If you were looking to cast an actor to play the first female president of the United States, you couldn’t do better than Kim Cattrall. She might be best known for playing Samantha in Sex and the City – a character with the kind of “colourful” past that would make seeking any kind of high office extremely difficult – but consider the strength required to take on that kind of role and then play it perfectly for over a decade. The moment Cattrall steps out in her power suit, you’re looking at an actor who’s totally convincing as the leader of the free world.
It’s a strength she’s shown in real-life, too. She recently took to social media to tell former Sex and the City co-star Sarah Jessica Parker that she was “not my friend” and to “stop exploiting our tragedy” after the death of Cattrall’s brother. Rumours that the pair didn’t get along after Parker shut her out on the set of their TV series have been rife for years, especially after Cattrall recently refused to return for a third Sex and the City movie. Parker is yet to comment.
In season two of Modus, Cattrall plays Helen Taylor, the first female president of the United States. In a refreshing change from the current resident of the real-world White House, she’s shown as having her head screwed on straight, is out there promoting progressive values and is all about getting the job done. The job in this particular case being visiting Sweden on a state visit – one where things rapidly go very wrong.
If you were a fan of the first season of Modus, all this talk of international intrigue might seem a bit confusing. Wasn’t Modus a low-key Scandi noir thriller about a serial killer with a socially conservative approach to choosing his victims going up against a former FBI profiler-turned-author who came out of retirement to track him down? How did it shift from that to a tale of high stakes international drama?
In an increasingly crowded television market, series have to find a way to stand out. Kim Cattrall’s casting and a more internationally-focused storyline is a sign that Modus wants to be taken seriously on the world stage. Large chunks of season two of Modus are even in English. Fans of the first season might find it takes a little while to get used to Inger Johanne Vik (Melinda Kinnaman) speaking with an American accent, even if it does make perfect sense with her FBI background.
And Cattrall isn’t the only international actor cast. Billy Campbell is on board as the president's husband, while Greg Wise (most recently seen in The Crown) is playing Warren, the former FBI mentor of the series’ lead character, criminal profiler Inger. It’s not a warm reunion between Inger and Warren – an opening flashback to four years earlier when they were working together in Washington DC reveals a very dark connection between the pair. So when they come back into contact with each other – Warren is in charge of the president's security detail; Inger's partner is handling things from the Swedish side – it’s definitely not a smooth working relationship.
Anyone looking to see a metaphor for US-Swedish relations here is probably overreaching. But the show definitely gets some mileage out of the differences between the way the two countries operate, with a global superpower finding its usual heavy-handed tactics aren’t the best way to operate in the relatively tiny and low-key confines of Sweden.
This dynamic is reflected in Cattrall’s casting – she dominates the series even though her character’s screen time is relatively limited. She’s got the kind of screen presence that immediately makes her convincing as the most important person in every room she walks into – something not a lot of screen presidents (and some real ones) can pull off.
As the series progresses, it’s clear there’s more to President Taylor than just her tough exterior. She’s a champion of women’s rights, and simply by being a woman in the commander-in-chief’s chair, she’s put a lot of noses out of joint. The question here is: is being a strong woman the reason why her trip to Sweden takes a dark turn – or could this global crisis have a much more personal reason beneath it all? And that’s why you hire an actress who has the range of Cattrall. With her playing the president, this mystery could convincingly twist either way.
Stream Modus from the start at SBS On Demand here or dive into season two below: