Deep in the Arctic Circle, a spate of horrific murders rocks the isolated frontier town of Icehoåle, where gruff crime scene investigator Olafur "Oli" Olafsson (Stellan Skarsgård) is sent to investigate. A callous serial killer is leaving a trail of victims in fishing ice holes - half their body entombed in the ice, the other left exposed to freeze alive in the blistering cold. Sometimes, just the legs are left standing tall as a variation of the killer’s signature calling card.
“What all of these Nordic noir series do so well is really get to the dark heart of not only the perpetrators, but also the miserable crime-fighting types who pursue them,” says Skarsgård of what attracted him to the role. “You certainly don’t have to worry about getting laugh lines in these roles because there’s never any call to smile, let alone laugh.”
The veteran actor makes no bones about the fact his character would rather deal with the dead than the living.
“He’s definitely not a people person, unless they’re stiff - and by that I mean deceased.”
Shooting the show in such a severe climate (sometimes at –50°C) at the Artic Circle settlement of Sveistrup, which doubles for Icehoåle, was not without its challenges says series creator Christian Bjørnson.
“Sometimes due to how bitterly cold it was, our corpses would snap in half which was frustrating for the families who had donated their deceased loved ones to play the victims,” he says. “Then, there were the polar bears who treated our frozen extras literally like pieces of meat.”
The stellar cast also features The Killing’s Sofie Gråbøl, who plays French/Norwegian psychoanalyst Stella LaCroix. Olafsson is forced by his superiors to attend therapy sessions with her if he’s to stay on the case as he is suffering delusions brought on by posttraumatic stress.
“The thing is, Oli can never be sure if Stella is there or not,” says the luminescently beautiful Gråbøl, her lips throbbing pillows of seduction as she sips a frothy vanilla chai latte during a production break.
“Sometimes he sees me; other times, all he sees is my bespoke jumper bobbing on my shrink seat. I must say it’s been a pleasure to get back into the woolies. I miss them and I really do think I was responsible for starting a global fashion trend there.”
In a major casting coup, Keanu Reeves came on board as Chief of Police Esteban Solis, a Spaniard outsider with a dark past.
“I can’t speak Norwegian, nor Spanish for that matter, but my character is kind of the silent type, so I barely have any lines anyway,” Reeves tells SBS down the line from Los Angeles.
“They basically just needed a big Hollywood name in there. I mean who the hell has heard of Stellan Skarsgård and Sofie Gråbøl anyway? And to be honest, I was a bit tired of shooting bad guys in the John Wick movies, so I thought, why not come to the Arctic Circle and shoot bad guys? I hear the climate’s great!”
So with Myrde inne Is Hull proving such a success, are there plans for a second season?
“There’s a few hurdles to get over,” admits Bjørnson. “One is convincing Stellan to come back - he was suffering from hypothermia half the time. But to be honest, that elevated his performance because it looked like he was actually trying - normally he just phones it in. Keanu won’t be hard to get back - he pretty much does anything for the money.
“We’ll also have to get permission to cull the polar bear population. Watch this space.”
Myrde inne Is Hull is coming soon to SBS and SBS On Demand.