Interview with star of HBO Nordic’s Beartown: Miriam Ingrid

We speak to Miriam on the phone one Friday evening in November 2020. What would normally be a standard weekend has a different edge to it this time round for the actress. In the streets she has been passing posters and billboards of her face advertising the much anticipated TV series Beartown. And this weekend the show will finally air to the hordes of fans of the much loved book by Fredrik Backman.

“I see my face everywhere now, it is very strange” Miriam explains after I’ve excitedly told her about how popular the show seems to be coming across.

Beartown the book was released in April 2017 with its sequel, Us Against You, released a year later. I only managed to read it this year after I had seen the trailer on HBO Nordic’s Instagram page. I completed the book in a few sittings – it was engrossing and hard to put down. I asked whether Miriam was aware of the book herself before she was casted.

I actually wasn’t, I knew who Fredrik Bergman was after I saw the film adaptation of A Man Called Ove but I hadn’t read the book. So when I was called up to audition for it by the casting director Maggie Widstrand I had zero clue about anything.

So when I walked out of that audition room I instantly bought both books as the sequel had come out back then – I felt confident, for once, after walking out the room and that was why I went ahead and bought them

Being immersed in the second book myself at the time I express how much of an incredible writer Fredrick Backman is – it is all about how he writes the characters. But what if you haven’t read the books? What would be the best way to describe Miriam’s character and your role in the series?

Tell us about your character and role in Beartown

So I play Maya Andersson – she is your pretty standard 15 year old except that her dad is this former NHL Ice Hockey player and that brings his family back to their hometown. They have been abroad for his career and now they move back to the town – Beartown.

The story follows that transition for them but also how they come back to a normal life in Sweden in this tiny little village and what happens to the main characters. My character is a musician who expresses herself through music and song.

She is not really connected to the hockey which the whole town thrives on and is able to survive through. So when she does come face to face with the sport a terrible series of events happen which exposes the toxicity that can come with the sport and seeing it through the eyes of the children and the parents.

Björnstad / Beartown actress Miriam Ingrid as Maya (Director: Peter Grönlund Photo: Niklas Maupoix Produced by Filmlance International)

Having spoken with a friend of mine who runs the wonderful Brandon Lodge hotel in Lulea, he had become very animated telling me how he watches all the hockey games and that it is part of the life up there.

For a moment I started to think about how real this show was – it seemed that hockey is a big deal in Sweden which got me wondering whether Miriam had watched any games or was an avid fan?

Are you a fan of Hockey in the real world?

Not at all, I always grew up in the big cities because of my dad’s job and we spent a lot of time moving around Europe and although he is from the North I was never interested in hockey. He has his favourite team but I don’t think I have ever watched a single game.

So being in an environment where everyone around me knew everything about the sport was really new to me and when I finally got to see some of the boys actually playing their game when they were shooting a scene that was quite amazing. That was really interesting for me, even if it was choregraphed it looked so real

It is an interesting connection that stems here as Maya Andersson herself is very disconnected from the game until one day she decides to attend a match with her best friend Ana and mother Keira. Keira is played by the brilliant Aliette Opheim who seems to be everywhere at the moment. She has appeared in Swedish show ‘Thicker Than Water’ (currently on Walter Presents), the excellent ‘Caliphate’ (Netflix), and now this.

Björnstad / Beartown Aliette Opheim as Mira (left) and Miriam Ingrid as Maya (Director: Peter Grönlund Photo: Niklas Maupoix Produced by Filmlance International)

I was aware of both the castings of the actresses to play Maya and Mira before I had read the book, but even if I hadn’t, you almost feel the roles are written for them both – particularly Mira who is a tour de force.

I never realized the extent of the show, like how big it was actually going to be. I have a background in short film so to me it was like filming a series of them. It felt like working as usual although the scale of everything was much bigger.

Aliette was amazing, all the adult actors were amazing and they looked after the kids. Most of the younger kids were amateurs, my cast mates hadn’t even been in theatre, some had but most had never even TV before. So there was a real mix of these experienced actors and then people who had never done this before so I think that is what carries the show along.

We were able to use our life experiences along with the more experienced actors. Aliette and the others were able to guide us with their knowledge and we were able to show them a bit more than theory

And on the note of experiences we had spotted that it isn’t only Maya who plays guitar in the show but in fact Miriam plays in real life and she is really good at it! Is there another career forming here maybe?

Tell us about your guitar playing talents!

I think it is something I share in common with Maya where we both need the music to express ourselves and so music is the way that makes sense of my feelings and my day to day life.

So I don’t like to put pressure on it and rather use it as a means of communication with myself. I just do it because it fun – I have like twenty songs sat somewhere in the back of my mind. Sometimes I get the urge to record and other times I keep them secrets to myself

Curiosity gets the better of me and I feel I have to ask about whether we might be able to find out if the second book would be adapted into a second series. It is already a struggle to accept that I am so close to the end of the book and I just want it to keep going.

Will there be a second series of Beartown?

All I know is that they have the rights to book two – that’s all I really know

Björnstad / Beartown: Sanna Niemi as Ana and Miriam Ingrid as Maya (Director: Peter Grönlund Photo: Niklas Maupoix Produced by Filmlance International)

What are your favourite spots in Sweden?

Being such a big fan of Sweden we always love to ask where people’s favourite spots are but with Miriam travelling so much we were interested to know where she is residing now?

So right now I have moved back and now based in the Stockholm area just because I figured that being there gives me the opportunity to find work at lot more easily and as much a possible.

Since I have barely been living in Sweden I think the place I connect with the most whilst growing up was my Summer house up in Höga Kusten (which translates as the High Coast) in Northern Sweden.

It was this tiny house in this tiny little village up north where we would be free to roam around in nature and do whatever we wanted. So that is somewhere I recommend, and everyone should experience.

We are totally sold – anywhere to escape this challenging time!

What have you been watching / reading / listening to recently?

We turn our attention to what Miriam has been watching, reading, and listening to recently to see whether she has any other amazing recommendations.

In terms of music I will always endorse this American singer – her name is Yebba. Her real name is Abi Smith and her voice is just amazing, I have just fallen in love with her now. She doesn’t have a lot of music out but I just know she is amazing!

With shows, I really enjoyed Euphoria – their representation of characters on that show as so special particularly Hunter Schafer and also Zendaya – I really love them both. I am super stoked that she won at the Emmy’s that was amazing

We totally agree! And although our website has become one that has its eyes firmly on all things Nordic there is no denying that HBO’s Euphoria is a truly incredible show and was one of our favourites of last year (along with Succession’s second season). We can’t help but recommend a show that we also loved this year and know has hit big in the Nordic countries with Michaela Cole’s ‘I May Destroy You’.

I am aware of it but haven’t seen it yet but I have been watching ‘We are Who We Are’ by Luca Guadagnino who did Call Me By Your Name. That is fairly new but that is pretty great too!

I have a top list of movies and one that I love that came out last year is JoJo Rabbit. That movie was so amazing, I love Taikia Waititi and his world. How he managed to combine something that was so comical yet to tragic through the lens of a child. I have re-watched that movie a lot! All the emotions are there.

What else have you been up to?

Aside from Beartown Miriam has had a relatively quiet year as she has just graduated from high school and the industry has been sleeping due to the pandemic, but she has been writing and has just finished directing her first short film over in Sweden. This is going to be her debut and is a path that she is very keen to follow as both a director and actor.

I have always admired people who can act and direct so I thought why don’t I become one of those people too

The short is now in its production stages and certainly something we are going to be really interested to catch when it is released – watch this space.

What is your tip of the day?

We always love to finish our interviews off asking about a tip of the day – it always catches people off guard especially when we have them on the phone.

Hmm, my tip of the day… Oh yes! Become a ‘plant mum’ or a ‘plant parent’ because doing that is so much fun. I recently started planting some mango seeds and that has just been really fun.

This is a great tip – we are surrounded by plant’s ourselves as something new we started to do and Miriam is totally right.

It can bring so much joy and I never knew that until I got myself some plants

We come to an end but feel like we could chat for much longer. Miriam is so animated and enthusiastic, and as we publish this blog post I have already read and heard the rave reviews that Beartown has received on it’s first airing.

We have heard that it is coming to HBO MAX in the States in 2021 and only hope that perhaps Sky Atlantic will do the same over here in the UK and not let this fantastic show slip through the net on our shores. HBO’s tendency to deliver constantly fantastic shows is quite something but to now have their sights on this particular one as a Swedish show fills us with a lot of hope.

We feel that Miriam might well be a name you are going to be hearing more and more in the future!

Watch the trailer for hotly anticipated Beartown – and if you have access to HBO Nordic then lucky you!

Interview by Alex Minnis

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