Happily Eva after

Happily Eva after

By Michael Pickard
May 8, 2024


Allt och Eva (All & Eva) follows a woman who grows close to her sperm donor, without telling him she is carrying his baby. Director Johanna Runevad and producer Sofie Palage tell DQ about upending romcom expectations and why their partnership is the real love story.

At first glance, Swedish comedy-drama Allt och Eva (All & Eva) has all the hallmarks of a traditional romcom. Title character Eva meets Mads, they fall in love, move in together and are going to have a baby.

What makes this six-part series a particularly unusual story, however, is that none of those events happen in the order one would usually expect.

Eva (played by Tuva Novotny) is introduced as a woman who doesn’t believe in love. Instead, she thinks happiness lies in her love for herself and her friends – a philosophy that has served her well through her meticulously planned life.

When she decides to have a baby and visits a clinic in Copenhagen, Eva can’t help but be curious about who her sperm donor might be. She subsequently tracks down Mads (Joachim Fjelstrup), and finds he is normal, kind and nice – not a psychopath in any way – and she returns home to Stockholm pregnant. However, Mads can’t stop thinking about Eva and seeks her out, unaware she is carrying his child.

Debuting last month on Nordic streamer Viaplay following its world premiere at French television festival Series Mania, the series comes from writer-director Johanna Runevad (Falkenberg Forever, Vi Forever), who was keen to upend genre traditions with this “romcom in disguise.”

All & Eva stars Tuva Novotny as the title character, a woman who doesn’t believe in love

“I love clichés. They’re the greatest thing we have. But I wanted to do clichés with a twist,” she tells DQ. “I thought it would be fun to do a romcom and in the end have this feeling that it wasn’t what you thought it was. I love a romcom, but this is a weird romcom.”

The story is rooted in Swedish filmmaker Runevad’s own experience living in both Sweden and Denmark and her interest in telling a love story between two people from the neighbouring countries.

“But I wanted it to be super quirky,” she says. “In Denmark you have this super-loose sperm donation system where the more you pay, the more information you get about the donor. If you pay enough, you get the VIP treatment – a picture of the man, a handwritten letter, all the information you need – but you can’t meet the person.

“But I thought, if that was me, I would want to find out if he’s a psychopath. So Eva does.”

Producer Sofie Palage picks up: “The difference is that in Denmark the system is private, and in Sweden you can only get a donation through the public system. Then it’s for free, but you don’t get any information at all. That’s why Swedes who want sperm go to Denmark.”

“It’s so fun to fall in love with your sperm donor,” adds Runevad. “It’s so wrong but so convenient. They’re already the father.”

Across the six-part series, viewers follow Eva’s complicated relationship with Mads as she withholds her secret from both him and her friends and family. But notably, the focus of the series also falls on several supporting characters – including Eva’s friend James (Bengt Braskered) and mother Inger (Sissela Kyle) – as the story progresses.

The show comes from writer and director Johanna Runevad (right)

“When you meet a person, you think you know everything about them. It’s so easy for us to judge them,” Runevad says. “Eva is the way she is; she definitely thinks she’s living the right way and everyone else is living the wrong way, so I thought it was fun to not just see the characters from Eva’s perspective.

“I wanted to go into their lives, just for 10 minutes, so when we meet them again, we have another feeling about them. Also, I always want to make the supporting characters interesting enough that you could make a spin-off with them, so I started to write their lives. I couldn’t do that many TV series unfortunately, but I wanted to tell more [of their stories].”

Runevad and Palage were first introduced when Runevad worked with another Swedish director, Josephine Bornebusch, who has the same agent as Palage, a producer at Warner Bros International Television Production Sweden. Runevad put off their initial meeting, but when they were finally introduced, “it was love at first sight,” Palage says.

“This is the real love story,” jokes Runevad.

Behind the scenes, Runevad wrote and directed all six seasons, and she credits Bornebusch with leading the charge for female writer-directors in Sweden.

“Josephine did it very well, so I’m just following her,” she says, though her own creative process naturally leads her to take charge of writing every episode. “I would love to have someone to write with but it’s so hard because I don’t know what to write before I start writing it, so I could never give someone else the task. That’s why I love Sofie so much, because she makes it so easy for me to have all these hats. It makes me very good at my job.”

Eva becomes pregnant by a sperm donor, whom she then gets to know

“In the Swedish industry, we have a feature film auteur industry. That’s Ingmar Bergman’s legacy,” Palage notes. “But then we started doing television, we saw how they were doing it in America and, of course, it takes such a long time to write a series and direct and edit. What happens when it’s an auteur-driven television series is it just takes more time.

“You’ll often get the green light from the channels but then they say, ‘Here’s your delivery date.’ Then it’s impossible for one person to do the whole job. On the projects I make, the more auteur-driven projects, we have to be very clear when pitching about when we can deliver so we have a reasonable amount of time. But from a producer standpoint, it’s lovely because there can never be a conflict between the writer and director.”

For her part, Runevad values the “gift” of being able to take the creative lead across development and production of her projects. “When I write, I know how it’s supposed to be delivered by an actor,” she says. “That’s hard sometimes if it isn’t [written by her] but we had such an amazing cast and, actually, I was amazed by how all of them took the roles as I imagined them. I definitely write what I want to see.”

That cast is led by Novotny, whose previous TV credits include Dag, Nobel, Bonusfamiljen (Bonus Family) and Riget: Exodus (The Kingdom: Exodus), the 2022 sequel to Lars Von Trier’s 1990s supernatural classic. In fact, Novotny was in the conversation to play Eva from a very early stage, but neither the director nor the producer imagined they would be able to secure their “dream” casting. Then when they approached the actor to discuss the part, to their surprise and delight, she said yes.

“Tuva’s the greatest we have in Sweden. She’s such a force as a human and an actor,” Runevad says. “She takes it so seriously, she really needs to understand the character, and I have so much inside me so I’m giving a person to her, and then we make it hers.

Donor Mads (Joachim Fjelstrup) is unaware Eva is carrying his child

“We created this whole background for Eva. Why does she do what she does, and why did she end up here? We had the best time. It’s all about trust and instinct, and we really trusted each other. When it comes to humour, she really needs to trust that it’s going to be fun, because you don’t [think it is] on the 10th take. It was a really trusting relationship.”

Deciding which supporting characters would get additional screen time proved to be one of the biggest talking points between Runevad and Palage. “Just as making all the characters interesting was important, it was also important to choose these six characters to get their own arc,” says the producer. “That took a lot of time and energy.”

Beyond that, production was about managing time, particularly with Runevad writing and directing on her own and ensuring the scripts were locked before pre-production began. Such was the priority for the scripts to be completed that Runevad was sent to a hotel for several days to allow her to complete her work. Filming then took place in spring 2023.

“When I’m so alone, I really felt Sofie was my partner,” she says. “We did everything together; I could lean on her at any point and I feel like Sofie made my job easier. I could say what I wanted and dreamed about, and she made it and she trusted me. I don’t think that’s very common.”

“My way of working is it’s her idea, her show,” Palage adds. “My job is to make her do her vision the best and give her the best possibility to do it. I’m not imposing my ideas.”

As the series heads to its conclusion – Viaplay will drop the finale on May 18 – international audiences will also get the chance to follow Eva’s story after Viaplay Content Distribution sold the series to SBS in Australia, EITB in Spain, Vodafone TV in Greece and Pickbox for Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Slovenia and North Macedonia.

“My hopes are just that people like it. It’s not that complicated. I just want to feel seen and loved,” Runevad concludes. “It’s so fun to feel you can laugh together. It’s so fun that it seems like we found a tone that fits internationally, and it’s really hard to laugh in other languages because it’s often about the tone or the timing. But I tried to find universal feelings, so hopefully it works.”

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