Five Minutes With: Sofia Helin
Sofia Helin, the Swedish star of drama series including The Bridge and Atlantic Crossing, discusses her move behind the camera after partnering with Scandinavian production company Nordic Drama Queens.
Swedish actor Sofia Helin is best known to audiences around the world as Saga Norén, the idiosyncratic lead character of Nordic crime drama Bron/Broen (The Bridge). Her list of international drama credits also includes playing Norwegian Crown Princess Märtha, who stole the heart of US president Franklin D Roosevelt, in International Emmy-winning period drama Atlantic Crossing, and season two of Australian drama Mystery Road, while she will soon be seen in Swedish drama Limbo and crime series Sanningen (Fallen).
Viaplay series Limbo (pictured above) is about three friends (played by Helin, Rakel Wärmländer and Louise Peterhoff) whose kids are all in a car accident together, and how that strains their relationships with each other. In Sanningen, commissioned by C More, TV4 and ZDF, Helin plays Iris Broman, the new head of the Kalla Fall, a cold-case unit in Malmö. After a tragedy, she moves from Stockholm to the small town of Ystad, where a cold case threatens upturn the lives of several people in the search for the truth.
More recently, Helin’s attention has been drawn behind the camera with creative roles on thriller Heder (Honor) and Lust. She also co-created and starred in the latter series, playing a woman leading a government study about middle-aged women’s sex lives.
The actor has now signed a multi-year first-look deal that will see her co-develop a slate of film and television projects with Scandinavian production company Nordic Drama Queens, which was founded in 2021 by Sandra Harms (who produced Lust), Josefine Tengblad and Line Winther Skyum Funch. The company is backed by US producer and distributor Fifth Season.
Here, Helin speaks to DQ about her production plans, the kinds of stories she wants to tell, and why, after four seasons of The Bridge, she’s ready to play a cop again.
How did you come to partner with Nordic Drama Queens?
I developed this longing [to work behind the camera] over many years. I’ve tried out variations and models for it. While doing that, Sandra and I have been working together for a long time. When they created Nordic Drama Queens, it was natural to keep working together, so I’m very excited. I feel like I have a home now. I have ideas. With Honour, I left for various reasons, learned a lot and now know what I want to do and what I need to decide on before I do something. I’m just grateful and happy.
What do comedies like Lust or dramas like Honour say about the kinds of stories you want to tell?
I don’t have a preference when it comes to genres – it’s anything that turns me on creatively. We’re doing one feature and one series at the moment. Of course, more will come. Sandra, Josefine and Line are all so experienced, have so many contacts and know how to do it so fast and effectively, so it’s a blessing to work with them.
How is your partnership taking shape?
They are just so open. That’s their quality, aside from the technical side of the process. That’s why Sandra was so open to Lust. She understood that if you want something authentic, you have to really talk from a place where you can speak about life. So if I do that, everything is possible. I feel very free now.
Are you still looking for acting roles?
They [Nordic Drama Queens] see that as the benefit of having an actor who is developing as a producer, to have two hats on. My actor role will always come first because I work as an actor. That’s the plan.
Limbo [which debuted on Viaplay on February 12] and Fallen are both done. Then I’m going to shoot something in the UK – I can’t tell you what yet, but it’s going to be fun. I have the ultimate freedom. It’s like being in a partnership without having to be faithful.
How did you come to work on Limbo?
I was so blessed during Covid that I could work in Stockholm mostly, and a little bit in Oslo. The director of Limbo [Sofia Adrian Jupither] is a dear friend of mine, she’s a theatre director, so working with her on a serious drama was a dream, to have someone with that depth when it comes to portraying people. She’s an [Norwegian playwright Henrik] Ibsen expert and she has done all the operas. That was so much joy. We also had the photographer [Carl Sundberg] from Atlantic Crossing and The Bridge, so it was a wonderful reunion.
I’m curious to see what the reaction will be, because it’s quite a serious setup. The three friends end up in a terrible situation and it’s about what happens to their relationships. I’m super proud of Rakel [who wrote the series with Emma Broström], who just went for it. There are so many opportunities for actors nowadays.
With Sanningen, you also reunited with The Bridge writer Camilla Ahlgren.
It’s lovely because you don’t have to start all over again. You can communicate and you know how the other person functions and what they like and don’t like. The producer, Anna Wallmark, put together a beautiful team. The director [Linnéa Roxehelm] has done TV series and things before but not on this scale, but she has a poetic tone to her eye and humour.
It’s a cold-case drama. The premise for the main character I play is quite brutal. While doing it, we could all feel, ‘Wow, this is brutal,’ and then it’s about how she copes. How do you move on from that amount of guilt? That was my entrance to the project. The director gave me tremendous freedom to explore and do whatever I wanted. She followed me down this rabbit hole. Iris is a fucked-up person – that’s always interesting.
You weren’t put off by playing another cop?
At first [after The Bridge], I just said, ‘Never again.’ But then I realised this is something completely different. The audience obviously love crime mysteries, so it would be absurd to never play a cop again in this business. And it’s been a while. I don’t think people who saw The Bridge will think she’s anything like her; they’re completely different.
What have you learned about the creative process that you hope to build on?
I’ve learned a lot about communication, about setting out the goal clearly together and knowing what to prioritise at every step. What is the most important thing when telling the story? What is the number-one priority? What does the goal look like? It’s hard in a creative process because that’s what it is, a process, but communicating a lot is very important.
That’s the case with all collaborations, but especially when it’s something that’s not a fixed thing. I also love working together with writers. It’s hard sometimes – you have to have patience, you have to be without prestige, you have to compromise. But when I find a good collaboration with a writer, they just take everything I give them and they use what they can. Then it works.
The series I’m doing in the UK, I’m not involved in the script. It’s quite fixed. Then I’m just going to do my thing. But when I’m invited a bit earlier, like with Limbo and Fallen, I say what I think and I ask questions before I say yes. If I don’t understand, I don’t do it. But most people are grateful for the questions and opinions. It doesn’t always end up the way I plan but, in that creative meeting, something else can happen.
Line described you as a producer with a keen eye for talent.
I enjoy putting people together, but I didn’t know that was a producer’s skill. I just love seeing two creative people meeting and having a spark. That’s why this business is so beautiful, even though it’s now so much about money and business. The foundation is humans working together, creating something.