“What hooked me was the complicated soul and psychology of a boxer’s personality” – Alexandra Therese Keining discusses her work on new Swedish series ‘Lea – The Fighter’

Alexandra Therese Keining is a well-known writer and director from Sweden, she has directed such classic Swedish films as Kiss Me and Girl’s Lost. The latter can be currently watched on BFI Player.

Her next work sees Alexandra as the creator, writer and associate producer of a new series about a female boxer – Lea.

Nordic Watchlist: Tell us about Lea and how did the concept for this series come to your mind?

Alexandra Therese Keining: What hooked me was the complicated soul and psychology of a boxer’s personality – the fierce discipline that is as destructive as self-defeating. Achieving the dream at any cost –  through massive injuries and mental stress.

To put all on line for a title and a match. To train and push personal limits in shady environments with criminal and illegal intent. And often choose boxing over kids, family and friends. After practicing boxing over the years in many parts of the world, I have repeatedly come across this fascinating personality – regardless of nationality and gender. 

NW: Were there any films or series that you felt were great pieces of inspiration for you when writing the series?

ATK:The Wrestler” by Darren Aronofsky with Mickey Rourke, whom I’ve been fascinated with since the 80’s, has a screenplay by Robert Siegel where the wrestling works as a backdrop for a really interesting set of dynamic characters.

And I should also mention “The Fighter” by David O. Russell – amazing! Both films centre round a character-driven narrative rather than plot where family is the biggest motivator. 

NW: What are your thoughts on the writing process?

ATK: My scripts and characters are pretty raw, they only reach some kind of balance within the casting process once the actors are involved. It’s all about their chemistry with each other and with the creative material that we mould together through a fluid process. I screentest the smallest part – casting is like a mosaic where every tiny part must fit. And if it doesn’t – the overall impression gets messed up.

NW: Madeleine Martin plays the lead role in this – how impressed are you by her performance and dedication to the character? And how does it feel having such an incredible cast bring your story to life?

ATK: Very impressed but also not surprised at all – Lea as a character does come across as a bit of a tough cookie on the page so I was looking for someone with the right balance between hardship and true dedication to her passions – boxing and her family.

Her passion makes her fragile at times and I think Madeleine’s take on Lea makes her truly compassionate and honest – she fucks up but tries to take care of her problems as best as she can. 

I like to avoid definitions as “sympathetic” because nobody in this story is easy to like to begin with. Like Lea they all have flaws and make very bad choices. I personally engage in characters like that. It’s a strong supporting cast, with a dynamic set of leads in Madeleine Martin, Jennie Silfverhjelm and Joel Spira. Like in most of my dramas it also has a majority of female characters in settings where we are used to masculine domination. 

NW: The series has built up a lot of hype – when will the world be expecting to see it?

ATK: It series airs this week on SVT.  Dynamic Television is the series sales agents and handles the rights for the rest of the world.

NW: What is coming up next for you in 2022?

ATK: I’m developing a new series that I unfortunately can’t talk about yet. My first novel was published a while ago and I’m currently working on my second novel for Norstedts, to be published in late 2023. I also hope to continue teaching creative writing and screenwriting which I truly love. 

NW: Finally, what have you been watching, reading, and listening to recently? Any recommendations?

ATK: “Paradais” by Fernada Melchor, translated by my childhood friend and author Hanna Nordenhök. It is a brutal and engaging reading experience like no other about the fragility of Mexican society. 

BORO Exhibition at Östasiatiska Museet Boro textiles with kimonos and workwear tell us about the art of surviving on scarce resources in a harsh place. In northern Japan, the winters are cold and the population has historically been poor. Here, among farmers and fishermen, a distinctive female craft was developed in which nothing went to waste. 

My son is a non-verbal autist and we’ve been singing to him since he was a baby, he’s partially named after Chet Baker. My partner is a composer so there’s always music around our place. Recently he seems fascinated by the vocal sounds we both make and he loves to dance. He makes singing sounds to Vangelis so we listen to his soundtracks and we jump dance to British music collective Sault – highly recommend!  

LEA premiered in Sweden this week and will be airing in Denmark (DR) Finland (YLE) Norway (NRK) and Germany (ZDF ) in 2023. with more countries to come – hopefully one of those will be the UK! WATCH THIS SPACE and make sure to follow Nordic Watchlist over at Instagram @NordicWatchlist

In the meantime you can head to Amazon Prime to see Madeleine Martin in the excellent Breaking Surface and discover Girl’s Lost on the BFI Player!

Interview by Alex Minnis

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