“Never give the audience what they want,” says actress Sofie Grabol, following a preview screening of the first instalment of The Killing II at Bafta in London’s Piccadilly.
She’s referring to Sarah Lund’s Faroe Island sweater, which is conspicuous by its absence in this opening hour. But she may as well be talking about the show itself, for this sequel certainly has a different vibe to the original series that so captivated BBC4 audiences earlier this year.
This time around, the run is shorter – ten episodes instead of 20 – and the focus switches from the mayoralty of Copenhagen to the corridors of high power. Top-level politics aren’t the drama’s only preoccupation either: there’s talk of Afghanistan and a whiff of the military, too. The Killing is definitely stepping up from the local to the national and maybe even the global.
But anyway, back to the jumper. As viewers will see when she returns later this month (starts Saturday 19 November, 9pm, BBC4), Sarah Lund is now pattern-free and in a red pullover. So has that famous garment gone permanently AWOL?
“When I saw friends and people in the street and I’d tell them I was doing a second series of The Killing, the reaction on every single occasion was, ‘Are you going to wear the jumper?’ Nothing about the character or what’s going to happen in the story.
“You know, I love that sweater and yet I hate it. It’s so strong that it’s almost wearing me. So we had a meeting and I said, ‘I’m not going to give it to them.’ But then after three or four episodes, I had another meeting and decided, ‘OK, I have to get the old sweater back.’ I tried to escape it but found that I just couldn’t. Mind you, we filmed some scenes in Spain in a desert where they used to make the spaghetti westerns and that was tough in the jumper.”
Grabol is sharing the stage at the event with executive producer Piv Bernth, who explains the reasons behind the sophomore season’s shorter running length:
“The narrative is very complex and intense so I think having ten episodes suits the story. In the original run, there were some episodes that were a little repetitive, so I think the tension of ten hours is good.”
There does seem to be a definite momentum to the case, with a focus on plot rather than any exploration of Sarah Lund’s enigmatic personality. As soon as we’ve been reintroduced, she chucks in her job working the night shift in a remote corner of Denmark and immerses herself in a new case in Copenhagen that involves the murder of a female lawyer.
“I like her mystery and her secrets,” says Grabol of Lund. “I don’t want to know much more about her. In a way, you have an almost sadistic relationship with your character. You don’t want the best for them. We think about what could be the worst thing that could happen to her and then we do it.”
As can be inferred by this comment, production of The Killing is very much a collaborative process between the actors, producers and writer Soren Sveistrup. As Bernth explains, “We’re writing, performing and editing at the same time.” For Grabol, the fact that she can have her say on the way plots and her character develop is one of the main reasons she signed on for series two:
“It’s created in this very unique way in the sense that Soren writes as we go along. We only shoot one episode at a time and while we’re filming that, he’s writing the next one. It’s a challenging way of working but it means that the creative atmosphere is very high. Soren knows in which direction it should go, but he doesn’t feel threatened by other people’s ideas or opinions.”
One example of this occurring was in the planning stages of the climax to series one. Fans will recall that in the final version, Lund was seen holding up her fellow police officers with their own guns. But this wasn’t the way that Sveistrup originally envisaged events unfolding:
“I was a bit disappointed with ideas for the last episode,” comments Grabol. “When we gathered and read it, he had me at the Larsen house making phone calls. We had a very animated discussion and I remember saying that Lund has to be active. She can’t just sit there. So what ended up on screen came out of my frustrations.”
With the whole team having so much emotional investment in The Killing, it’s no surprise that they’ve already reached a decision as to when to close the casebook. Next autumn will see a third ten-part series broadcast in Denmark (apparently complete with all-new knitwear), after which point it seems that Lund will slough the sweater forever.
“Maybe in 20 years we’ll bring her back,” smiles Bernth.
Grabol laughs. “She could end up like Miss Marple.”
However, before that parting of the ways, look out for Grabol’s forthcoming appearance in the return of Absolutely Fabulous (“It was more like a visit. They filmed some of it”) and – it goes without saying – in The Killing II when it debuts on BBC4. There’s rain, Stygian gloom, torches and more rain. In the company of Sarah Lund, those cold, winter evenings look set to get even chillier.