Sofia Helin is bidding farewell to Saga Noren. The actress, who has worn those trademark leather trousers, combat boots and penetrating stare for three gripping series of Scandi noir classic The Bridge, plays the role for the final time in the upcoming fourth series.
“It was emotional but it was also a big relief,” she tells RadioTimes.com about finishing her final scene (which of course she won’t describe for fear of spoiling it).
“I was very concentrated because it was technically advanced. But afterwards I cried and hugged my friends. It was emotional.
“It’s a tough job. It’s not a relief to say goodbye to all the friends in the production but it’s a relief not to have that immense pressure on your shoulders. People ask me, do I miss her? I don’t miss her. I can talk to her at any minute. I haven’t said goodbye to her.”
Series four opens with Saga in prison. Having been convicted for killing her mother, an appeal looms. The audience knows that Saga is innocent – her vindictive, suicidal mum set her up in a final moment of spite at the end of series three. But it’s fair to say that this woman – with a condition akin to Aspergers and a genius talent as a detective – has been through the mill more times than we can remember. And we find her at rock bottom.
“It’s her toughest time yet, she has lost her entire identity,” says Helin, who was never in doubt that she wanted to take the role for the final time.
“Before we started, [writer] Hans [Rosenfeldt] said he wanted the theme to be identity both when it comes to the environment and on a personal level and I said, ‘yes!’ I want to do it’.”
But once again, it’s a dark show. The first episode opens with the gruesome discovery of a woman who has been buried up to her neck and stoned to death underneath the Oresund Bridge, the large structure connecting Malmo and Copenhagen and which gives the drama its title. More than 100 rocks were used to bludgeon the life out of the victim, a senior civil servant in the immigration service.
Did Helin have a problem with this? In fact, has she ever had a problem with many of the dark, violent and unpleasant scenes she’s had to film in the show?
“Of course, I understand people can question the beginning of the series. It’s very violent against a woman but that has a relevance because that’s really what happens to some women around the world right now. For the writers and us it was a conscious choice in that sense.”
Has she ever felt uncomfortable with any scenes?
“I felt uncomfortable when they left a female victim to deliver a baby while restrained in a chair,” she says, recalling a particular moment which featured in series three.
“I think that was to me too much. But I am also quite sensitive when it comes to violence on screen so I’m not the right person to ask. I am never comfortable with anyone getting killed, of course. But I can remember when I read it I was like ‘ohh’… I didn’t feel well in my stomach.”
She says she raised the issue with the show’s creator and writer Hans Rosenfeldt, who tells RadioTimes.com that the issue was resolved once his lead actress had seen it on screen.
“There was very little graphic shown,” he says. “We had her strapped to the chair but we only showed her face. You didn’t get the whole image of her. You understood she was restrained and we left before the pain started and when we came back she wasn’t there. We are as a collective, the director, me, the producer, broadcaster, we are quite good when we sit in a room and when on the page it looks a bit ‘oooh’, we ask how can we do this without it getting tasteless? I am not sure [Helin] had a problem when she saw it, the problem she had was when she read it. It’s much easier to fix those things in editing because, when you read it, your imagination goes ‘oh my God’.”
So as we say goodbye to Saga and her brilliant show, the question is – is that really the end? Will Helin ever play Saga again? What about a film spin-off? Or even a back story – young Saga, say?
“You never know,” she chuckles, suggesting that co-star Thure Lindhardt (who plays Saga’s sidekick Henrik Sabroe) might have some irons in the fire.
“Me and Thure have been talking about making short stories and putting them on YouTube. Saga and Henrik going to the dentist, that kind of thing.”
She’s winding me up. So I have to ask again. Seriously. Is that it? She says she still talks to the character. Will we never see her again?
“I don’t know. But for now it’s the end.”
The Bridge starts on BBC2 on Friday 11th May at 9pm. All previous series are available on iPlayer now
This article was originally published on 1 May 2018