Danish actor Thure Lindhardt may be a newcomer to The Bridge (2011- ) but he is well-known in Scandinavia. Recognised for his roles in the Robert Award-winning Angels in Fast Motion (2005) and Flame and Citron (2008) opposite Mads Mikkelsen, Lindhardt has cultivated a career in Hollywood, featuring in Sean Penn’s Into the Wild (2007) and Ron Howard’s Angels & Demons (2009). In our interview with the star, we discuss Saga’s new partner, the popularity of Scandi crime series in the UK, and how this links to the genre’s intrinsic philosophy of justice that we may take for granted…
In comparison to his upbeat personality, it is clear that Thure Lindhardt is very different to his character of Danish detective Henrik Sabroe and his brooding intensity. “Yes, we are quite different! When speaking to Sofia Helin you see a very different person in contrast to Saga too! [LAUGHS]” Lindhardt muses. “It’s insane when she suddenly goes into character. Sofia is a completely different person and she is fascinating to work with. She’s very sweet and intelligent.”
As The Bridge is an already well-established international series, Henrik effectively replaces Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia) as Saga’s partner after the dramatic second season finale. The Bridge III has fascinated us and taken the show in a different direction. “I think that is what made it worth doing”, confirms Lindhardt. “I sensed how well the scenes read when I read the script out loud. It was easy and delightful. Delightful is the right word! Coming on-board a TV show with people who knew and trusted each other very well, everyone agreed they wanted to go somewhere completely different in the third season. Everything became very new which made it easy for me to be a part of.”
Henrik is immediately presented as a dark and ambiguous man that takes a while for the audience to understand and relate to. “Behind every person’s darkness there is always a need to be loved and a need to love. There is always a search for the good in every human being,” Lindhardt explains. “Sometimes, as an actor, when you read a scene your reaction is “Oh, my God! How can I ever make this work?” Here, there are still obstacles, although I understood it and felt it. I’m attracted to playing those dark characters. I also love doing a comedy, however, I have a great empathy for people who do not have an easy life. Henrik is definitely a man on a mission trying to figure out his life and I really like that.”
While Martin and Saga (Sofia Helin) were close, Henrik and Saga seem to be on the same wavelength. Henrik has a significance to Saga’s own character that complements her and helps her on her journey. “I think he understands her first of all and he needs her. They have the same quirkiness. They are both very weird!” Lindhardt ruminates. “The lyrics for Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here come to mind: “We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year…” They are very much alike in the fact they are two imperfect people helping each other in their own weird way. Personally, I think it makes a beautiful relationship. Henrik was originally written as smart, very cool, and constantly telling bad jokes, but we took that away. On the contrary, as an actor, you would try to go for something the complete opposite and not the like.”
In order to play a detective, Lindhardt immersed himself in a range of experiences. “I had training to shoot firearms and learned the language of a detective. For instance, in Danish, you would not say “murder” until somebody has been convicted; there is certain terminology,” recalls Lindhardt. “Then, of course, the weapons training was wonderful – I loved it. At the Department of Investigation outside of Copenhagen, I spent time with two very warm and nice policemen. I was surprised by their calm empathy. I asked all of the naïve questions like, “Why are you policemen?” And their answer was beautiful: “Justice. We just really like justice.” They also told me that they do not judge anyone. Until proven guilty people should be treated like human beings. I have a lot of respect for their job. That’s actually what my job is about. I cannot judge the person I am playing; I have to present him as a human being and let the audience judge.”
The popularity of Nordic Noir as a genre is relatively unknown in Scandinavia and considered to be an English-language phenomenon. “I find it surprising too. That is what the genre is referred to in other countries, which is quite funny. It sounds very good; mysterious and French! I think there is also the fascination of the unknown. Ever since Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie stories; people just really love crime series. There is the mystery but also the aspect of justice. I think it is a really deep and profound part of humanity and the policemen I met answered that question.” Lindhardt jokes about the signature style and muted colour palate of the show: “Although, you could not film The Bridge in Hawaii, it would not work! [LAUGHS] We talked about it but we need the rain and the darkness. Otherwise, it would be like watching Batman in Gotham City in the sunshine, surrounded by women in bikinis and bare-chested men. It wouldn’t work. It’s not the same universe, is it?”
With Sofia Helin’s recommendation of Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard at Nordicana 2015, the Danish actor shared his favourite Scandinavian writers. “Karl Ove Knausgaard is very philosophical and brilliant,” praises Lindhardt. “I think both Knausgaard and Danish author Kim Leine are the two best Scandinavian writers right now. I haven’t read a lot of crime fiction; I watch a lot of crime series but I’m not a very good crime reader! My taste is dark, philosophical books by Dostoyevsky or Sartre. Maybe I need to relax?” Lindhardt also commented on his current taste in Scandi television: “I have been watching The Legacy. I love the first season! I have also been watching a Swedish series called Blue Eyes. I think there are many interesting things going on in Scandinavia television, especially in Norway. They are making a lot of good television shows and films at the moment.”
Working outside of Scandinavia, Lindhardt has appeared in both US and UK productions. We found out some of the actor’s favourite and most challenging projects in the English-language. “I did a film 3096 Days (2013) based on the Austrian girl Natascha Kampusch who was kidnapped and held in a basement for eight years. As it was based on a real person, it was hard for me to try and defend my character. It was one of the biggest working challenges I have ever had. I loved being directed by Neil Jordan a few times – The Borgias (2013) and Byzantium (2012). His darkness and honesty is very clear. It was very inspiring for me to be around a presence like his. I also worked with Ira Sachs in Keep the Lights On (2012). I got to play Ira; the character based on the director and that was a wonderful experience! I love characters that go through dependency and self-destruction in relationships that end with hope.” Lindhardt draws attention to another Nordic-UK connection: “From acting in British productions, I also find that the sense of humour is so similar between the UK and Scandinavian countries. We laugh at the same things that are dark but also not too politically correct. I definitely like a bit of political correctness. We are meant to laugh at our own failures to make us human.”
The third season climax leaves viewers contemplating how Henrik’s relationship with Saga could evolve. “The relationship between the two of them could go so many places. It’s a sexual relationship but started out professional and ends up like they are brother and sister. We want to leave this up to people’s imagination. I don’t want to ruin people’s expectations!” Lindhardt also hints at a potential fourth season. “We are talking about a fourth season but that is all I can say at the moment.”
In The Bridge III, the inter-Nordic politics highlighted in the show between Denmark and Sweden seem to have balanced out with the personification of Henrik and Saga and their relationship. With the new journey and direction of The Bridge III, Henrik’s introduction has created less of a culture clash and more of a bridge between the gaps for a brighter, yet still overcast Noir future.
Words and interview by Antony Smith
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