The Mail on Sunday
23rd September 2012
By Emily Hill
Sarah Lund is back – but she seems to have lost her jumper and gained, albeit temporarily, a pair of heels.
Like Sherlock Holmes without his deerstalker or Hercule Poirot minus the moustache, the obsessive detective is unimaginable without her snowflake-patterned sweater and her stout, manly boots.
But when Lund makes her eagerly awaited return to our screens in November in the third and final series of the acclaimed Danish drama The Killing, she will be modelling some new knitwear – something striped, colourful and almost fluffy.
Then there’s the rather worrying news that Lund is about to ditch gruelling murder investigations for a nine-to-five desk job and will be seen, for the first time, in high heels.
‘We put her in heels to show she’s not ready to go back out on the road. And then in the first scene, where I really had to run, I tripped and fell and hurt myself like hell. So we got back to the boots she’s always had,’ says Lund actress Sophie Grabol, in an exclusive interview with The Mail on Sunday.
Devotees of The Killing will, however, be relieved to learn that by episode four, Lund has dumped the fluffy number, abandoned her office job and headed back to the streets of Copenhagen. And the famous Nordic pullover and furrowed brow also return.
The first series of the show, broadcast on BBC4 last year, proved a hit with viewers who were instantly hooked on the brooding story of the hunt for the killer of a teenage girl – a complex investigation led by the uncommunicative and downbeat Lund.
While her attachment to her chunky sweater rapidly became major talking point, critics raved about the show’s intricate plotting and compelling performances. The success of the series paved the way for a number of other Scandinavian dramas, including The Bridge and Borgen.
The second season of The Killing proved just as popular and the third series, in which Lund has a new partner (newcomer Sigurd Holmen le Dous) and a potential love interest (celebrated Danish actor Nikolaj Lie Kaas), promises to be the best yet.
Speaking on the set of The Killing III in Copenhagen, Sofie talks about her love of the show, her ever-expanding knitwear collection and her number one fans – the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, whom she met earlier this year.
‘Our writer, Soren Sveistrup, and I both felt the story of Sarah Lund wasn’t really finished in series two,’ says Sofie, 44.
‘Lund had put everything she had into the case she was working on. She lost her belief in people and everything else.
‘We had to ask, “Can a person just keep putting everything on the table? Is that possible?” And it really isn’t.
‘So in this series she applies for a new job where she sits behind a desk and tries not to get her hands dirty. We put her in heels to show she’s not ready to go out on to the streets again.
‘And then in the first scene where I really had to run, I tripped up some stairs, fell and hurt myself like hell. So we soon went back to the boots – and we also go back to the jumper. It doesn’t take long.
‘We picked the first jumper to confound expectations. We had to put her in a jumper – Lund couldn’t be in anything else – but it had to express the change in her. This one is soft, fluffy, white and more feminine.’
Having won a Bafta last year, The Killing has, remarkably, secured not only the Prime Minister’s vote – David Cameron confessed to watching the show in bed with his wife Samantha – but also the Royal seal of approval.
The Duchess of Cornwall is such a big fan that she personally requested a visit to the set of The Killing III in Copenhagen during a state visit to Denmark in March. Sofie presented Camilla with her very own snowflake- patterned jumper.
Presumably, the Duchess will soon be settling down on the sofa beside Charles, wearing her Gudrun & Gudrun sweater, determined to guess the identity of the killer.
‘Camilla was the sweetest,’ Sofie recalls. ‘She was just so easy to talk to that you forgot after two minutes that you were supposed to behave in a certain way.
‘We met three times in Copenhagen. She was genuinely obsessed with The Killing and knew every detail about it. But I think it was actually Prince Charles who told us that The Killing was the only television programme over which they didn’t fight about the remote control.’
Since the show started, Lund has separated from her fiance, become estranged from her son, and two of her detective partners have been shot dead. There is more trauma in store in series three. But these ten episodes will be the last we see of Lund.
Sofie says that the end of the show has left her feeling bereft. ‘It’s like when you stop smoking,’ she says. ‘What I am going to find hard is the withdrawal symptoms.
‘Everyone involved feels an ownership of this project and I am going to miss that terribly. I have been working on The Killing for almost seven years and I haven’t stopped being fascinated by Lund. And that’s more than you can say about most marriages – seven years and you are still thinking, “Who is this wonderful person?” ’
The first series of The Killing was renowned for the plot’s complex twists and turns.
‘The second series was an attempt to see how far you can take Sarah Lund into the darkness,’ says Sofie.
‘For the third season, our ambition has been to get to know her better. We all felt that she was still too much of a mystery. In Danish, we have an expression “To remove the dust from the butterfly’s wings.” The dust on a butterfly’s wings is what makes them able to fly. If you touch them and take the dust off, they can’t fly any more.
‘And that saying expresses how we feel about Sarah Lund, because you want to reveal more about her, but you don’t want to strip her of her secrets. Actors build characters by adding things. With Lund, it’s been the opposite – I’ve been stripping her. If I go back now and watch the very first episode of series one, I see that I didn’t have it at all when we started. I started by taking away her smile, then more and more.’
It is testimony to Sofie’s skill as an actress that she is nothing like the character she is best known for playing. In person, Sofie is warm, charismatic, and sexy. She has been a household name in Denmark for more than 25 years.
The daughter of two architects, she began acting aged 17, without any formal training – she appeared in Ovivir, a biopic of the artist Paul Gauguin, alongside Hollywood star Donald Sutherland. Since then, she has handled a wide range of roles, from Shakespeare to Ibsen to Strindberg, and won many awards. Had she been born in an English-speaking country, she would undoubtedly be one of Hollywood’s leading ladies by now, but America’s aversion to subtitles means that Forbrydelsen, as The Killing is called in Danish, never reached a US audience.
Instead, the drama was remade in Hollywood with American actors. Although Sofie made a cameo appearance in an episode of the second series, playing a district attorney in Seattle, she has not watched the American version of the show. In July, the series was axed.
‘I’m really relieved about that,’ Sofie admits. ‘I think it’s fine that they made it, but the idea that they would be able to make season 12 . . . I would find it really strange if they took Sarah Lund where I’ve never been.’
Having divorced the father of her two children, film editor Jacob Thuesen, several years ago, Sofie has not found a lasting relationship since. ‘I always fall in love with the project I’m involved in,’ she says. ‘In that sense, I’m a bit like Sarah Lund.
‘What I’m working on is always interesting. Romance is important when it’s there but no, it’s not there at the moment. I really do work a lot and I have my children, so it’s not like I have been actively seeking anything. But when something happens, I’ll try to be ready – to pick up the phone when it rings.’
The enthusiasm with which she is received in the UK – and in Copenhagen, when she runs into British tourists – still surprises her
Next week, Sofie begins shooting The Hour Of The Lynx, a psychological thriller based on a Swedish play, in which she will play a vicar. ‘Creatively, you need to be constantly moving,’ she says. ‘I want to stay on my toes.’
Although Sofie has had several offers to work in Britain, so far she has turned them all down because she does not want to leave her children – Bror, 11, and Gudrun, eight – who are at school in Copenhagen.
Juggling The Killing with the school run and babysitters has been tricky enough, she says. ‘More than half of the Sarah Lund scenes are shot at night. It is hard to balance that when you are a single mother.
‘I would be thrilled if the right project came along and I could make it in the UK. It would scare me to death but it would be wonderful.’
However, Piv Bernth, producer of The Killing, goes further, hinting that Sofie will now be looking ‘to explore what she has going on in the UK’.
Writer Soren Sveistrup, who has worked closely with Sofie for many years, is currently in talks to create a series in Britain. The prospect of the pair teaming up again, this time on British soil, will thrill The Killing’s legions of fans.
‘I would go anywhere with Soren,’ says Sofie. ‘Anywhere.’
The enthusiasm with which she is received in the UK – and in Copenhagen, when she runs into British tourists – still surprises her.
‘The oddest thing I’ve experienced is when I pass women wearing that jumper,’ she says. ‘We look at each other, pause, and just move on, as they look embarrassed. It’s as if they are saying, “Sorry, I know, it’s your jumper.” ’
Sofie is certainly not short of knitwear. ‘In my wardrobe at home, I have between five and ten jumpers,’ she says. ‘We were looking to change the colours and the pattern of the jumper this series, so I got all the ones we didn’t use.
‘I also have jumpers that have been knitted for me by British people – often with mittens. The best thing I got recently, which I am considering hanging in my car, is a little doll, a knitted Sarah Lund, with jumper, jeans, ponytail and hands on her hips.’
Even as Sofie casts off The Killing, she knows she will never leave it behind altogether. ‘When I die and they write the obituary, it is going to say Sarah Lund somewhere – maybe in the headline. But it’s in the nature of any actor to move on. I can’t dwell on thoughts like that.’