole writing staff, the actors, directors, the whole crew. Everybody. We have a saying, which is, ‘There is The Killing feeling’ in the production and the same people on the crew has come back to work with us again. So we haven’t frightened them totally for the first seasons. And that is a big gift. Because that means that this is possible, You don’t have to talk that much. They just know.”
Sofie Grabol: “But that’s just like soldiers returning home and us go back…the hell.”
Piv Bernth: “Yes, yes, that’s true. They have to fight this war anyway. So that is very special. So we’ve been lucky in having a lot of people around us who have been with us ever since the first episode.”
Q: Because the success of the show has been absolutely astonishing. Camilla coming for an on set visit? You didn’t think that when you started out? What did she say to you?
Sofie Grabol: “No. What did she say? (smiles) Really she was much more a Camilla than a Duchess, to me. Maybe it’s because, I mean you’re starstruck with your own royalties because you know them so well. I’m not that familiar with…I mean, I know your royal people but it’s not like…and she was just extremely sweet. But it was extremely surreal. Because we were all working and we couldn’t afford to…I mean, I think there was, ‘We can spare half an hour for this theatre that is suddenly happening.’ It’s like an extra big layer of fiction. (laughter) And the funny thing was that we were shooting out in the countryside, in an automobile mechanic place, really scrabby and not very…I told her to wear flat shoes. That was exciting…she’s going to wear flat shoes! And we are walking around with our guns and being policemen and suddenly the real policemen came, all these security people. We felt a bit foolish. (laughter) Ours were plastic. And then they roll up and everything is like a crazy rollercoaster for half an hour. And then they leave…”
Piv Bernth: “They actually stayed a little longer. The visit was scheduled for 35 minutes, I think. But they actually stayed for 50 minutes, which was completely fantastic for us. And the whole Special Branch and all the planning – they were shaking and screaming. But they enjoyed it so much. So it was nice.”
Sofie Grabol: “Charles said…he actually said, he told us that it was the only television programme over which him and Camilla didn’t fight about the remote control. That was very flattering.”
Piv Bernth: “The Killing brings people together.” (laughter)
Q: Because in Denmark you’re getting 65 per cent of the total amount of audience…are watching The Killing at the moment, which is just astonishing figures. And it means that everyone wants to know what’s happening. Your (Sofie) children are trying to find out what happens at the end of this series?
Sofie Grabol: “They don’t even watch it. My son is 11 but he’s trying so hard on a daily basis to get me to tell him who the killer is. And it’s like, he doesn’t even know any of the characters’ names or anything. But he just smells that this information would be good…”
Piv Bernth: “But now it turns around. As we are close to the ending now, we are airing episode eight on Sunday (Nov 11) in Denmark. And the closer we get to the ending, in the beginning they all said, ‘Hey, tell me who the killer is?’ And now, if they ask, you say, ‘OK, I’ll give you five minutes now and then I’ll tell you.’ And they say, ‘No, no, no, no, don’t, don’t…’ So it changes as soon as you get half way through.”
Sofie Grabol: “People are betting again. With money. And there’s odds on all the characters.”
Soren Sveistrup: “But actually, this time it’s different because we try to…we changed the story because we wanted to do something different. So it’s, as you can imagine because of the ending of this episode one, it takes a slightly new turn in episode two and so it’s not as easy to see the structure of the story yet, actually. And it will be different from what you’ve seen before. The betting companies are realising that, so they have a lot of strange…so don’t bet. Wait until maybe episode two, three and so on…”
Ben Preston then opened the session up for questions from the audience.
Q: For us as a British TV audience, the idea of a 10-part series…a 20-part series of The Killing part one, is just inconceivable. The most we can every manage is four or five episodes. But with The Bridge, Borgen and this – is it a long established principle that you can make such long series? Do you have to fight for the money? Do you have to argue for the benefit of having such a long series? Or is it a given with you?
Piv Bernth: “I can tell you that it’s more cheap to do more episodes. So we have to, because we haven’t got as much money as the BBC drama. We wish we had. But developing a series does cost a lot of money in establishing the whole pre-production and all that. So, for us, 10 episodes is the least we can do. And if we can do 20, 30, then we’ll be making a fortune out of that. That’s very nice. Borgen will be in 30 episodes. And then it makes sense. Even though we change the set and we change the visuality of The Killing III by being more on location and only one set in the studio, the police headquarters. But the rest is location. But for us it’s a matter of using the money in a good way, if the story can make it so long. So we were working very much on having stories that can make at least 10 episodes.”
Soren Sveistrup: “Also I think it’s a game. It’s a pact that you have with your audience. Because you can feel that, OK, there’s people like ourselves who think this game is funny. To do a murder chase where a perpertator has to be chased in 20 episodes or 10, it’s not given that that’s something people will like. And when we started off with series one there was a lot of criticism even before we started shooting because everybody said, ‘Are you nuts? Do you want to bore people? And this show will close down before we know who the killer is.’”
Ben Preston: “That was what they did in America…”
Soren Sveistrup: “Yeah, actually. But they didn’t stick to the script, did they?” (laughter)
Piv Bernth: “They changed it too much.”
Q: (From me, as it happens): Sofie – can I ask you to recall how you felt when you first received and read the final script for the very last episode and also did you agree with the decision, whenever that was made, as to where Sarah ends up at the conclusion of the series?
Sofie Grabol: “I actually knew what was going to happen to Sarah. Because that wasn’t a secret. But, yes, also that was emotional. Because that’s one point which I’m related to Sarah Lund or I am similar, is that I don’t get too easily carried away. Or I try to control my emotions. It was a day at work like any other day. It actually was.”
Soren Sveistrup: “I remember this entirely different…” (laughter)
Sofie Grabol: “No, please, what’s your version?”
Soren Sveistrup: “You were very emotional about it. Yes, yes.”
Piv Bernth: “Yes, yes. I remember too.” (laughter)
Sofie Grabol: “Did I slam the door…” (laughter)
Soren Sveistrup: “No, I’m so happy that you controlled your feelings that day.” (laughter)
Sofie Grabol: “Is it true I didn’t cry.”
Piv Bernth: “No you didn’t cry.”
Sofie Grabol: “I only blushed.”
Soren Sveistrup: “Yes, she blushed and then when Sofie blushes it’s simple enough…being…”
Sofie Grabol: “…emotional.”
Soren Sveistrup: “…being very emotional. Yes. Almost near to explosion. (laughter) Don’t say any more Soren, don’t say any more…and then the door slams. See you tomorrow!”
Sofie Grabol: “Of course it was emotional and it is emotional. But, again, also that’s something we’ve talked about before this success in the UK for The Killing, which has been amazing. I mean it’s made us so proud and you should see in all of the Danish papers – they’re so proud of us and we’re proud. To see it so well received here has just been really, really a great joy. But then, again, when you get home and start working, especially after we won the BAFTA, it was like a high point, it was an amazing evening. And then we flew back and actually did we have to go to work the day after or something?”
Piv Bernth: “No. We had. We were writing the scripts at that time for the third series.”
Sofie Grabol: “Oh, right. But anyway I remember that we talked about, ‘We have to forget this as soon as possible. Because there is a very short distance between being happy about praise and then feeling the fear of not being able to live up to it or to disappoint everyone. So that’s another thing that’s good about our high speed or high pace when we work, is that there just hasn’t been time to get really paralysed with fear and emotions. That’s what I meant. Had I had more time I think I would have more than blushed. But there wasn’t time.”
Q: I just wanted to ask Sofie which was her favourite storyline out of the three to film and why? Which series was your favourite? Which story?
Sofie Grabol: “To tell you the truth, I haven’t seen all of the episodes of season three…”
Piv Bernth: “The last episode isn’t finished yet. Sound and music.”
Sofie Grabol: “…so I can’t really…I mean, I like to think that this third one, I hope that that just tops it all. But I’m not…also we just finished making it. And like Piv say, it’s not really finished yet. So it’s hard for me to look at it objectively.”
Q: (Ben Preston) Soren, which one are you proudest of?
Soren Sveistrup: “No, I overheard this…Sofie doing an interview today. You said at a time today, you said it’s difficult to run away from number one, series one, because it’s the first one we did. When it’s the first time there’s a special magic with that. But it’s difficult really to know at this point. Yes. But I think the first series, of course, was…yes, it will always be the mark to us. Everything was so new. And that’s part of the problem of going on and on and on, making the series four, five and six. Because it’s difficult for me anyway to re-invent myself. It just gets a bit boring and all the freshness is gone. That’s really the gift you have when you start something…”
Q: Sofie – how hard an act will this be for you to follow because of the success and the way that everyone has taken it to heart? And how much will you miss playing Sarah?
Sofie Grabol: “I can’t follow it and I won’t even try. I’ve been working as an actor since I was 17 and I’m 44 now. And as an actor it’s so much in your DNA or your bones to constantly move forward. And that, to me, is the beauty about this work, is that you gather with other people around the project and the story, very intensely. And then you move on to something else and then you gather around that. So there is this constant…it’s very much in my bones to move on. It’s not hard for me to move on. But I must admit that this one is the hardest one I have moved on from. But I have moved on!”
Q: There’s a lot said here about the kind of Scandinavian crime tradition. There’s even a Radio 4 series all about it at the moment. I just wondered to what extent you felt that you were part of any kind of Scandinavian crime tradition? And what influences from that sort of genre might you feel or might have experienced?
Soren Sveistrup: “I think the whole genre and the Scandinavian noir is thanks to the late Stieg Larsson and we just happened to come along in the slipstream of that…actually it has never been our goal to look Scandinavian, especially as it’s been always to be something that other series…to be something new. But that’s the great thing about timing. All of a sudden we were mentioned alongside Stieg Larsson. He was actually the big breakthrough, in my opinion, and then we opened a lot of doors for other shows, of course. But it’s like you remember a few years ago everything was about South America…we couldn’t get enough of that for, I don’t know, 10 years. And then now it’s Denmark and Scandinavia. There’s some kind of fashion in it all. And then I think Denmark has a lot of talent. I don’t know why, actually, it’s proving now. And maybe for the first time in many, many years Danes are better at saying, ‘We’re good.’ Because usually Danes are used to saying the opposite, ‘We’re not that good.’ I don’t know. 20 years ago there wasn’t any self-confidence really I think. But today everything is more global thinking in Denmark. You don’t look to Sweden or Norway when you compare yourself with a show, you compare yourself with the best British shows, you compete with them, or you have the best US shows or French shows. That’s wonderful. That’s good for the Danish production people. But why? I can’t really say. Maybe just luck.”
Q: The second series has prompted this question. In the middle of the last decade there was a film in English, translated as Brothers about the Danish experience of the Afghan war. There’s been the very powerful documentary in Denmark, Armadillo. And the second series, obviously, an absolutely essential part of the background to the plot was the crazed conspiracy involving a cover-up, apparently, of murders of civilians by a Danish soldier. What impact has the war in Afghanistan had on Danish popular culture? Because it seems quite extraordinary to me that you have at least three quite significant works that have been broadcast widely in Britain and internationally, clearly influenced by the Afghan war. Is it in a sense Denmark’s cultural equivalent of Vietnam for the United States in the late sixties, early seventies?
Soren Sveistrup: “No. But I don’t think Denmark is done with the evaluation of that. We don’t know what…we’re still there. I’m sorry to say but it’s not really the big issue today in Denmark. Everything is about the financial crisis. Everything about Afghanistan, it stopped when the financial crisis hit us. And that’s very typical, I think. So now it’s a kind of forgotten war. And it will be…I’m sure you have the same problems here with your…”
Piv Bernth: “The thing was that the Afghan war, or the war against terror, was the first time Denmark actually had participated in a war since 1864. Because in the First World War we were neutral and in the Second World War we were occupied. And we were never into Korea or Vietnam. So it was the first time we actually had an Army outside Denmark since 1864. So it was quite remarkable. As Soren said, it was very remarkable. It really blew the mind, a lot of things. But not now…”
Q: Sofie – I immensely enjoyed your cameo in Absolutely Fabulous. Will we see you do any more comedy on these shores…in the UK?
Sofie Grabol: “Thank you so much. It was also a surreal experience. Because I’ve watched the show in Denmark years ago, when it was on. No, I don’t have any plans. It would be lovely though. I actually miss doing comedy. Although that one wasn’t a comical role for me. I was Sarah Lund.” (laughter)
Piv Bernth: “The thing is that you really should know that Sofie has done a lot of comedy in Denmark and until Sarah Lund was really famous for doing comedy, emotional women, very talkative and social. (laughter) So this was really a very different thing, because you did a lot of that.”
Sofie Grabol: “Yes.”
Piv Bernth: “So she can do it.”
Q: A question about the drama, strong character of Sarah and writing. (Couldn’t hear most of this question)
Soren Sveistrup: “Well, from the very beginning I knew this was going to be a thriller and I wanted there to be nasty scenes, maybe fighting scenes and in that field it works, so to speak, better to push a woman down the stairs, than a man. It’s just old school, old fashioned, but it’s really like that. As an audience we feel more with the woman. Nobody feels about the man today. That’s a whole another problem. (laughter) That was kind of why we wanted it to be a woman. And it’s difficult because everything is a cliche in that genre. But then we started to…I must say, especially Sofie that was very good at trying to look at ways to build the character that wasn’t a cliche. And tried to avoid in any way the biggest cliches, the ones I gave you. And I talked a lot about it, this route – because if it had to be a woman at least she would be silent. And I didn’t succeed in that. But now you know, it was a whole another character…did I do this?” (laughter)
Sofie Grabol: “But there are actually in Denmark anyway a lot of great roles for actresses. In my view. Yeah. Aren’t there?”
Piv Bernth: “Actually in Borgen as well and in The Legacy, the new one that’s coming. I think we have a tradition of putting women in front a bit. Even though we had a newspaper saying a couple of years ago that the Danes weren’t ready for a female prime minister – very weird in 2009. But now we have one. But actually, in stage plays it’s very often male leads and we never discuss that for 100 years. It’s always been male leads. Then suddenly because we have had 10 years of female leads everybody is wondering what’s happening, what’s going on. But I think we need to see what happens when women come into power or have strong jobs. There’s been a saying that if women ruled the world it would be totally different. I’m not so sure.”
Q: (Ben Preston) So we’re going to see some drama with strong men at home?
Piv Bernth: “Yes. It will be in 2015…”
Soren Sveistrup: “Just to answer seriously to the question. It wasn’t really a big deal that she was a woman. It was never an issue. It was just…that was why I liked the idea of the sweater – then we didn’t have to do all the cliches with the female sexuality. We could avoid those cliches.”
Piv Bernth: “We don’t have any sexism.”
Soren Sveistrup: “No, no, no. Also we saw a show you did many years ago, Prime Suspect. And that had a sexism issue which it did so well. And we made sure we wouldn’t go that way. But it never…it wasn’t a big deal that she was a woman. Actually we did what we could to make her more like a man. Yeah, we did. You (Sofie) invented a special walk, the John Wayne walk. (laughter) I feel I must say this so that people know that you’re actually walking very elegantly.”
Spoilers warning: DR Forbrydelsen site