Tag Archives: Sofia Helin

End of a Saga

As the final season of Bron/Broen (The Bridge) arrives in the UK, actors Sofia Helin and Thure Lindhardt, creator Hans Rosenfeldt and head writer Camilla Ahlgren reflect on the success of the internationally acclaimed series.

Swedish detective Saga Norén, portrayed on screen for seven years by Sofia Helin, has become one of television’s most iconic police officers. At once brilliant, straight-talking and socially awkward, she has become a figurehead of the Nordic noir wave that has captivated audiences since The Bridge first aired in 2011.

Yet it could have all been so very different. Had the writers not had a change of heart during those early days plotting season one, Saga would not have survived to see season two.

“In very early drafts, Saga died in episode nine,” series creator Hans Rosenfeldt reveals. “She was stabbed. It was actually one of our exec producers who said very early on that wasn’t going to happen, so we changed it.”

Hindsight, of course, is a wonderful thing and it is fascinating now to think how the series might have panned out had its lead character been killed off so early on. But thankfully the producers gave her a stay of execution – one that has continued to the end of season four and the show’s finale.

Viewers in Sweden and Denmark already know the fates of Saga and her Danish police partner Henrik Sabroe, played by Thure Lindhardt, as the eight-episode final run debuted in Scandinavia earlier this year. And now British viewers have the chance to see how it ends, with season four launching tonight on BBC2, having been promoted from the traditional Saturday night slot reserved for non-English drama on BBC4.

The start of The Bridge season four sees Saga in prison

Centring on what’s described as heart-stopping concluding case that tests the detectives’ special relationship to its limits both professionally and personally, season four opens when the body of a woman is found close to the titular Øresund bridge between Denmark and Sweden. It is found to be that of the head of the Danish immigration board. But since Saga has been jailed for the murder of her mother, Henrik must investigate the case with his new partner Jonas (Mikael Birkkjaer).

As is usually the case with Scandinavian dramas, contemporary themes loom large in the new season of The Bridge, which this time focuses on issues of identity.

“We always work with a double story – it’s a crime story and we also want to say something about our society,” explains head writer Camilla Ahlgren. “That’s why this season, with identity, we found we could apply it to Saga and Henrik’s characters.

Helin picks up: “Saga wonders, ‘Why do I live? What do I do here and who am I?’ I have a sense that taking away her police identity makes her go onto very shaky ground. That was a really interesting path to take.”

The story will also look at the effect of immigration on both Sweden and Denmark, conceived as it was at the height of the European refugee crisis that contributed to the Øresund bridge being changed from an open road to a strict border between the two countries.

“This is fiction, but we like to see what we can find to talk about in our society,” Ahlgren says. “Now with the bridge and a border that we’re not used to, that’s how it all started. We still have to show our ID when we go from Denmark to Sweden and it’s a very weird thing to do for me. You shouldn’t have to do that, in my opinion, but that’s how it is right now.”

Thure Lindhardt joined the cast as Henrik Sabroe in season three

Broadcasters in Scandinavia are keen that contemporary series have something to say about modern society, an attitude that Rosenfeldt says can add depth to the story and characters on screen.

“When we started to write season four, everything was about the refugee crisis in Sweden and Denmark, so it was obvious we had to touch it,” he says. “There are going to be a lot of topics in there across eight hours, but we started with that one because it was so obvious that, if we were going to do a cross-border thing for the fourth time, we couldn’t just ignore the fact the bridge has a slightly different meaning today than it had in 2011 when it was a road to freedom and Europe. Now it’s actually a border.”

Produced by Filmlance International in Sweden and Nimbus Film in Denmark, the drama is distributed worldwide by Endemol Shine International and has been remade in six territories, most recently via a copro between Singapore and Malaysia.

And the story that runs through season four, in which viewers will discover more about Saga and Henrik’s backgrounds, also contributed to the decision to end The Bridge at its peak, rather than continuing to bring the characters back and risk devaluing the success of the show.

“There are very few series that actually create a peak in season five, six or seven,” Rosenfeldt says. “They tend to go the other way. So we said let’s not be one of those shows where people say, ‘Oh, The Bridge is still on. I loved the first ones.’ Let’s not be that series. Let’s make four really good shows and then say this is it, this is the story we have to tell. Not everything has to go on forever.”

Following the departure of Saga’s original Danish partner Martin (played by Kim Bodnia) in season two, Lindhardt joined the cast in season three. “I wasn’t really worried [about joining the show],” he says. “I got this script and I read this character and immediately I wanted to play that part. My outlook was more how to interpret this character who was so brilliantly written.

Helin and Lindhardt film scenes for the show’s final outing

“I was pretty lucky that no one knew who Saga’s new partner was, so I had nine great months where I could work privately, creating the character without having to answer any questions about how it was to follow someone else.”

That was also partly down to the writers, who initially set Saga up with strong-willed detective Hanne Thomsen (Kirsten Olesen), whose relationship with Saga immediately became hostile. Henrik was introduced concurrently with a mysterious storyline relating to his wife and children, and was only partnered with Saga several episodes into the story.

“A lot of people thought she actually got a female partner but didn’t like her, which is away from how she was with a male character who liked her,” says Rosenfeldt, who is also the creator of ITV thriller Marcella. “So I think we tricked people there and they got interested in Henrik for other reasons and then, oh, he’s a cop as well. It eased the transition to not have him there in the first scene together with Saga.”

Though both Henrik and Saga return for season four, one noticeable change is the fact the main investigation is set in Denmark, rather than in Sweden’s Malmö as it has been for the previous three seasons, which meant a new police station setting for the cast and crew.

“But the biggest change, what we’ve never done before, is we left the city for this small village that we see at the very end. We’ve never done that before because we’re not big fans of nature,” Rosenfeldt jokes, with a nod towards the series’ trademark dark and brooding city landscapes. “It’s pretty, it’s green and has trees and you can see squirrels. But it was a really depressing village. So that’s a big set for us, a big change – a completely new location but also nature.”

So long to the city and so long to The Bridge. Saying goodbye to the series was “emotional, not difficult,” Helin adds. “I’m happy with the ending and kind of relieved and content. So I feel happy but a bit of separation sadness from friends and colleagues.

“I’m not sad because I can talk to her at any minute,” she says of her character. “For anyone else, they have to see the series from the beginning. I was so satisfied with the brilliant ending so I’m not sad, I’m proud.”

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Final crossing

After four seasons starring in Swedish/Danish smash-hit series Bron/Broen (The Bridge), Sofia Helin is setting up her own shows and helping to coordinate a protest about the way women are treated in the film and TV business in Sweden.

As Nordic noir continues to ride a wave of global popularity, one show still stands taller than the rest. Wallander and Forbrydelsen (The Killing) came before it and new dramas will surely follow it, but until something repeats its international success, Broen/Bron (The Bridge) is arguably the biggest hit to come out of the Scandinavian crime genre.

Central to its success has been Sofia Helin’s star turn as Saga Norén, a brilliant yet unorthodox Swedish detective who teams up with her Danish counterpart to solve a series of gruesome murders discovered around the Øresund Bridge that links Malmö in Sweden to Danish capital Copenhagen.

Helin is now well known around the world thanks to her iconic role in a series that will conclude after its fourth season, which began on New Year’s Day on Denmark’s DR and Sweden’s SVT.

“Of course I cried on the last day [of filming], we all did. It’s been an amazing journey, a long journey, a deep journey, a hard journey,” Helin says of working on the show, which first aired in 2011. “My daughter was one year old when we started and now she’s eight, so it’s been a [significant] period of my life and it has opened so many doors. I learned so much from it. It feels good to say goodbye but I will always have it very close to my heart.”

Sofia Helin has starred in The Bridge as Saga Norén for four seasons

The actor says she is now considering what to do next. She has already crossed borders to star in The Same Sky, a German-produced spy thriller set during the Cold War. “That’s where I am now, thinking what can I do with this platform. I’ve come to the conclusion I love being a storyteller and I love being a part of the process.

“I’ve learned so much by developing The Bridge more and more each season that I feel now I have to move on and use that, so that’s what I’m doing. I’ve also been longing to work together with other female actors. For a long time, the industry has looked like five men and one woman in the middle like a jewel, so I look forward to working with my female colleagues.”

To that end, Helin is already developing two new projects. The first, Get Naked, is described as a comedy about female sexuality, particularly focusing on older women. Miso Film is producing alongside distributor FremantleMedia International.

“After a certain age, women just disappear,” Helin states. “If you go into a store and you see all the newspapers, you see there are no mature women. They’ve just vanished. Mature women’s sexuality is just invisible, but we have it and it’s a strong power.

“Our inspiration for that show is [HBO hit] Girls, which does the same thing but with younger women. It’s about four characters and they are all having problems and issues. It starts with them being all by themselves thinking about this topic, and they come together to talk about it and do something about it.”

Helin as as Lauren Faber in German-produced The Same Sky

The second project, Heder (Honour), is a thriller set in a law firm that works with victims of sexual crimes. Helin created the series with fellow actors and executive producers Julia Dufvenius, Anja Lundqvist and Alexandra Rapaport, who all star. It is produced for Discovery by Bigster and distributed by Eccho Rights.

“They have a common past that brings them together for life that they try to avoid,” Helin explains of the show’s characters. “The big philosophical question is: is it possible to pay for your guilt or what you’ve done by doing good things? Also, the word ‘honour’ is chosen specifically because when you are harassed or raped, someone takes your inner honour from you, and when you say, ‘That’s not right what you did to me,’ it’s a redemption process.”

Honour is a particularly timely piece, coming in the wake of the sexual misconduct allegations coming out of Hollywood and elsewhere in the film and television business and the #MeToo campaign on social media, both of which have had a big impact in Sweden.

Helin has been a particularly vocal supporter of the #tystnadtagning (#silenceaction) movement, which saw almost 600 Swedish actresses sign a letter calling out the Swedish film and TV industry for failing to protect women from sexual abuse.

“It started with #MeToo and then, after a while, a few of us actresses felt we had to say something publicly about what it’s like in our business,” she recalls. “We started writing on Facebook, just like 10 of us, and then in 36 hours we had more than 1,000 members. So many horrible stories were written on this group, so we realised we had to do something more – to tell the world about our world – so we started a revolution, you could say.

The Bridge is currently in its final season

“We want to change the industry from the ground up. Just stop behaving like that. For all of us, it’s a new way of looking at the world so we have to learn together. It’s not a matter of us and them, it’s about doing it together. Hopefully it’s going to spread throughout the world so we can start talking about this without just blaming and having a war.

“But I’m a bit worried that it will soon be yesterday’s news, which is why we have to keep working and take responsibility for this, what’s happened. I think at least in Scandinavia this is a revolution, and I think it is in Hollywood also.”

This isn’t the only movement taking place in Sweden, however, with Helin identifying another change in society that has come to light through the making of The Bridge.

“This season is about identity and it’s been so amazing, and sad also, to go through this period because when we started the show, the bridge was a symbol of gathering,” she concludes. “It was an open bridge where you could go between countries. The cities of Malmö and Copenhagen were growing together and there was a very positive feeling around the bridge.

“Now it’s a bridge we use to close the border, to control our countries. It’s where many tragic events happen because people aren’t let in. It’s a completely different situation to when we started so this season will reflect that, of course. It’s still The Bridge, but you have to move with society.”

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Creative focus

As Content London 2017 comes to an end, it’s clear that talent is now in greater demand than ever. But while a host of A-list names attended the three-day event, delegates also learned about a community of new writers with stories ripe for adaptation.

In its fifth year, C21Media’s Content London this week was bigger than ever before, bringing together more than 1,500 people from across the scripted television business for the International Drama Summit.

Panel sessions covered every corner of the industry, from the challenges facing distributors and how drama producers are changing, to ever-evolving market forces, uncovering new sources of financing and the secret to working with SVoD players.

Speakers were drawn from every major company in the sector, including FremantleMedia, Banijay, Endemol Shine and ITV Studios. Commissioner panels featured the BBC, Channel 4, SVT, DR, YLE, Starz, AMC, HBO, Epix, YouTube and Netflix.

The Alienist star Luke Evans discusses the TNT show

Executives hailing from Spain, Germany, France, Brazil and Australia also took to the stage to discuss their domestic markets and their strategy on the international scene.

Unsurprisingly, one of the biggest draws at the three-day event, which finished today, was Swedish actor Sofia Helin, who discussed her career, the legacy of Bron/Broen (The Bridge) and new projects including Heder (Honour).

Helin’s appearance capped a line-up that focused heavily on the creative side of making television drama – and with good reason. As more and more money is made available to producers – through coproductions, SVoD players with money to burn and new funding companies ready to invest – financing is available to meet the high-end budgets dramas now demand. The talent attached to a project is now paramount, with the number of shows in development and production meaning actors, writers, directors and other key creatives are more in-demand than ever.

At Content London, Agyness Deyn, discussing her first television role, Jim Sturgess and Nikki Amuka Bird spoke about starring in six-part drama Hard Sun. Adrian Lester joined delegates to watch the world premiere of new ITV drama Trauma (pictured top), which is written by Doctor Foster’s Mike Bartlett.

Wattpad Studios’ Aron Levitz takes to the stage

David Morrissey showcased BBC2’s The City & The City, Kim Rossi Stuart talked Italian hit Maltese Luke Evans joined a case study of The Alienist, which examined US cablenet TNT’s forthcoming period drama.

Writers and directors also taking part included Neil Cross (Hard Sun), Hossein Amini and James Watkins (McMafia), Kari Skogland (The Handmaid’s Tale), Marc Evans (Trauma), Harry and Jack Williams (Liar, The Missing), Jakob Verbruggen (The Alienist), Geoffrey Wright (Romper Stomper), Tony Grisoni (The City & The City, Electric Dreams), David Farr (Electric Dreams) and Jon Cassar (Medici).

In a separate session, Helin was also joined by fellow actors Alexandra Rapaport and Julia Dufvenius to talk about Heder (Honour), which they have created and executive produced together with Anja Lundqvist, another actor.

The focus on creative talent inevitably led to the subjects of packaging and when to attach talent to projects, with ‘the sooner the better’ emerging as the general consensus.

Netflix’s Elizabeth Bradley (right) with Jane Featherstone of Sister Pictures

Euston Films MD Kate Harwood revealed how the BBC snapped up Hard Sun before star names such as Deyn, Sturgess and Amuka Bird were cast in the lead roles, though commissioning the next series from Luther creator Cross was unlikely to be a difficult decision.

In such a congested market, talent is the quickest way for a show to make some noise. For most, however, there just isn’t enough to go around. That’s why it was encouraging to hear the Williams brothers discussing their forthcoming slate, which features series White Dragon and Cheat, both for UK broadcaster ITV and both coming from first-time writers.

With more than 10 years in the business, and being responsible for some of the most talked-about and compelling series of recent time, Harry and Jack Williams are now using their experience in the business to bring forward new voices – something broadcasters always say they are keen to do but rarely act upon.

In their bid to nurture new TV talent, commissioners and producers could also do a lot worse than sign up for a Wattpad account. The social media storytelling platform has a community of 60 million writers and readers, and the company is drawing data down to find the biggest hit stories and working with their creators and partners including NBCUniversal and Universal Cable Productions to bring them stories to screen. With more than 400 million stories uploaded every month in more than 50 languages, Wattpad looks set to become the next major player in the content revolution.

As Netflix warned that its seemingly limitless pot of money might not be enough to lure some series from emerging competitors such as Apple, Facebook and YouTube, talent will be more coveted than ever. In the words of Artists Studio co-founder Justin Thomson Glover: “You don’t know how exciting a project is until a script comes in and you have the talent and director.”

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The Sky’s the limit

A story of divided families and a divided city, Der gleiche Himmel (The Same Sky) unwraps several different strands taking place in Berlin in 1974.

East German agent Lars (Tom Schilling) is sent to West Berlin as a ‘Romeo’ agent on a mission to seduce high-ranking British intelligence officer Lauren (Sofia Helin). Elsewhere, gay teacher Axel (Hannes Wegener) takes dramatic steps to escape the oppressive East German regime, and Lars’s cousin Klara (Stephanie Amarell), a talented swimmer, proves she is willing to do anything to join the East’s Olympic team by taking pills that produce disturbing side effects.

Speaking to DQ TV, actors Helin, Schilling, Friederike Becht and writer Paula Milne reveal the origins of the drama and the challenges associated with producing this six-hour series.

It is produced by UFA Fiction, Rainmark Films and distributor Beta Films for German broadcaster ZDF and is due to debut next month. It will also air on Netflix.

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Women who walk the global stage

Gillian Anderson in The Fall
Gillian Anderson in The Fall

Ever since she first portrayed Agent Dana Scully in The X-Files, Gillian Anderson has been one of the world’s best-loved and most accomplished TV actresses.

Equally at home in costume dramas (Great Expectations, War & Peace) and contemporary thrillers (Hannibal), Anderson always turns in good performances and attracts strong ratings. Right now, she is winning yet more acclaim for her performance as DSI Stella Gibson in BBC drama The Fall. Next year, she will feature in Starz’ adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods.

One of the most notable characteristics of Anderson’s career is her appeal to audiences around the world. So this week, to celebrate Anderson’s latest outing, we look at a group of TV actresses who have broken through internationally – or are about to do so.

Maslany-orphan-black-orphan-blackTatiana Maslany is a Canadian actress who has came to prominence with clone drama Orphan Black, which will end in 2017 after five seasons. This year, she took home an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. One of the most exciting things about Maslany’s work in Orphan Black is that she has had to play multiple characters with distinctive personalities and traits – thus proving her versatility. Her next two projects are movies, one of which, Stronger, is about the Boston Marathon bombing. She has also expressed a desire to do more theatre. But when she returns to TV it will inevitably be something special.

perroni-la-gataMaite Perroni is a telenovela star with more than three million Twitter followers. She shot to stardom a decade ago when she featured in Rebelde, the Mexican remake of Argentine telenovela Rebelde Way. By 2009, she had been named the new queen of telenovelas by Univision and continues to perform at the top of her game. Perroni has now starred in seven telenovelas, including acclaimed series La Gata. More recently she has starred in Televisa’s hit series Antes Muerta Que Lichita (I’d Rather Be Dead than Plain), for which she won a high-profile Best Lead Actress Award.

sofiegrabolSofie Grabol’s breakthrough in Denmark came courtesy of series like Taxa and Nikolai and Julie. But her status as one of the world’s top TV actresses was confirmed when she played Detective Sarah Lund in The Killing (Forbrydelsen). Over the course of three seasons (2007-2012), she was a major factor in the success of Nordic noir around the world. Illness took her off TV in 2013 but she made a welcome return in 2014 as Hildur Odegard in English-language drama Fortitude. She will be back for season two of Fortitude, which is due to air on Sky Atlantic soon.

miriam-leone-non-uccidere-replicaMiriam Leone was crowned Miss Italia in 2008. But since then, the Sicilian actress has gone on to become one of Italy’s best-known TV actresses. Key credits include Distretto Di Polizia, The Veiled Lady, 1992 and Non Uccidere, in which she plays female detective Valeria Ferro. Leone also appears in one episode of the forthcoming drama epic Medici: Masters of Florence, a production that will introduce her to the wider world of TV.

Happy-ValleySarah Lancashire must surely qualify for the “national treasure” status that has previously been bestowed on British actresses such as Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith and Judi Dench. Her electrifying performance in the BBC crime drama Happy Valley is the crowning achievement in a career that stretches back to the 1980s. Her first big role was as Raquel Wolstenhulme in Coronation Street – a part that displayed her comic genius. Subsequently, she has appeared in dozens of shows including Clocking Off, Rose & Maloney, The Paradise and Last Tango in Halifax. Although Happy Valley wasn’t set up to be an international series, its success in distribution proves Lancashire has a fanbase that extends well beyond the UK.

hellin-the-bridgeSofia Helin’s performance as Saga Noren in The Bridge is one of the most admired pieces of TV acting of recent years. The Swedish-Danish coproduction, which has been aired around the world, currently runs to three seasons and Helin will be back for a fourth (and probably final) outing. Prior to The Bridge, Helin’s main credits were series such as Arn: The Knight Templar and Svaleskar. Even if The Bridge is over, the good news is that Helin will be seen again in Oliver Hirschbiegel’s new drama The Same Sky, which is set in Berlin in the 1970s. She will also be seen in The Snowman, a British movie adaptation of Jo Nesbo’s classic Harry Hole novel.

Scandal-pic-season-2-pic-7WashingtonKerry Washington carved out a superb movie career (Ray, The Last King of Scotland, Django Unchained) before coming to prominence as a TV actress in the ABC drama Scandal. As political fixer Olivia Pope, she has been nominated for two Primetime Emmys and a Golden Globe. Washington’s versatility as an actress was further demonstrated when she played Anita Hill in HBO’s 2016 TV movie Confirmation. Again, she received an Emmy nomination. In April 2016, her production company Simpson Street signed an overall deal with ABC Studios, though there is no news yet on projects. “Kerry Washington is not only a great actress but a smart, creative producer, and we’re thrilled to have her production company Simpson Street as part of ABC Studios,” said Patrick Moran, executive VP of ABC Studios. “We’re looking forward to making great TV with Kerry in front of and behind the camera.”

rebeccagibneyRebecca Gibney is a New Zealand-born actress who has carved out a successful career on Australian TV over the last three decades. Key credits include The Flying Doctors, Halifax f.p., Packed to the Rafters and, most recently, Wanted. In Wanted, Gibney and co-star Geraldine Hakewill play two strangers from very different backgrounds who are caught up in a deadly carjacking. They’re then forced to rely on each other as they go on the run. The six-part series rated pretty well in February/March 2016 and has been picked up for a second season (also six parts).

The-Tunnel-Intro-02-16x9-1Clemence Poesy is still known to many as a cute French girl from the Harry Potter movies. But she proved her prowess as a serious actress when she starred in The Tunnel, the Anglo-French remake of The Bridge. Trying to compete with Sofia Helin’s performance was a tough ask, but Poesy pulls it off beautifully as Elise Wasserman. She reprised the role of Elise this year in a second series of The Tunnel. Next up are two movies, Final Portrait and Demain Tout Commence. There’s no news yet of future TV plans. Previous TV credits include Birdsong, an adaptation of Sebastian Faulks’ novel where she played opposite Eddie Redmayne.

ku_damm_56-michelsen-centreClaudia Michelsen is a well-known German actress who recently impressed in Ku’damm 56, a TV miniseries produced by UFA for ZDF. After attracting an audience in excess of six million, the 1950s set series has been recommissioned (Ku’damm 59). Michelsen (pictured centre) has been consistently busy since the late 1980s on both TV movies and series. For much of the last decade she featured in the popular crime drama series Tatort. More recent credits include Flemming, Block B Under Arrest and Crossing Lines. She also appears in the first episodes of new Epix drama Berlin Station.

pauleypPauley Perrette plays eccentric forensic scientist Abby Sciuto on CBS hit series NCIS, making appearances in its various franchises. Prior to NCIS, she played roles in shows like Dawson’s Creek and 24. Interestingly, Perrette is one of the most popular actresses in the US when measured by Q Scores (a measurement of the familiarity and appeal of brands and celebrities that is taken very seriously by the advertising and media community). Perrette is pretty modest about her popularity and has shown no desire to quit NCIS (in fact, she has signed on for seasons 14 and 15). But when she does decide to move on, she’ll be in heavy demand.

korelBerguzar Korel has been one of Turkey’s leading actresses for much of the last decade. Her big break came in 2006 with Valley of the Wolves: Iraq. After this she had major roles in 1001 Nights (Binbir Gece) and Endless Song (Bitmeyen Sarki). A guest appearance in Magnificent Century was then followed by another triumph with ATV’s hit series Karadayi. The latter series, which aired from 2012 to 2015, saw Korel pick up a number of best actress awards.

Choi-Ji-WooChoi Ji-woo is known around the world for acclaimed Korean dramas such as Beautiful Days (2001) and Winter Sonata (2002). But she is still very much in business, starring in recent series such as Twenty Again (2015) and Woman With a Suitcase (2016). In the latter, which started airing in September, she plays a woman who goes from being a disgraced manager at a law office to a great attorney. Like all the greats, Choi Ji-woo is very versatile, equally comfortable taking on serious, romantic or comedic roles.

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