Gustaf Hammarsten on Swedish thriller Midnight Sun and filming in Lapland

The Swedish actor isn't really a Sami but there's more truth to the hit crime drama than you might expect

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If you don’t have Sky, you’ll have missed out on the brilliant, beautifully shot Swedish drama Midnight Sun, which is out on DVD this week.

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Written by the chaps behind The Bridge, it’s another multi-lingual thriller, but this time a Parisian cop is called into investigate the grisly murder of a French national in northernmost Sweden. It soon gets a lot grislier, but there’s also plenty of jaw-dropping scenery. It’s called Midnight Sun because the sun doesn’t set in the Arctic Circle between May and August.

Swedish actor Gustaf Hammarsten plays the timid Swedish investigator who is Sami (the indigenous people of northern Scandinavia who were traditionally nomadic reindeer herders). We asked him what it was like filming in Lapland and how close the drama is to reality.


Was it your first time in Lapland?

I live in Stockholm but I have been up there a few times, although hadn’t experienced it the way I did this time. Even for a Swede, it’s very exotic and different to go up to the northern part of Sweden, so it was exciting for me.

How did you cope with the midnight sun?

I had my Mariah Carey kit with me: earplugs, an eye mask and relaxing music so I could sleep. I had no problem with that actually. We don’t have the midnight sun in Stockholm but there are very few hours of sunlight in winter and then longer days in the summer.

Hammarsten and co-star Leila Bekhti who plays a troubled French cop 

How long were you up there?

From June to October. In June, there was still some snow outside my window and the snow was in full force when I left in October, so it’s a short summer. The Sami people actually have eight seasons: pre-spring and spring, pre-summer and summer etc. Up there it’s totally logical because nature changes so much.

Are you really Sami?

Not to my knowledge, but you never know!

It was really interesting learning about the prejudice that the Samis face from Swedes…

Even as a Swede, I didn’t know much about it either. I think Sweden is in the frontline when it comes to democratic issues and equality between women and men, and racism. But I didn’t really read about Sami people in school and I didn’t really know that much about them and there is a history of treating them in the old colonial, Western way. This series really turns those questions around.

Your character explains that Samis don’t like being called “lapp”, so why is that region called Lapland?

Yes, the Samis don’t want to be called Laps, but still the northern part of Sweden is called Lapland. That’s the way it is. It’s part of the subtle racism.

What was the reaction of real Samis to the show?

There were a lot of Samis involved from the start and some of the actors were true Samis. They could guide us and say if they thought anything was prejudiced. I’m sure there are always people that think “This is crazy, this is totally wrong”. But I have had very positive reactions. We had two Sami pop singers who are in the frontline of the political discussions between the Samis and the Swedes involved: Maxida Marak and Sofia Jannok. They are proud and think this is a very good series from a Sami perspective.

The scenery is incredible – did you have time to enjoy it?

It was fantastic. For me, it was like going on an exotic trip to another country and I was still in Sweden. I stayed in a little hotel cabin and went for walks when I had free time. There’s 25 miles to the next little house and then 45 miles to the next so it’s just nature. It’s good for the soul to see where we all come.  felt I should take my kids up because they really should see it.

A snapshot of the stunning backdrop to the show

Midnight Sun is set in Sweden’s northernmost town Kiruna, which is being moved so mining can continue in that area. Is it a real place?

Yes, and they’re actually moving the town for real because of the mine. I think what’s good about the show is that it’s an exciting crime thriller but it also has this racism issue and economical, political issue. The mine that brings in a huge amount of money for the Swedish because it is owned by the government. Now they’re digging almost under the town, but instead of moving and stopping the mine, they want to move the town. It’s unbelievable.

Is there going to be a second series?

Well, that is the question: to be or not to be. It’s been a huge success. The problem is the creators felt they made one complete story and don’t want to make a weaker second season or to milk the thing. I’m up for it but there has to be a good, logical story. Maybe we’ll come to Midsomer in England. There are a lot of murders there!

Is Midsomer Murders popular in Sweden?

Very. Swedes love British crime shows.

Midnight Sun is out now on DVD and Blu-Ray


Radio Times Travel

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