Meeting Wallander

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As we prepare to bid a final farewell to our favourite Swedish detective, we thought we’d give you another chance to read Monika Agorelius’s interview with Krister Henriksson from last year.

The last episode – The Sad Bird – will be on BBC Four on Saturday evening at 9.00pm.

And you can pre-order the DVD now in advance of its official release on Monday 23 June.

MONIKA AGORELIUS: Has playing Wallander opened the doors for you internationally?

KRISTER HENRIKSSON: Yes, definitely. No one outside of Sweden — or perhaps the Scandinavian countries — would know who I was if it wasn’t for Wallander. I have him to thank for my international recognition.

MA: Are you surprised to have so many fans in the UK?

KH: I find it strange, yet exciting. In Sweden, I don’t really like it when I get recognised; I feel uncomfortable when strangers approach me on the streets of Stockholm. But when it happens in London, I find it joyful. It’s surprising — I’ve visited London many times and until recently I’ve been anonymous. Now people come up and talk to me, and they are always very pleasant.

MA:Were you bemused by the success of Wallander in the UK?

KH: Yes — I had not imagined that the films would make such an impact in Britain. The first time I came to London at the same time that Wallander was being shown on the BBC, I was recognised all the time. This phenomenon is true everywhere; Swedish television is currently showing repeats of Wallander. It will calm down when the series is finished.

MA:Why do you think Kurt Wallander has become such a popular fictional character?

KH: I think that in comparison with many other fictional detectives, Wallander is not an action hero. He’s not some tough cop from Brooklyn; he’s just a regular guy who has lived a monotonous life — I think that he’s easy to identify with. Wallander has a gloomy personality. I think that many men live a similar life to Wallander; they work too hard, they have a poor relationship with their children, and they find it easy to reach for the bottle in stressful situations.

MA: Wallander seems to have a traditional approach to morality in many ways.

KH: Yes, I like the fact that Wallander does not use his gun. He’s a cop but he has no urge to fight crime in a physical manner; he’s a pacifist who does not believe in violence. He has a kind of old-fashioned morality that I think people long for in today’s society.

MA: Because of Wallander, many Brits are curious to visit Ystad and the Skåne region in the south of Sweden, where most of the stories take place. Is there a particular place you would recommend that people visit?

KH: I often hear comments about the wonderful house by the sea where Wallander lives. The house is located along the beach in Svarte, which is not far from Ystad. The beach is open to the public, so anyone can go for a walk there and look at the sea and smell the sea breeze. It’s a truly spectacular place.

MA: People know you as Wallander, but in real life you don’t appear to be as phlegmatic and melancholic as he is. Do you have anything in common with him?

KH: If I had led a self-destructive life, as he does, it would be hard to play a happy, optimistic character. That would be a difficult thing. But doing it the other way round is, I think, easier. Even if I sound happy and positive — which I am — I have, just like everyone else, a different, darker side of myself which I bring out when I play him.

MA:What aspect of your personality have you incorporated into your portrayal of Wallander?

KH: Well, I think that in the way I play him, I’ve lent Wallander a piece of the optimistic side of myself; despite appearances, he does believe in the basic goodness of people.

MA: Have all the actors who have played the detective met up for a ‘Wallander get-together’?

KH: Rolf Lassgård and I are colleagues in Sweden, and we know each other. We meet at birthday parties and other similar events, but we’ve never had a Wallander-themed party or anything like that. But perhaps I should suggest it!

MA: Have you met the British Wallander, Kenneth Branagh?

KH: Once, in Ystad. We were both filming our different versions of Wallander at the same time, but surprisingly — considering how small Ystad is — the shooting schedules never clashed and we were never in the same location at the same time. However, we did bump into each other in a corridor in Ystad once, and he looked terrified. I think he felt bothered by the fact that I had played the character longer than him and that I would feel he was obliged to portray the detective in a certain way — which, of course, I would never do. I think he’s doing a great job. I don’t know Kenneth, but he appears to be very nice and a bit shy, which is quite becoming for an actor and film-maker with such an outstanding career