With it's compelling mix of high tension and complicated characters, each with their own hidden motivations and secrets, new series Below The Surface feels like a Danish version of 24.
In the gripping first episode, three heavily armed men hijack an everyday metro train taking fifteen hostages. The police terror unit TTF responds, with Philip Nørgaard leading the task force.
Nørgaard is played by Danish actor Johannes Lassen, previously seen in the SBS drama 1864: Denmark's War. He recently sat down for a chat with SBS to discuss his lead role in Below The Surface.
As an actor when you get a role from the creators of The Killing and Borgen, is that enough to get you to sign onto it? Are you looking for anything else in the role before saying ‘yes’?
For me it was the story. It was the script. I had worked with the director before on Summer of 92 a couple of years ago with him, a feature sports film. I read the story-line and thought it was amazing, so I didn’t think about it. Of course it’s a thumbs up when it is created by people that you think have done good work. For me, it was definitely the story.
What about the story spoke to you?
It’s kind of difficult to talk about because it could reveal too much. But it is a very complex character that has a lot of baggage from when he was a hostage himself. So, he has to deal with the outer pressure and inner pressure as he tries to solve the crime that has been committed – trying to get the people out of the situation that they’re in. At the same time he is dealing with a lot of pressure inside that he cannot show to anyone because of PTSD coming up to the surface.
What is appealing about the whole story is that it isn’t black and white – there is a reason why people act like they do.
Was playing a good guy a plus? It means you’ll probably be around for a second season...
No, I didn’t think about that. I read the script and thought it was a good story. Whether or not they want to continue with it. I love TV shows and movies myself. I thought this is a thing I would want to see. This is a good story and an important story for the world that we live in. It sets up questions about how and why people react the way the way they do.
People are now watching TV from across the world regardless of what language it’s in. Do you think much about the audience outside of Denmark?
At the moment I’m shooting in Stockholm. This winter I was shooting in Croatia. What’s happened within the last few years is it has opened up and become more and more global. We get to work with people all around the world. The way stories are made and the high level that TV series are at now, it makes TV global. I would easily watch a Finnish TV series or something in a language I didn’t understand if it were good. We know that if we make something really good, there is a chance it will be shown in the rest of the world. We’ve seen what happened with Borgen and The Killing.
In getting work around the world, are you getting these roles because of the global familiarity with you?
It’s so much easier for people to watch now. I did two TV shows that aired in other countries, so that window has become wider and there’s a bigger chance some director in Croatia might think it’s a good performance. When I’m on set, I don’t really think about that. I just try and do the best I can. Even though Denmark is a very small country, we have definitely put ourselves on the map. That is a good thing
We know you for TV dramas like 1864 and Follow The Money, but looking at the rest of your filmography, there are a lot of serious, dark dramas. Are you interested in doing a comedy?
[Laughs] I’ve been asked about that – “Why don’t you do a romantic comedy. You have the looks for that”. I really want to, but I’ve never been asked. I’m always playing Neo-Nazi’s or crazy people. If someone came with a warm, romantic chick-flick, I’d definitely be interested. I was educated as an actor at a time where these very dark dramas were something we’re doing a lot of. There haven’t been that many romantic comedies in Denmark.
Maybe you can draw upon your experience. Maybe a Neo-Nazi romantic comedy?
[Laughs] There’s always something funny in doing something different. When I was in the Neo-Nazi film, I was doing a comedy play at the theatre. Doing two such different things at the same time made the other thing really good. You should never just go in one direction. Without sounding too deep, you need to have a little bit of ying and a little bit of yang.
You said you watch a lot of movies and TV. What have you been watching recently. What is exciting you?
I was really late on Game of Thrones, but my best friend Pilou Asbaek is in the show, so I have to catch up with it. In the beginning I was thinking it was too big. I didn’t think I could catch up with it. But now I’m totally in it. I’m excited. I think when it goes the Shakespearean way and it’s almost like an episode of House of Cards – political and not too much with the weird magic stuff, I think it’s really exciting. Then I really like it. I just saw the last episode and thought it was fantastic.
Below The Surface is streaming now on SBS On Demand: