Sunday 24th January sees the release of the 2019 Finnish crime thriller All The Sins on Walter Presents in the UK (part of All4).
One grey January morning I got to have a lovely chat on the phone with one of the stars of the show, Johannes Holopainen, who plays Detective Lauri Räiha. Like all the best conversations, it starts with talk of the weather and I’m curious if there is snow in Finland, “We are finally getting a little bit of snow over here which is nice!”
In the UK we are not so lucky, it is cold but there is no snow in sight where we are based. And there won’t be any snow in sight when we watch All The Sins either, as this season was filmed during the long light days of summer.
It may be midnight sun season but the the story starts in true Nordic crime fashion, with the discovery of a body. Detective Lauri Räiha is sent to investigate two murders with senior female detective Sanna Tervo, played by Maria Sid. Both murders are associated with the ultra-conservative Laestadian religious community in a northern Finnish town. As well as the crimes, the story focuses on the mysterious personal challenges of our main characters – Lauri with anger management and relationship issues. I asked Johannes what he thought of the script and how he went about preparing for this role and character?
“As the show develops the crime story entwines with the character development and the personal challenges that Lauri faces along with his partner Sanna.
For me the first thing was the script. It was so exceptionally good and I enjoyed reading it and I immediately got sucked into the story and found it a very emotional experience to read it – I was just hooked right away.
That is a fantastic starting point for an actor is to have such a script which is such a pleasure to work with – it always seemed to give new ways to discover about the character on every read and when filming as well.“
The small Finnish town that Detective Lauri is sent to on this investigation is the character’s childhood hometown of Varjakka. The extreme religion is a big part of the community here and I wondered how much Johannes understood about this religion before filming and if he studied it for the show?
“The director Mika Ronkainen gave me this book which was like an autobiography, a true story from this specific religious group in Northern Finland where the story is set. So reading this book gave me a lot of insight on this world and the things that are happening within this closed community. This always served as an anchor for the story and the show which I always returned to.
Then I felt that for me, what Lauri had gone through in his childhood and what has affected and affects him as the story goes on. The things that he is puzzled with and the things in his relationship, and the problems he faces with himself are so different than that of what I have experienced. I had loving parents and great relationship with my father – that also served as great contrast to ask myself what life might of been like if I hadn’t had that. To be without a family and feeling along in the world”.
It certainly sounds like Lauri has a lot on his plate – we get to pick up on that even from the opening minutes of the first episode, as we see him in therapy with his partner. Lauri’s childhood and background in this community shape who he is and the things he struggles with as an adult. Johannes explains how he got to understand the community better from the perspective of his character in the series:
To understand more about the religions group and the social structure they have – I contacted this service where victims of religious groups can turn to for help. I sent an open message via the service to find people who have been part of this same religious group and I got about three to five contacts. I had some very fruitful conversations with them in preparation for my character; and then even after the premier of the show I was still in contact with them- I became more and more aware of what Lauri might be going through
Clearly Johannes has done an enormous amount of research for the role and just listening to him explain how he prepared for his character is absolutely fascinating. Despite him getting hold of the book Mika had lent to him, I was interested to see whether Johannes was familiar with the religion even before then?
“I was aware of it – I am living very far from this group but I have met people who have been part of it and it is a topic that crops up every now and again since it is something so different to where I am living. So I know some of it but not as much as I learned making the show but I was not totally unaware.
It was very interesting to get involved and to learn about this group and from the people. I loved how the director, Mika, showed us around the areas where is from – he grew up there and knew some of the people from the group. He took some of the actors to a ceremony of this group, that was an important part of the preparation to meet some of the people and understand that they are not trying to blame anyone. That they are part of a structure and any structure and group it is not given whether it works well and this certain group it has been proven that there can be problem in the power structure and how it can affect people.
People can be happy and I am not saying I know all of it without doubt but there has been problems even prior to the release of the show there have been topics about this group but there has also been good changes“.
I feel like I could spend a long time diving deeper into this but am fully aware of how much time I have so I turn to finding out from Johannes where the series was filmed and what it was like filming up there during the Summer when it is almost permanently light (rather than your typical Nordic noir with the detectives constantly battling against the odds in the harsh winter and long dark nights).
“So we were based in Oulu which is northern Finland, and we spent the whole summer out there from June to August with two months of filming. I had been to the town a couple of times before so I knew the place but on the first week I decided that I’d stay there the whole summer even when I had weekends off I felt I’d rather be based there and be focused on the work and take the opportunity to get to knew the area. It was great time and such great people there during a warm Summer – it all connected nicely with the work itself.
You can’t deny the fact that Johannes is clearly someone who invests a lot of time and effort into his work – listening to him tell me about his preparation for his character in the series has left me very impressed. We know from ratings in Europe and the series having been shown in the US that it has been a big hit and a second season has already wrapped!
Time to dig up some of Johannes other work and keep an eye out for this talented actor for the future!
Interview by Alex Minnis
Catch the series from Sunday 24th January on Walter Presents in the UK – watch the trailer below!