Wednesday evening marks the premiere of the brand new and highly anticipated Swedish series Jordskott. The series follows police investigator Eva Thörnblad whose life is shattered after the disappearance of her daughter, Josefine. When another young child goes missing in the area seven years later, Eva’s obsession with her daughter increases, as she is certain there is more to this case than accidental drownings in the local Silverhojd Lake.
Jordskott is the latest sensation from Nordic Noir, which sees crime mystery united with supernatural phenomenon. The series stars Moa Gammel, who is recognisable to most fans having recently starring opposite Ola Rapace in the Swedish gangster thriller Tommy.
We spoke with Gammel, and producer Filip Hammarström, about the supernatural genre, filming on location in Sweden, and becoming new members of the Nordic Noir genre.
What attracted you to the role of Eva when you first read the script for Jordskott?
Moa Gammel: It was her complexity and that she was made up of these contradictory feelings. She was both this grieving, vulnerable mother and still this very strong, competent policewoman who is really brave. She would put her own life at risk for other people. So she is both a hero and a fragile mother at the same time. That kind of complexity was very alluring.
Jordskott introduces a supernatural element to the Nordic Noir genre. What is this unique direction and combination of the genres that appeals to you as a Nordic actress?
MG: Yes, I’m the “new kid on the block.” [LAUGHS] I guess you are always looking for a new perspective because if they are always the same and you’ve already seen something, why make it again? I think that was really the appeal of Jordskott; it’s a new perspective, it’s a new kind of world, it’s a new genre mix, and it’s so amazing to make people surprised. Everyone is a storyteller nowadays; they know the structure and, if something like this is going to be presented, it will happen later on. To be able to really surprise the audience; that’s what I really loved about Tommy but also about Jordskott. It’s a kind of new layer to the criminal genre.
Filip Hammarström: I don’t want to say we wanted to take Nordic Noir to the next level, but to the next step or side-track. To always be evolving our stories and have you believe it’s a regular crime is what surprises you.
What have been the most physically and emotionally challenging parts of filming Jordskott?
MG: Every day playing Eva was a challenge. It was like you said: both physically challenging some days and mentally challenging other days. I don’t think she ever relaxes – every scene is high stakes. During the whole series, you have these high stake situations at all times so I was, of course, very tired after shooting each day. Eva has been through so much and she put me through so much because I am tied to her. But I think, in a way, I could relate to her pain and emotional aspects of the character. The crying state was not as hard as the physical challenges. I have a fear of being underwater and I have this underwater scene. Because of my phobia I was told, “But you have to be underwater. You have to act underwater!” I was weighed down with weight belts and Filip promised me that I would be able to stand, that I would only be underwater ‘just a little bit’ – but the pool was four metres deep! When I came to the set Filip wasn’t there because he knew I would be so mad at him. However, every day costs money so you can’t really blow that by saying, “I’m not doing this.” You have to challenge your own fears and that’s what is so amazing about acting. I’ve forgiven Filip, it’s OK now! [LAUGHS]
FH: It was lower than that, it was lower than 4 metres! There was actually a change of pools at the last minute. You were standing on the ground, anyway, weren’t you?
MG: Yeah, but it was four metres down!
FH: That was the only difference.
MG: That was a pool that they actually used for the police force to practice getting dead bodies out of the water. So it wasn’t like good karma! I was thinking, “OK, I could be that dead body lying there at the bottom of the pool!”
FH: But they would have gotten you up very fast because they’ve been practicing.
MG: That was an awful experience in a way but after a while I sort of got used to it so I cured my phobia.
FH: You’re welcome. [LAUGHS]
MG: Thank you! [LAUGHS]
What has the reaction to Jordskott been like in Sweden? Were you anxious about how the show would be received due to the supernatural tone?
FH: We were very anxious about it and SVT and our investors were too. They all read the script knowing what the look and feel was going to be and everyone really loved it. They were like, “Oh man! This is going to be amazing!”, and when they watched the editing they said, “This is amazing!”
MG: But are the other people going to like it?
FH: Yes. They were like, “I love it but am I like everyone else?” I guess people thought it would not be a broad series but many people who said, “I don’t like genre mixes” also loved it. Also, from teenagers to viewers that are 80-years-old – they all saw something in it that everybody liked. With the ratings and our success, we doubled our goal that we set ourselves. We estimated 800,000 viewers and we got 1.6 million so that was insane! It was unheard of and we were all surprised. But somewhere deep down we were thinking, “Of course – we love it! Why wouldn’t they love it?”
MG: You always hope that your passion for a project corresponds with the audience. Sometimes it doesn’t and it was just amazing that it did this time that the stars aligned and audiences seemed to get what we were aiming at. We saw in Sweden that 12-year-olds watched it because they liked the characters and the supernatural extra layer to it. But their parents would watch it for the criminal story and the mothers would watch it for the relationships between the characters. There are so many different layers to it that could correspond to different kinds of viewers and they could watch it altogether. That wasn’t really surprising but we were very happy about the fact we were able to connect people to talk about Jordskott and create a family show.
Will there be a second season of Jordskott to look forward to?
MG: It’s on the cards! It’s not totally confirmed but it looks positive.
FH: Yeah, we are writing right now but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to happen.
MG: But it’s a good indication.
Is the supernatural theme an analogy for social fears or anxieties of the past or future? What do you feel the element of nature and the supernatural represent, such as environmental issues?
FH: Yes, definitely environmental issues which is a big representation of the supernatural element in that how far can you push nature before it pushes back? That is a big theme that we are using: not knowing what is looming around the corner and basing it on the Swedish mythology. Where do all of these stories really come from? When someone has seen something weird that they told another person and, as a result, at the end the forest has been built up as a character. From that you can hear about it from all over the world and it sort of has similarities to these stories. We wanted to take these stories that actually exist in the world and put them into the series. We wanted audiences to see what it would be like if the stories from folklore lived among us today – how would that be? How would that be in the real sense? We take the character of Eva with us in the story and she doesn’t believe in anything supernatural. She leads the audience into this new world.
MG: Maybe also, like we said before, it’s a new thing. With the Scandinavian dramas they have strong lead female characters and that says something about society. It was time for females to be strong, independent and making their own way. Maybe the next level is the worry for nature, the environment, and how we really effect it which is the other level of political awareness in a way.
FH: A lot of these stories came from the creator Henrik Björn and the stories he was told as a kid by his grandmother. That is a lot of the basis from the narrative and that feeling that she gave him as a child.
MG: Also, from a time when people lived closer to nature, had a relationship to it, and respected it. Sadly, nowadays, I don’t really feel that people sense that.
Now that there is such a strong fan-base for Nordic Noir series in the UK, do you feel this has affected the way shows are made to appeal to an international audience?
MG: Definitely. We are so grateful for series like The Killing and The Bridge that really opened the audience up for subtitles; not having to watch your own kind of series but something new. With subtitles, you really have to put effort into it otherwise you will sit there looking at your phone or go away and get a coffee. Now, especially with such a series as Jordskott, you need to see all of the clues on the screen. You can’t be getting up from the sofa; you need to focus. I think that’s a good thing. The subtitles will keep the audience on their toes.
Filip, from a producer’s perspective, how is this show going to sell to an English-language market?
FH: It’s funny because we actually had a slide about this in our presentation that we held in Cologne, when we pitched the show early on before Jordskott had been filmed. We had some points and goals for a broader audiences and international appeal. A series that is Swedish but has a big international touch to it has always been the goal. That has been in the shooting stage and when choosing our locations which we felt needed to be exotic. It was all in the plan!
These locations that are seen, as iconic Scandinavian landscapes to UK audiences, appear to be a major factor in the appeal to audiences who are drawn to the Nordic aesthetic.
MG: I think Sweden is 80% forest or something like that – it’s crazy! So the forest, of course, is part of our national identity and we have these beautiful forests to submerge ourselves into. I think the audiences are going to be seduced by that setting as well.
What are your favourite scenes in the series that really stand out for you?
MG: There’s a scene in episode two where I am singing a lullaby and something very special happens after that.
FH: I have many, but in episode eight there is something going on in a tennis court. There is something both big emotionally and spectacle-wise. For me, that was a big emotional time. I cried three times during editing. For the third time in editing I was like, “I’ve seen this already! I’ve read the script, I was there shooting it. Stop crying!”
What are your favourite Nordic TV series and actors?
MG: I would say The Legacy; I really liked it. I think it’s amazing. I, of course, love all of these actresses: Sofie Gråbøl, Trine Dyrholm, and Sofia Helin. I’m really happy to be a part of that: the faces of Nordicana! And hopefully I’ll continue to be a part of it!
Words and interview by Antony Smith
Jordskott starts Wednesday 10th June at 10pm on ITV Encore.
Episodes of Jordskott will be available on iTunes the day after it TXs on ITV Encore. The series will be available on DVD from 17th August.