Arctic thriller Fortitude: Sofie Grabol discusses her cold case.
She’s the Danish actor who made her breakthrough as detective Sarah Lund in The Killing, which ran for three seasons. It also inspired a TV comedy cameo in Absolutely Fabulous and a role in the US version of the Scandi crime smash. Ten years on from The K
How is the community of Fortitude coping after the traumatic events of Series 1?
The first series was about surviving and about life and death. In my personal life, I recognise that in any real crisis you use all your resources, but actually it’s the moment after that’s really interesting. Who am I now? Why am I alive? What has happened? That atmosphere of having survived and at the same time being completely lost is fascinating. The community in Fortitude is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s carrying a lot of scars, definitely.
What is the emotional state of your character, Hildur, the governor of Fortitude?
She’s not in a great place. I think she’s traumatised – or maybe I’m just projecting my own life! She is a doer, she’s a solver. She’s a woman of power
and leadership. So the worst thing for a person like that is that she couldn’t guard her town. I see her as the mother of Fortitude.
So the writers have taken the trouble to show the enduring impact of the cataclysmic events of Season 1?
Yes. We’re so used to watching crime stories where the characters are very driven. I think it’s really interesting that my character and others have these moments where they just fall into a void.
How do you find the “out-there” moments that Fortitude is wellknown for?
Being Scandinavian, I really enjoy them. I’m like a child when they happen. We Nordic people like little stories and little expressions and don’t give too much away. That makes us really good at details and credibility, but we’d never dare to go where we go in Fortitude. I love it when you go into the make-up room in the morning and ask another actor, “What are you doing today?”. “Oh, I’m eating a baby!” It’s hilarious.
The drama conjures up the total isolation of the people living in Fortitude, doesn’t it?
Yes. It shows this community that is beyond our culture. People come to Fortitude from all over the world. But what kind of people would wind up in this place?
Does the show’s remote Icelandic location foster that atmosphere of being far removed from the rest of the world?
It helps to film in Iceland where you get that feeling of real isolation. All the actors are put in a hotel far away from everyone else in a very, very isolated place. There is nothing to do there except get very close to each other. That whole feeling in Fortitude of depending on each other and being close in a very big space – we get to know that as people. There is a great group dynamic. They’re such a lovely cast – although sadly a lot of their characters have died!
“I DIDN’T WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW TOO MUCH ABOUT SARAH. I LIKED HER SECRETS, I LIKED HER MYSTERY ”
You had immense success with The Killing. Are you pleased by the huge following it had in the UK? Absolutely. It was amazing. It’s strange because I’d get these emails from London saying, “You are such a success.” But at the time I was alone with my two kids, and I spent all my spare time fixing their lunch boxes and rushing to the supermarket. In Danish, the word ‘killing’ means ‘kitten’. I think that’s very appropriate because that’s how we feel. You Brits took us in. Why were viewers drawn to your character in The Killing, the rather remote detective Sarah Lund? We warmed to Sarah because she is dysfunctional. Most actors have a strange, sadistic relationship with their characters. You want them to hurt and to be put in difficult positions. You don’t want the best for them. If you have a perfect, heroic, strong, beautiful character, how do audiences identify with her?
Was Sarah’s “unknowability” also key to her appeal?
Yes. I didn’t want people to know too much about Sarah. I liked her secrets, I liked her mystery. I also liked the fact that she is drawn more by her isolation, by her lack of relations, than by her relations. As an actor, the door I enter to a character is always all the areas in which she has weaknesses. And I think it’s the same door that an audience enters to meet a character. The success of The Killing led to theatre offers in the UK. Did you enjoy that? Definitely. But it had its funny moments. In my mind, I don’t have an accent. I did a play at the National Theatre in London. I spoke the best English I could and thought “this is brilliant”. Then Sir Ian Mckellen came to see the show, and afterwards he asked, “How did that actress get that amazing Danish accent?” I was doing my best, but I do obviously have a big fat Danish accent. Would you like to don Sarah’s trademark Faroese jumper again and then just play her forever? Yes, like The Mousetrap here in London! Or maybe you could return to the character in a couple of decades? That’s a good idea. Sarah could end up like the Danish Miss Marple. Fortitude Series 2 is on Sky Atlantic.