Sofia Helin walks out in front of an eager audience who’ve just watched her as Saga Noren in the concluding episode of series two of The Bridge.
Shining with all the warmth and emotional intelligence that her character lacks, Helin is overwhelmed by the multitude waiting to hear her. Apparently such open adoration isn’t done in Sweden – she denies being stopped in the street there because Swedes “care about being cool”. By contrast, at Nordic drama festival Nordicana this weekend she is greeted with a standing ovation.
So we settle down to hear Helin discuss her experiences of The Bridge with Radio Times TV editor Alison Graham. The immensely popular Danish-Swedish drama is an integral part of the current fetish for Scandinavian crime thrillers, particularly Helin’s character Saga Noren, whose curt comments and fast calculations have struck a chord with UK viewers.
Helin “could never have envisaged” the popularity of The Bridge in the UK, or the growing love for these noirish dramas. She suggests that perhaps Saga’s attraction for us is her direct manner – a “relief” from Britsh politeness. She’s a great crime-solver, but even more do we love her behaviour around others – the over-intense direct stare, the misjudged attempts at small talk.
This distinct appeal lies in the fact that Saga clearly has Asperger’s; the beauty being that this is never referenced in the show despite being acknowledged by its stars and creators.
Saga’s colleagues take her for who she is, whilst our growing familiarity with her is mirrored onscreen in her friendship with Martin Rohde (played by Kim Bodnia), and her unnatural directness often provides unexpected moments of comedy.
Helin is used to getting into character now, despite the obvious differences in their personalities. Whilst Saga is a bit “above reality”, Helin is adamant that she isn’t an exaggeration for dramatic effect, and devotes hours of disciplined preparation, even separation, to prepare for the role.
We’ve been promised that series three will explore Saga’s background even further. Helin admits that the original script had revealed far more by this point; changes reflected the fact that Saga is hardly one to offer unsolicited detail – to say nothing of upping the anticipation for the next series.
And what of her co-stars? The final episode sees Saga betray her partner Martin Rohde whilst concluding simultaneously that he is her only friend – what will happen to their friendship, and will we see Martin again?
“I won’t say anything, but Kim Bodnia will be there one way or another!”
The complete series of The Bridge, Series 2, can currently be found on BBC iPlayer.