Exclusive ‘Modus II’ interview with Greg Wise


We talk to the dangerous and dark figure from Inger Johanne’s past…

With a jovial salutation of god morgon, it’s hard to imagine a well-spoken gentleman like Greg Wise being such a villainous cad in Modus II. In the second season of the hit Swedish series, Wise swaps the nobility of The Crown’s Lord Mountbatten to play Warren Schifford, the dangerous head of a psychological anti-terrorism unit. “My character is fantastically intelligent and, I have to say, was an absolute dream, dream, dream to play! I’ve played a lot of horrible people in costume dramas before and it’s much more fun. If you’re a moral and kind person in real life, being able to explore the flip side on screen is a complete dream.”

For those who have yet to see the second season, the next chapter of Modus follows a different timeline to the previous Christmastime killing spree. “The general story is that the US President (Kim Cattrall) travels to Sweden on a state visit with her right-hand man, who is me, and she vanishes. The eight episodes of the series span the three days that follow on from her disappearance – and it’s a proper bangin’ thriller. The first season can be viewed as the Scandi Noir that we’ve come to expect; lots of bodies, lots of blood and lots of ‘weirdies’. But this one has a different language. It’s a thriller, which is so beautifully written by Mai Brostrøm and Peter Thorsboe, based on the Anne Holt novel, [Presidentens valg (Madam President)].”


At the centre of the drama, Warren poses a threat to Inger Johanne’s relationship with Ingvar, which only heightens the tension as the US team must work closely with the Swedish police to find the Madam President. “He’s a Doctor of Psychology, so he really understands how the mind works. He also has an incredible narcissism and a Machiavellian approach to everything. Between you and me, he just fucks with everybody’s heads. What’s glorious about the story is that he’s trying to discover what’s happened to the president. In fact, he susses out whats going on, but no one believes him because he’s such an arse. There’s a lot of darkness and a lot of twists and we’re never too sure if he’s on the side of the good or the bad. It’s blissful to play someone who doesn’t care what anyone thinks about him.”

To prepare for this dreamy role, Wise swotted up on the original novel for inspiration. “When you’re playing a character from a book or based on a real person, like in The Crown, you do as much reading as you can. There are a few interesting pointers from the novel which you can use to construct your character, but you’ve got to play the script version. The first thing we see is a flashback which tells us he raped our heroine four years ago. He is instantly set up as a dangerous and dark figure from Inger Johanne’s past, yet Ingvar knows nothing about their history. We, as an audience, have made up our minds about Warren by what he’s capable of – even before the present-day narrative begins.”


Not only is there conflict between Warren and Inger Johanne (Melinda Kinnaman), there is also the anticipation that Ingvar (Henrik Norlén) will find out the truth while they’re partnered together. “He’s so cruel and knows exactly what he does to people when he’s in a room with them. That’s the wonderful drive and dynamic of the story; these people are thrown together with terrible, dark histories. Everyone is sleep deprived, stressed, angry and fearful about the secrets they hide. It’s all about how these characters can use their complicated histories to solve the mystery. It’s a beautifully crafted thriller and it was an absolute joy to be a part of.”

The difference in the scale of production between The Crown and Modus was one of the things that stood out for the actor, even before filming began.“I was still working on The Crown when Modus II started shooting, so I was going back and forth between locations. The Crown was such a behemoth of a production. One day we were filming in Hungary with 560 extras for the funeral procession, which was allegedly one of the most expensive TV episodes ever made. It was the most gargantuan undertaking. With Modus, there were 12 to 18 crew members and no one had a trailer. Before I arrived, I emailed Melinda and I mentioned that the most important thing to me is my morning coffee. I said, if the caterers don’t have a decent coffee machine, I usually bring an espresso maker into the makeup trailer. She asked me, what caterers and what makeup trailer?”

Read our season one interview with Melinda Kinnaman here.


The hilarious comparisons made a big impact on Wise, including the daily regimen of getting in and out of costume. “I love that in Sweden, you go to the production office, put your costume on, get your hair brushed, then you put your own clothes into a little bag and bring it with you to the set. Once you’ve finished filming for the day, you find yourself a little corner, take your costume off and put the clothes back on from your little bag. It was so much fun, like being in kindergarten again. I loved the lightness of touch in how everyone was treated the same way. The Swedish nation is frantically egalitarian, and I think this is reflected beautifully in the way that they film. Now I feel like an arse having a trailer – why have one when you can wander all over the place with a little bag of your own clothes?”

Behind of the scenes of the show, Wise highlights the level of intimacy between the cast and crew that appealed to him, even if he expected more from the weather. “I was really excited about experiencing a proper Scandinavian winter. I was in Sweden from January to July – but the first snowfall wasn’t until the 18th of May! I remember filming until 4 am with Henrik and we were getting changed with our little bags of clothes in a car park in a snowy central Stockholm! Everyone was treated the same, which makes you feel like a very integral part of the crew – and you really get to know folk! This helps when you’re doing sex scenes or violent scenes, so you can trust each other and go to places that are not very palatable, without feeling too exposed. Melinda was wonderful because the context of our scenes was horrid, but you have a laugh at the same time. I think filming a comedy is more stressful than filming a tragedy.”


The antagonist of Modus confessed a shocking revelation, admitting that he is a new Nordic Noir fan who rarely watches television. “I actually beat the Pope who claims he hasn’t switched on the TV since 1990. I haven’t turned on the telly since 1985! When I was asked to do Modus II, I thought I’d better have a little look at the world. I loved the first season of Modus and The Bridge is an extraordinary piece of work too. I think one of the reasons that Scandi Noir is so potent is the time we are given to sit with these characters, despite being in a permanent state of distraction with social media. It’s a very different medium to film. Danish and Swedish productions allow audiences to get to know folk and their interior landscape. Most of the time we’re sitting with people who are just sitting.”

As well as the compelling characters of Nordic Noir, Wise focuses on the captivating style of the crime narrative. “It’s not slow like Norway’s Slow TV by any stretch of the imagination. It’s telling the story well over a long narrative of eight hours and providing audiences with the right information at the right time, without spoon-feeding them. With Modus, we’re saying to the audience, trust us, we’re going to tell you a story. If you get a bit confused, don’t worry, we’ll protect you. Just sit back and enjoy these characters. It has everything you need for a good bit of drama. With streaming services, you can binge every episode, like sitting in your pyjamas with a jar of ice cream at the weekend, watching The Crown on Netflix. It works, but I think it’s also good to experience a delayed gratification and wait until next Saturday. It makes an event out of it.”


Following his outing as Warren Schifford – what’s next on the horizon for Mr. Wise? “I’m moving to LA for a chunk of months to film a wonderful series called Strange Angel for CBS. It’s inspired by a true story and I get to play the Grand Magus of the Agape Lodge, who is Aleister Crowley’s right-hand man in America. I’m reading about magic and the Occult and pentagrams and hexagrams and trying to understand what that’s all about.”

Until then, Greg Wise tells us to ha det bra, which is Swedish for “have a good one!”

Modus II concludes on Saturday with the final back-to-back episodes from 9pm on BBC Four.


Interview by Antony Smith