Under no illusions

Under no illusions

By Michael Pickard
March 15, 2024


Actor and producer Alexandra Rapaport tells DQ about her love of crime series and why she was attracted to playing the protagonist in Swedish supernatural thriller Veronika, in which the title character is haunted by visions that might relate to a recent murder.

Alexandra Rapaport loves crime drama, whether she’s playing a mother drawn into the criminal underworld in Gåsmamman, a lawyer fighting for the victims of sex crimes in Heder (Honour) or a prosecutor called on to solve crimes in picturesque mystery-drama The Sandhamm Murders.

So when the Swedish star and her partners at production company Bigster were presented with the idea behind her latest project, Veronika, she was immediately taken by the idea of a series that blends crime with elements of the supernatural.

Rapaport plays police officer Veronika Gren, a mother-of-two who is struggling with her complicated family life and a secret pill addiction. When strange things start to happen and a dead boy appears in front of her, she thinks she’s lost her mind.

Reluctantly, she is forced to accept the boy is not an illusion – and soon finds herself involved in a murder investigation that goes deeper than anyone in town would like to believe when she learns about the murder of two teenage girls. She then determines to find the link between the two cases before the killer can strike again, but will anyone believe her?

Norwegian actor Tobias Santelmann (Exit) co-stars as Veronika’s husband Tomas, with other cast members including Arvin Kananian, Olle Sarri, Isac Calmroth, Per Graffman, Sarah Rhodin, Wilma Lidén and Eddie Eriksson Dominguez.

Alexandra Rapaport as the lead character in Veronika

“It’s a magnificent crime story and it has a smartness to it, and when you see how everything is put together in the end, it’s a really smart plot,” Rapaport tells DQ. “I really love that kind of crime. Crime is my speciality, and different genres around crime. This is obviously different to Heder, Gåsmamman or The Sandhamm Murders, but it is personal to my life.

“I have lost a lot of people from my childhood and, as a young girl, I had a secret dream that I would have an ability to somehow get in contact with them, so I fell in love with it because I had this wish as a child. I also saw this opportunity for us to make a really high-end production for Bigster. It’s very visual and very beautiful.”

Rapaport is keen to play down the supernatural elements of the series, instead describing it as a psychological drama that starts as a slow-burning story before accelerating towards its conclusion. “But what I like is that we actually don’t know what’s happening. Is it in her head or is it really happening? Is she becoming crazy or not? Does she have this sixth sense, this power? Or she just losing it?

“It’s not like Stranger Things; it’s very real and it’s creepy in another way. I like it when you suspect everyone in the little town she lives in. It’s a murder mystery.”

As an executive producer on the show, Rapaport was a key figure in bringing Veronika to air – but it hasn’t been a straightforward journey. Creators and writers Katja Juras and Anna Ströman first approached Bigster more than five years ago with three ideas for a potential series, and Rapaport “fell in love” with Veronika. A first attempt to secure a broadcast partner fell through when attempts to turn the story into an episodic, case-of-the-week procedural didn’t work. Nordic streamer Viaplay then came on board and commissioned the eight-part serialised story.

The Swedish star also exec produces the show

But when Viaplay changed strategy last year and pulled back on most of its scripted output, Veronika found a new home at SkyShowtime following a deal with Viaplay Content Distribution. It will now debut in 22 markets across Europe on March 22.

“It was a bumpy road developing the script,” Rapaport admits, “and as an executive producer and lead actor, I have a lot of opinions. That’s sometimes hard for the writers, but I think through this rocky road, we’re all happy in the end. Creative work is hard, it always is, whether you’re on stage or in the script room, but in the end I’m really proud of this. I love it. It’s breathtaking, and I’m not talking about my particular part. The whole show is different, it’s a different type of crime drama.”

That Rapaport would star in the series wasn’t a guarantee either, but as development progressed, “I was like, ‘Yes, I really want to do this because the role is so different from other roles,’” she says. “I always get to play powerful women who are verbally outgoing, and she’s different. She is more silent, more fragile. She keeps her words and thoughts to herself.

“She’s more of an underdog character and she has this history of mental illness. She grew up being different and I think she has like a heart for people who are outcasts in some way because of that.”

The actor then channelled Veronika’s withdrawn personality as she started “searching” for the character and the way she would play her once the cameras started rolling. “I was quiet – but I’m never quiet,” she says. Working with director Jonas Alexander Arnby (War of the Worlds), she found she was better able to get into character when surrounded by the rest of the cast.

She describes her character as an ‘underdog’ who has a history of mental illness

“I know some directors make you act off camera, but I like working together with others, and you become someone else through other actors,” she says. “Here I have this character who relates really strongly to other people, who’s highly sensitive, so I really enjoyed it. It felt so good, actually, being this poor woman, this broken woman, because it didn’t affect me so much. I’ve never felt so good. It was really strange.

“She didn’t take anything from me. It was healing to portray her. There are a lot of sorrows in my life and it was healing to express that in front of the camera. Then I was a bit relieved when the camera turned off. I felt lighter, and I love working with Jonas.”

Filmed on location in Dannemora, Gimo and Österbybruk, the show’s rural and forest locations complement its otherworldly, often dreamlike style that helps Veronika stand apart from darker, broodier Nordic Noir mysteries.

Rapaport says she has never seen anything like it in Sweden. “It has this autumnal feeling and these wonderful dream sequences. We’re in this bubble and we’re telling a story about this small town in a different way.

“It was a lovely shoot. We lived in these old buildings and someone in the crew slept in the car because he was convinced there were ghosts. He was waking up with nightmares. There was a special feeling about it. We were like this touring circus in different ways. We were in this strange bubble for four or five months. It was magical.”

Veronika will debut on SkyShowtime later this month

When she’s on set, Rapaport is careful to leave behind her producer role and focus on acting. “If I were to be a producer on set, that would be unbearable and I really want to be part of the team,” she says. “I have no ambition to become a director. I really want Jonas to be the boss on set. I don’t like the hierarchy.”

Where she does want to be involved is in the scriptwriting process. “I’ve been in this business for almost 30 years, so I know something about storytelling and I can come from another perspective,” she says. “I think I’m quite good at dramaturgy. I can see it from a helicopter perspective and [I can see] the psychological journeys the characters make. So I come from that perspective when I work with scripts and I think that’s quite good to have as a tool. But in my mind I’m primarily an actor because that’s my big love in life. I love it.”

Rapaport’s hope is to now see Veronika return for more seasons in the future. “Let’s hope people like it in the first place, but there are more things to explore in her world,” she says. “It’s tough to make a really smart plot. It’s hard work but we did it once and the authors did it magnificently so I would trust them to do it again.”

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