Pre-order ‘Modus’ plus interview with star Melinda Kinnaman

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Let the new Swedish Nordic Noir heroine convince you to reserve your copy of Modus on DVD and Blu-ray now!

Described by the Guardian as “the show that takes Scandi-noir into ‘whydunnit’ territory”, Modus is offering us a fresh new crime series to get addicted to on BBC Four. Just in time for Christmas, Modus: Complete Series One is available to download on digital HD via iTunes now. Pre-order your copy on Nordic Noir & Beyond DVD or Blu-ray from Monday 19th December.

Here is just some of the praise Modus has received so far:

“Patiently paced and stylish to look at” 4-stars - Daily Mail

“Sleek… picturesque… psychological… frightening… I’m hooked” – Financial Times

“A handsome Swedish crime drama” – The Observer

To celebrate the home entertainment release, we bring you an exclusive chat with the new Swedish Nordic Noir heroine of Modus, Melinda Kinnaman.

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Audiences will recognise Swedish actress Melina Kinnaman as part of the electrifying ensemble in The Bridge III and now she takes the lead in the crime fiction adaptation of Anne Holt’s novels. We find out what it has been like to play criminal psychologist and profiler Inger Johanne Vik, working on The Bridge III, acting with Krister Henriksson, her thoughts on Nordic Noir remakes, and how her brother, international star Joel Kinnaman (The Killing and the Easy Money trilogy), is there for advice – especially when it comes to physical, action sequences.

We’re very excited to know more about the series which remained very obscure and shrouded in mystery to UK audiences for some time. What is Modus all about? “Modus is based on the books by Norwegian crime writer Anne Holt but the series is written by two fantastic Danish screenwriters Mai Brostrøm and Peter Thorsboe that have won International Emmy Awards for Danish shows The TeamThe Eagle, Unit 1, and The Protectors.” Kinnaman explains, “The story of Modus is based around my character, Inger Johanne Vik, who is a criminal psychologist/ profiler. Although, I was told by the police that a “profiler” is terminology really only found in film and television. Vik has recently been working in the US with the FBI and has a tendency to get deeply involved in what she does. She is affected by her work and this, in turn, affects her family life. This has made Vik decide that she can no longer be out in the field. Instead, she wants to return to academia; write books and give lectures because she wants to focus on being a mother.”

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In Nordic Noir shows, the family subplot is often overshadowed by the murder mystery. However, this storyline is more integral to the narrative of Modus. “Vik is separated from her husband and has two children that she sees half the time. The oldest child, Stina, has autism. What happens is that Stina is witness to a murder and Vik is drawn back into police work, mainly to protect her family. The murderer has also seen her daughter so there is a threat to the whole family,” says Kinnaman. “Modus is based on one book but it has eight episodes which allow you to explore the characters in depth throughout the show. That’s something I loved about the script; every story is so well-written with complexity, nuances, contradictions, and it is very character-driven.”

Many female detectives have doomed or non-existent family lives, especially with children however Modus challenges this with Johanne as a strong heroine and present maternal figure – looking after her autistic daughter and balancing her career. “My character really has to struggle with her family life and the high demands she has for herself; being a mother, being there, and being present. Things don’t always work out the way she wants it to but she tries her best. Vik is so passionate about her work too, in contrast to the wonderful central character of The Bridge and the autistic spectrum part of Saga’s character,” compares Kinnaman. “Whereas, with Modus, Vik is a very ordinary person trying to fit together the pieces of her ‘life puzzle’ which is a bit more dramatic than for most people! [LAUGHS] I also did research for the role to find out more about the autistic spectrum by meeting a lot of children who have been diagnosed, parents, and psychologists.”

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Playing a criminal psychologist or “profiler” is an alternative career path for the detective role that we are used to in Nordic Noir. “I met a great criminal “profiler” that works for the Swedish equivalent of the FBI, since it started in 1994, and their job is to go into great detail to find out who the criminals are. It was so interesting talking to her and she agreed to read the script, which we changed based on her advice and experience,” Kinnaman recalls. “One thing she noticed in the beginning, my character was talking and drawing conclusions in a definitive way. I think the scriptwriters felt this would translate to show that Vik has a lot of experience and knowledge. However, the police contact told me they never speak so definitively because they need to be open to other possibilities. If you decide on one thing then you shut down other ideas. I talked with the scriptwriters and we changed the language a bit to make Vik more of an open character. When Vik is analysing she still has a strong intuition but it’s just a different, realistic way of formulating it.”

Melinda Kinnaman began her career on-screen as a child in Lasse Hallström’s My Life as a Dog. From acting at such a young age, we wondered if this helped the actress to relate and get to know Esmeralda Struwe, as well as preparing to play a mother. “It was nice because I was the same age as Esmeralda is now when I started acting on film. We could really talk about it and I could recognise how good she is – she’s brilliant, such a natural!” praises Kinnaman. “She is also very hard on herself which I could remember myself as a kid. [LAUGHS] We got along very well and we have kept in contact. It’s funny because I’m a short person and she is already taller than me. [LAUGHS] I’m 1m 57cm [a little under 5’2”] and I have a child so that will actually happen to me. I hope he grows taller than me.”

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As Modus aired in Sweden almost a year ago, the actress shared with us how the Swedish audiences and critics have welcomed the show. “I think the reception was better than what anyone had expected! Modus has a feel to it that makes it seem like it has a bigger budget, it really shows. Compared to other Swedish productions, with an exception to The Bridge, the show has a high quality from the costume to the production design. It felt like the series has something a little extra. You may not agree but a lot of people said it didn’t seem very “Swedish” which was meant to be something positive from them. [LAUGHS]” Kinnaman muses. “It lives up to an international standard. We have some great shows and The Bridge is definitely one of the best series we have. We also got a prize at the QX Gay Galan Awards in Stockholm which was so much fun! For the gay magazine nominations we were up against the Eurovision Song Contest and the Caitlyn Jenner documentary, Call me Caitlyn – and we won! It was wonderful!”

From the quality of the series and its international standard, Kinnaman discussed her feelings about international remakes, especially with Joel Kinnaman starring in and maintaining a Nordic element to the US version of The Killing. “I have to say, I think The Killing US is really good. I would even say I think it’s better than the original. [LAUGHS] I’m, of course, a bit biased because my brother is in it but I think it’s really good,” admits Kinnaman. “I haven’t really seen any other remakes but they just need to be made well without copying the original. I think The Killing did that; they developed it and took it in another direction. I have to say one of my favourite crime dramas from last year was River – that was amazing! It was so character-driven. The crime plot wasn’t the main part of the story; it was the deeper characters and their relationships that get more and more complex. I loved that series.”

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Melinda Kinnaman pictured with co-star Henrik Norlén at the Kristallen Awards 2016

Read more about Modus nominated for Best TV Drama at the Kristallen Awards here.

Modus is set during Christmas to add a chilling tone to the festive period. Other than the cold weather perpetuated on screen, there are scenes in the show that have been equally demanding and exciting, both mentally and physically. “I have one pretty heavy fight scene [LAUGHS] and it was the first time I’ve performed that kind of scene. I enjoyed it very much; the rush of it and the physicality. It was exhilarating even though I was the one being thrown around. It was also great working with the stunt coordinator as it was all choreographed, step-by-step. I actually talked to Joel about it after I was given the outline of the fight scene because he has filmed so much. Whereas, I have been performing at the National Theatre since 1994 so I am more of a stage actress. He said “If you have any questions just ask me”, so I sent him the brief and a description of my character before we shot the scene. I don’t think he read my character profile because [LAUGHS] he said “It’s good but I think you should add some Brazilian jujitsu in there”, and, “throw in an arm bar when the guy is on the floor. I think it will be really good. You can find out how to do it on YouTube”. I was like, “I’m playing a psychologist and mother of two with no training whatsoever!” [LAUGHS] That was funny!”

“What I worked on was my character’s rage and her strong will to survive because I have no combat techniques and the guy I’m fighting is a killer! [LAUGHS] When you’re stunt training and someone is punching you – the distance they are hitting you at is half a metre away. Regardless, to see someone coming at you with that aggressive look in their eyes is scary. Even though you move your head to one side, something happens. It’s like a shock but it’s exciting too,” says Kinnaman jovially. “I remember, we shot that scene before lunch and I had to keep the blood make-up on for continuity, during which time I was interviewed by an American and UK journalist. Then after lunch, I had to shoot a sex scene! [LAUGHS] They’re usually a little bit embarrassing because you’re feeling tense and awkward, but it was great because I have never been so relaxed after fighting beforehand. It was good preparation.”

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Kinnaman also has experience in acrobatics, contemporary circus, and modern dance. “That actually started when I was 30-years-old which is quite late in life to being learning. Then I performed in a production of Romeo and Juliet with a circus company which was a fantastic collaboration. I also performed with the theatre-circus group in The Tempest and The Little Mermaid but I haven’t been back since 2007. I don’t think I can do that anymore now.”

In Modus, Wallander’s Krister Henriksson co-stars and the actress shared her fond memories of Henriksson from acting with him in the past. “Krister Henriksson and I did a TV play when I was about 24-years-old which was a long time ago. He played my father and we shared many scenes together in the hospital. I know him very well. He is great. He really liked this show too and he plays such a good role. I think Modus has such a good script; the characters take turns that you just can’t imagine and Krister’s character, Erik Lindgren, does that too. I don’t have any scenes with Krister but we met on set. I don’t meet all of the characters because I’m usually in the interrogations, at the morgue, or with my family. There are many subplots and storylines that don’t cause the characters to intertwine.”

Will these storylines carry on into the second season? “It will still be my character, Inger Johanne Vik, working with the police but there will be a new cast of people. Some won’t be returning in the next season…”

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The themes of the series are said to focus on religion and human rights which add to a social commentary seen in Scandi crime dramas. “There are modern representations of families; Inger as a single parent sharing custody of her children, as well as a female and a gay male couple with kids. The story touches on how the themes of religion, fundamentalism, and human rights are part of the murder mystery. In this series, it is quite different because you follow the murderer from the beginning. Therefore, it’s not a ‘whodunit’ but focuses on the killer’s motives and why. You don’t really find this out until halfway through the season but I can’t give away any more details.”

We have to know what it was like to join the cast of The Bridge III. “It was so wonderful. It was one of the most joyful experiences for me. The cast and the crew take great care of everyone on set, even when I just had six days of shooting. They made you feel like such an important part of the series. There is so much detail put into everything and I felt like we were given plenty of time to get each scene the way we wanted it,” Kinnaman recalls ardently. “I loved my character, Anna, and I was shocked by her storyline – a 17-year-old lover? [LAUGHS] In the auditions, there were actors that looked young but were in their late twenties so I assumed it would be one of them. However, the “boy” had just turned 18-years-old! [LAUGHS]

Despite my role being so small it had such good ingredients; passion, betrayal, and a tempestuous relationship with her mother. You question if Anna is going to fall or if she’ll succeed and follow her heart. Then it ends in tragedy. I loved that role. With that sex scene, I wanted to make sure the actor was relaxed and comfortable but it turned out he was really into it and thought it was fun! [LAUGHS] He wasn’t nervous at all! [LAUGHS] I loved working on The Bridge, it was such a pleasure. It’s too bad I never got to meet Sofia Helin. I would have loved to be interrogated by Saga Norén.” Kinnaman reveals her adoration for the series as an avid viewer as well: “I just read my scenes in the script because I was so looking forward to watching the new season! I was like every other fan. I couldn’t wait to watch the next episode! My character isn’t coming back but I’d love to work on that series again – it was fantastic.”

Kinnaman reveals her adoration for the series as an avid viewer as well: “I just read my scenes in the script because I was so looking forward to watching the new season! I was like every other fan. I couldn’t wait to watch the next episode! My character isn’t coming back but I’d love to work on that series again – it was fantastic.”

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There are many appealing tourist attractions in Sweden, including the Malmö Museum that has hosted The Bridge exhibit and the walking tours around the Øresund. We asked Kinnaman where else she recommends ‘Nordophiles’ and Nordic Noir fans to visit.“Fårö – the island where Ingmar Bergman lived and where he also shot several of his films. It’s in the Baltic Sea and it’s not very big but Fårö has a very open, barren landscape with views of the sea and the sky that are amazing. It’s not lush but the trees there are twisted from the wind which makes it more beautiful. It has a beauty similar to a desert. I try to go there a couple of times a year.”

What can we see the actress appearing in next? “We start filming the second season of Modus in January. Before that, in the autumn, I’ll be performing in a one-woman show at the Swedish National Theatre. The play is called I Don’t Want to Die I Just Want to Live, which I’ve acted in for a few years now. It’s based on a Swedish book that is written by a teacher of religion and philosophy that suffers from a bipolar disease. This monologue is exploring the meaning of life from someone with a strong suicidal streak in her.” Will we see Melinda working alongside Joel in the near future? “[LAUGHS] You never know! It’s nothing that we’ve planned but you never know.” Perhaps if there are plenty of combat scenes involved…

Words and interview by Antony Smith

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Modus is currently airing on BBC Four with double episodes from 9pm on Saturday nights.

Modus: Complete Series One is available to buy through Nordic Noir & Beyond from Monday 19th December. 

Pre-order your copy of Modus on DVD or Blu-ray from the Amazon store here.

Download Modus on digital HD via iTunes here.