Exclusive interview with Carsten Bjørnlund

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We spoke with the Danish star about his experience on The Legacy

Go behind-the-scenes of The Legacy and get to know the man underneath the volatile veneer of Frederik Grønnegaard. Carsten Bjørnlund discusses his character’s emotions, celebrating The Legacy series finale and working alongside Sofia Helin in his upcoming film.

What initially attracted you to the series and the character of Frederik?

“In acting, I always like to go to the depth of things. I’m not too fond of superficial roles. That’s why I don’t choose to work in cartoons or commercials because it’s not as satisfying for me. With The Legacy, it was obvious that’s what the show wanted to do; to take the shovel and keep digging until we get to the visceral ore below.”

The relationship between Frederik and Gro can be very dark and volatile at times.

“Yes! [LAUGHS] Also, I think it’s a very true depiction of a relationship. Maybe not the fact that he is trying to strangle her but that he has the urge to kill his sister. I think that’s true for many people!”

Read our conversation with Trine Dyrholm here.

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The raw reactions of the characters are also a key part of the narrative – you never really know how they’ll behave in high-pressure situations, but at the same time they are real and understandable. Can you tell us about how Frederik has evolved throughout the series and into season three?

“There is a tragedy which forces Frederik and the rest of the family, including Solveig, to stop and question – what direction have I chosen in life and is it the right one? Do I keep going or take a new direction? Frederik is always conflicting with his family throughout the series; from Veronika to Solveig, Gro and Emil. When he returns from California and has to cope with his loss in season three, this doesn’t really work anymore. Within him, Frederik is always trying to follow his own dreams and his own goals, while trying to satisfy the women in his life. In season one and two, he is trying to be a good husband to Solveig – but he doesn’t end up doing any of this. In season three, he is forced to make decisions for himself.”

We also see Frederik opening up more with his creative side, which seemed to set him apart from his family. In season two, we see him playing the guitar and he joins in with Pitu and the artist collective in season three.

“I do play instruments in real-life. I am the lead singer in a band called Rovdrift and we compose our own music. From the beginning of The Legacy, being the son of Veronika, there was always the idea that Frederik had an artistic streak from a young age. However, it was unsure whether he was a poet, perhaps? Knowing that I play the drums and guitar, the decision was made that Frederik had a rock band when he was a child.”

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Are you an art enthusiast, like the majority of the Grønnegaard family?

“I can’t really say that I am an “art enthusiast”, but my favourite artist is my friend Troels Carlsen. He’s a Danish artist with exhibitions around the world and he’s an upcoming superstar, in my opinion. I’m not really an “art man”, in terms of painting and sculptures.”

What have been some of the most challenging scenes to film?

“In season three, the scenes at the funeral and wake were challenging for me because it took all my concentration for a couple of weeks to really try and feel what it could be like to suffer such a loss, which hasn’t happened to me. I hope I was able to portray it in a true sense.”

In comparison to the drama of The Legacy, what has it been like to act in comedic roles, such as Rita?

“It’s a different kind of challenge because it’s all about daring to look foolish! [LAUGHS] Not that Rasmus necessarily looked foolish. The challenge for me playing Rasmus in Rita was to ask myself – what kind of a man is he? Then I realised he isn’t a man in the traditional sense – he is the leading lady of the show. When that dawned on me, it made it a lot easier for me to portray him. Rita is actually the leading man of the series; the cigarettes, the carefree sex and even the wardrobe, with jeans and a lumberjack shirt. The challenge of comedic roles is letting go of my own vanity. [LAUGHS]”

The shorts were great.

“Yes, they were, weren’t they? I also liked the glasses on the string that aunties wear.”

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What was it like to be directed by Trine Dyrholm in the third season?

“I am a big fan of Trine. She’s very intelligent and generous – she’s really something. Of course, she was new to directing but she had such a great perspective on the scenes and knowledge of the material and characters. I found it to be a very smooth experience.”

How did you celebrate the final season of The Legacy with the cast and crew?

“After we shot the final scene with all the siblings at Grønnegaard, we just broke down and cried. That was the way we celebrated – through crying! [LAUGHS] Then, of course, we had a great party and since then we have kept in touch. Recently, I took a 10km walk around the Farum Sø lake with Mikkel Boe Følsgaard and I’ll be meeting up with Lene Marie Christensen next week.”

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Which special places would you recommend fans to visit in Denmark?

“People should visit Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen. That’s where Denmark centres itself in being the Great Nation, in my opinion. The fact that we have room in our hearts and minds to keep that place going – I find that very attractive.”

What is it like being a Robert Award-winner?

“The award I won for the first season was very special to me as it was my first Robert award. I don’t know why but I didn’t really see myself as an award-winning type, I felt that maybe the establishment wasn’t that into me. I had to change that perspective now that I have two Robert awards! It’s a great recognition as the Robert Awards are selected by our colleagues and peers, not critics.”

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How do you feel about the global Nordic Noir phenomenon?

“I respond very well to it! I am thrilled and hope this grants me with opportunities to work in the UK and “over there”, as we say. I am a fan of The Killing and the Swedish show Johan Falk, which kind of exploded on me – it’s a series that really grows on you! I have also been enjoying the British show Happy Valley. Sarah Lancashire – she is amazing. Wow, what an actress, I’m a great fan of hers.”

Before starring in The Killing II, Rita and The Legacy, the actor could be seen treading the boards at the Royal Theatre.

The first seven or eight years of my career I acted on stage, mainly at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen. Now, I enjoy acting on screen and having time off to spend time with the family.”

To enjoy a bit of hygge?

“[LAUGHS] Yes, I like to hygge very much. It’s a funny expression because everybody does it. It’s like we’ve almost got a patent on the term hygge in Denmark but it’s good to celebrate it. It’s a combination of getting together to chill and not talk too much. It’s all about chilling, really.”

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There are hygge moments in The Legacy too.

“This happens in season three when the family is having a bonfire and eating, gathered together to talk about Frederik’s daughter, Hannah.”

Are you a handball fan, like Frederik’s son, Villads?

“I am not a handball fan but my father was a handball goalkeeper when he was younger. My little brother, Michael, is the sporty one. He is a sports maniac; a football, swimming, cycling and handball maniac – whatever sport you can think of, he is a maniac about it. I am an old swimmer and runner but I’ve never really been into sports.”

Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming projects, including QEDA and your experience working with Sofia Helin?

QUEDA stands for Quantum Entangled Divided Agent. My character is the Quantum Entangled Divided Agent which means he can travel in time. It’s all about time travel, saving the world and maybe even saving yourself in the process. I think it’s the first Danish sci-fi film to be released in 20 years, which opens in Danish cinemas on 10th August. Sofia Helin was very sweet and I think she enjoyed some time away from Sweden. She came directly from the set of The Bridge III and was in so much doubt about whether she could let go of her character, Saga Norén. But she did!”

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If there were to be a fourth season of The Legacy, what would you like to see happen to Frederik?

“There won’t be a fourth season, I’m afraid. But if there were to be one, I would like Frederik… to be in space! [LAUGHS]”

Interview by Antony Smith

 

The Legacy III and The Legacy – The Complete Series boxset is out to buy on DVD and Blu-ray through Nordic Noir & Beyond on Monday 29th May.

Pre-order your copy from the Amazon store here.