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!


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.

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