Find out more from the Danish Chief of Police
Originally cast as Martin Rohde’s boss on the Danish side of the Øresund, we’ve gotten to know more about Lillian’s character throughout the seasons of The Bridge. In real life, the actress who plays Lillian Larsen is Sarah Boberg; the daughter of Danish artist, Jørgen Boberg, and celebrated Bodil and Robert Prisen winner for her Best Supporting role in the 2008 film Worlds Apart. Fans will also recognise Sarah as Peter and Laust’s mother in the most expensive Danish series ever made – 1864.
Now, we delve even deeper to discover more from behind the scenes with Sarah, including the fun times on The Bridge, crying a lot during 1864, and her love of Inspector Morse.
Little did we know that Lillian’s character was meant to be killed off in season three, instead of Hans (Dag Malmberg). But, due to the cast changes when Kim Bodnia left the series, Lillian was given a new lease of life. “That’s right! The producer called me and said, “This is what’s likely to happen, and I hope you don’t mind”. I said, “No, no, as long as it’s a very dramatic death, it’s fine”. Then two weeks later they called me back to say, “We’ve changed our minds”,” Sarah shares. “I almost felt bad about it! [LAUGHS] It was so sad when Hans died. [Dag] is such a great actor, so we were devasted that he wouldn’t be working with us anymore.” Nevertheless, Hans’ death heightened the drama for Saga’s story. “I’m glad too because I got to know Lillian a little more. When you start playing a character in a series, you don’t know where they’re going to end up. It was great to be like, oh, this is the type of person she is, and, this is how lonely she is. Lillian doesn’t have that much of a life, except for when she meets Hans. Then everything is fantastic – for a short period of time!”
Like Saga, Lillian is another great female character on the show, who sounds just as isolated and independent as Saga. “The Bridge doesn’t actually focus on gender that much. The series is more about the people; their differences, strengths, weaknesses, and traits that are a little bit off, which makes them all human,” Sarah explains. “I could identify with that. Not that I’m anything like my character, but as a person in the world. It’s not about men and women – it’s about people.” In addition to the criminal case, the characterisation is a strong element of the show’s narrative. “It’s something I loved about The Bridge from when I first read the script. It’s more about the characters and how they respond to the world and their surroundings. Everybody is a little bit off [LAUGHS] but you get involved with the characters – you’re curious about them. The show has become a bit more mythical and larger-than-life too. In The Bridge IV, there is the question of identity – are you identified through your work, relationships or gender? How do you identify as a person? The characters must figure out who they are, and I like that very much.”
Audiences all over the world are responding to the success of The Bridge, which Sarah has experienced in person. “It’s funny because I get recognised at the airport by fans, even in New York, and it’s fantastic. They like the show because it’s different,” Sarah notes. “I think it’s because The Bridge is a bit slower paced; it’s not very action-packed, even though so many things happen. As this is the final season, you feel differently about the characters because you have to say goodbye to them, which makes the show more wholesome, in a way.”
Sarah has also recently been acting alongside Thure Lindhardt and Mikael Birkkjær on stage, as well as in The Bridge IV. “That was wonderful. I’ve worked with Mikael in theatre, but I’ve never worked with Thure on stage before. We had a great time and it was so much fun because we know each other so well now,” Sarah says. “This meant that we were able to work so much faster with each other during rehearsals. It was a comedy, so we laughed so much. We laughed a lot when filming The Bridge too – we’re always laughing. These guys have a great sense of humour. It was nice spending every day together. We were together every day for five months [LAUGHS], like family.” The family atmosphere is what Sarah says she will miss the most. “I’ll miss the people – the Swedish people. Denmark is a small country; I’ve worked with Thure, Mikael and a lot of the crew before, but not the Swedish people. I hope I get to work with them again. Sweden is a bigger country, so we might not run into each other. I’ll miss them.”
We wanted to know more about what the atmosphere is like on set. “I love those scenes when we’re gathered around a screen, trying to figure out what’s going on and come up with a plan. It’s great because everyone is there, and you’re surrounded by these incredible actors – I really enjoy that.” It may be shocking to realise, but the set is generally cock-a-hoop too. “It’s very light, which is strange as the show is about very dark things, so we have to lighten ourselves up before we go into that dark place every day for hours and hours! [LAUGHS] We joke so much between takes that sometimes we go into laughing fits. Something dramatic happens in The Bridge IV, which I won’t spoil for you, but I started to laugh because it was shocking. We had to reshoot the whole scene!” Keep your eyes peeled to see if you can guess which scene Sarah is referring to. “Most of the cast and crew have been together for eight years, so we know each other really well. It was a great environment, which made you feel safe and relaxed.”
Like other popular crime series, we asked if the actors are kept in the dark about the villain’s identity or the fate of their characters in case anything is leaked. “We have a lot of conversations about the story and character developments, and we get the full script from the beginning,” Sarah confirms. “There may be some changes that are made, but all the scripts for each episode are given to us before we shoot. I like this, so I can prepare, but on other TV productions, you can be given scripts during the filming process. With The Bridge, it’s almost like doing a play or a movie; you can make full, conscious choices about your character, which I think makes it work better.”
Beyond The Bridge, Sarah shared with us what it was like working on 1864 and being directed by Ole Bornedal. “I enjoyed working with Ole very much. He’s a really funny director; he has a great sense of humour and he’s very precise. He knows what he wants, and he really likes actors,” Sarah confesses. “Ole is interested in rehearsals, collaborations, and new ideas. If you had any issues with your character, you could talk to him about. I remember saying, “Why does Karen have to cry all the time? Every time I’m in a scene, I’m crying!” Ole explained, “But you’re here for the crying!” [LAUGHS] We need a character like that, you know?” Sarah recalls, “In the scene when Peter comes home, my character sees him walking in the fields far away but doesn’t believe it’s him because she thinks he is dead. He sees her, and they run to hug each other and cry. But I suggested it would be better if it took longer for Karen to believe it was really Peter – as she’s so scared to be wrong. Ole was like, “Yeah, sure, that’s a great idea”, so we ended up filming it like that. You can be very outspoken and so was he, which allows you to work well together because you trust each other.”
Sarah is also credited as an acting coach for shows including the recent Danish drama Norskov. “I love to act and coach people too. It’s nice to change my focus, so it’s not just about me [LAUGHS] and I learn a lot,” Sarah explains. “I’m telling people what to do and I’m thinking, why don’t I do that? I think it’s great to be creative in my own acting and help others, which I find very inspiring. I enjoy teaching young people at the National Acting School because it’s great to be around the younger generation and see the world through their eyes. I think it’s very healthy to do that.”
Not only is Sarah a fan of Scandi crime shows like Mammon, she is enamoured by a character infamously known as Endeavour. “I love Nordic Noir! I also recently watched the German series Dark, which I found interesting. I think it’s nice to see different nationalities on screen and hear different languages being spoken – it’s much broader now,” Sarah adds. “I also like old British crime shows, like Inspector Morse. I love Inspector Morse. I think I’ve seen all the episodes twice! [LAUGHS]” The Nordic Noir wave has definitely paved the way for more European and international dramas with a high production value on television. “It’s fun, interesting, and it’s positive for all of us. We all learn from each other.”
Interview by Antony Smith
Continue watching The Bridge on Friday nights from 9pm on BBC Two
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