You may not have heard of The Legacy yet, but you soon will. The latest drama to take Denmark by storm, Arvingerne (as it’s called back home) has taken the well-trodden path onto British TV screens, starting tonight on Sky Arts 1.
But if you’re expecting politics or murder, think again. This is no Borgen or The Killing – although DR, Denmark’s National Broadcasting Corporation, has produced all three. Instead, The Legacy is an intense study of relationships and one family blown apart by the sudden death of matriarch and artist Veronika Gronnegaard (Kirsten Olesen).
Veronika leaves behind four children: successful careerist Gro (Trine Dyrholm), responsible Frederick (Carsten Bjørnlund), wayward Emil (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard) and Signe (Marie Bach Hansen) who, until the night of Veronika’s death, had no idea she was her daughter.
When Veronika’s entire estate is bequeathed to her long lost child, the four grown-up siblings go to battle over her legacy. The series has attracted ratings of up to 1.95 million viewers in Denmark – that’s a third of the entire population – and has prompted a “huge boom” in the creation of testaments and wills, according to creator Maya Ilsøe.
The cast are under no illusion that the series’ success is down, in part, to its critically acclaimed Danish predecessors. “I think [Borgen and The Killing] have definitely helped us,” Carsten (above, left) tells RadioTimes.com. His co-star Trine (right) agrees: “I don’t think The Legacy would have had such a big audience on a Sunday night if it hadn’t been for the other series.”
Both are keen for their drama to stand apart, though. “You can’t compare it, it’s different,” continues Trine. “The Killing was also different from Borgen. Now The Legacy is different again. We were the little brother without as much money as the big series. Then it turned out to be a huge hit and now the expectation of the second season is much higher.”
Yes, they’ve already got a second series – the first aired in Denmark back in January – and filming concluded earlier this month when interest back home reached fever pitch. “People ask me all the time what’s going to happen,” says Trine. “And they’re angry. ‘Why doesn’t it come now?’ I have been in this business for many years but I’ve never tried to do a thing where so many people come up to you on the street, and are so into the story and the characters and discuss all the themes. It has been really special.”
Here in Britain, “Danish” is shorthand for sophisticated, intelligent drama. When I suggest that anything made in the Scandinavian country is on course for glory, Carsten is quick to insist “we have s**t as well”. Like reality series and singing contests? “We import a lot of that from the UK,” jokes Maya, although she adds that English telly has its own seal of approval back home.
“English TV and feature films have a really good reputation in Denmark. It’s intelligent and so funny. If something is from England, it already has a quality stamp.”
It’s a nice thought – and the reverse is certainly true. The Legacy is Sky’s first acquisition from DR and will no doubt pull in plenty of loyal Scandi-followers. But there’s something here for those who don’t worship at the altar of Sofie Gråbøl and Sidse Babett Knudsen.
The ten-part series has a set-up not dissimilar from Downton Abbey, humming with sibling tensions and strong performances amid the family fallout. Scandinavian TV has a formidable track record on our screens – especially once you add The Bridge and Wallander to the mix – and The Legacy is sure to uphold it.