Scandinavian crime drama DNA is a gripping crime drama centred on a string of missing children. For series star Nicolas Bro, the subject matter had a deeply personal angle – though probably not the one you’re thinking.
“I often went missing as a child,” he says down the phone from Coronavirus lock-down in Denmark. “The most memorable time was when I was five and I went missing in Pompeii. I wandered around the ruins away from my parents lost in my own thoughts and suddenly I realised they’d went with the tourist bus without me.
“I just started to cry and I remember about 25 wonderful Italian women coming and taking care of me for I think maybe half an hour before they noticed I wasn't with the bus. That was the most traumatic case I went through, but it's a wonderful place Pompeii - that's a great place to be missing”.
DNA opens on a ferry in the middle of a storm. While forensic specialist Jarl Skaubo (Bro) watches on in horror, criminal investigator Rolf Larsen (Anders W Berthelsen) pleads with the ferry crew to turn the ship around. His infant daughter is missing, and with her overturned stroller found next to a railing on the deck, Larsen has come to the only obvious conclusion: she’s been washed overboard.
Much of the first episode takes place before this tragic event, following Larsen as he investigates a missing persons case that brings him into contact with jovial family man Jarl. Larsen later teams up with a rookie cop (Olivia Joof) as he’s drawn into investigating an international people smuggling ring, and begins to suspect his own daughter may still be alive thanks to flaws in Denmark’s DNA database. Throughout it all, it’s Jarl who remains his connection to the regular life he once had.
“In many ways I see Jarl as a quite normal guy,” says Bro. “He’s good at his job and a great family man.”
It’s no surprise Berthelsen and Bro were cast as friends, as the pair are close in real life. “We hang out privately, me and Anders are very good friends We became actors at sort of the same time, so it's not the first time we've worked together either. It's always very cosy, as we would say. - he's a very nice guy, so it's easy to play his good friend.”
It was more than just the chance to act with his long-time friend that drew him to DNA.
“I was very much attracted to the script, and very much to the subject. You know, in so many ways, it's such a tragic story for everybody, the whole main story about both girls who disappear. There were some scenes that really got to me, for example, where they bring back that little Danish child who was kidnapped at the start to her real mother and she sort of has a new mother now. That whole angle, the way solving one crime created another conflict, was something I really liked.”
The 48 year-old Bro comes from one of Denmark’s great acting families. His mother is Danish actress Helle Hertz, his father is actor and theatre director Christoffer Bro, and his brother Anders and sister Laura are also actors. They remain a close-knit family, with both Helle and Laura currently with him in lock-down.
“We chose the people that we wanted to be in quarantine with, so I'm in lock-down with my wife and my child and my sister and her child and my mother. We went out into the country and locked ourselves in the house, and now they’re all the people I see.”
Bro literally grew up in the theatre, living with his father at the Gladsaxe Theatre after his parents divorced. While he met his wife early in life (they’ve been together since she was 19 and he was 21), it wasn’t until relatively recently that they had their first child – a decision he says that’s had a big effect on his acting.
“I've been a father for about eight years now. You know, I played fathers before I myself was a father, and it's just much easier now, it's much easier to dig into that connection. I wouldn't say that I didn't manage to successfully play fathers before I was a father, but back then I think I was overthinking it. I’m just playing myself now.”
Throughout his extensive career Bro has appeared in some of Denmark’s most popular crime series. He was Justice Minister Thomas Buch in the second season of The Killing, and played Freddie Holst in the third season of The Bridge. So what is it about those series that made them hits around the world?
“I think we're not afraid to face a certain kind of realism. There’s the cliché of the cop where he’s married to his job and maybe good at being a hero but not good at being a human, and of course there’s a fantasy there, but I think we try to show the reality of it as well – we don’t try to make cops and robbers. We like characters who are both good and bad, with good sides and bad sides as we all have.”
But he thinks there’s also a grim side to the global fascination with Scandinavian crime.
“There’s social realism and politics of course, but maybe we are a little melancholic as Scandinavians. We also like the darkness in our stories.”
DNA season 1 is now streaming at SBS On Demand.
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