After a quiet spell on All4’s Walter Presents, a new Nordic thriller series is coming at the end of the month. Seizure is a Norwegian psychological thriller with a supernatural edge, featuring one of Norway’s finest talents, Anders Danielsen Lie, star of The Worst Person in the World and the rest of Trier’s Oslo trilogy of films.
Anders plays Detective Max, who, along with his partner Sanders (played by Anders Baasmo Christiansen), try to crack a case involving the mysterious death of four boys. Things take a strange turn when they are both terrorised by nightmares.
Nordic Watchlist spoke to Anders about his role in the series, how it compares to doing feature films, and what depiction of Oslo we can expect to see this time.
NW: What was it like to film a TV Series when you are so used to feature films?
ADL: It is like one long eight hour film! But I do like to do TV series every now and then, even though I feel that I’m coming from cinema and from feature film and that’s my preferred format. But it’s nice to do a TV series to feel a different rhythm in terms of how you work, how you develop a character.
You have to think differently in terms of your character dramatically. You could say that that’s the job of the screenwriter and the director, but it’s important for the actor as well to to make a plan for their character, because the audience is going to spend so much more time with the character. So you have to be mindful of the story arc and the development. I have to think about that in my acting as well.
NW: There is almost a supernatural element to this show- it’s not your average detective series. Was it fun to do something in that type of genre?
ADL: It was for sure. Though I think we ended up trying to set up a contrast with it being very naturalistic, you know, detectives going to work like everyday life – which is not always exciting and spectacular. In fact it can just be even boring sometimes. So I think we wanted to set up a contrast between that and all the myths surrounding the murder case and detective story – and the supernatural element.
For me, I interpreted that as a way of visualizing the psychological level. How the actual case that they’re trying to solve is intertwined with their back stories and the psychological dramas that they have.
Both of these detectives have their own personal dramas, and the idea was that the case they are working on is mirrored in their own drama, and so the supernatural element of the story was a way to show that.
NW: With a lot of your films, you tend to be Oslo-based and the city is depicted in all of its inviting beauty – what kind of Oslo is Seizure portraying?
ADL: That’s a very good question because this series is actually a very interesting portrait of Oslo, but it’s a completely different part of the city from some of the other films I have been in, and I feel it has its own aesthetic visual qualities.
We went to the the more eastern part of Oslo, outside the city centre, which is totally different in terms of demographics and socioeconomic status. A comparison would be Eskil Vogt’s film The Innocents – that film also uses some of the same suburbs and parts of Oslo as Seizure.
The TV series and the plot could have been from almost anywhere, but we wanted to to add the flavour of Oslo in many ways. One way for example was that we knew the police department of Oslo had gone through a lot of reforms recently, and had completely changed their way of interrogation. So we wanted to add in these discussions they’ve had in the police department of Oslo to give it a more local flavour.
NW: You’ve done a lot of work since filming Seizure. Is it a kind of show or genre that you would be interested in returning to in the future?
ADL: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I’m very open to working in different formats and I think it’s great to do a TV series, but it’s not always the easiest format to work with.
One reason for that is that people are going to spend much more time with you, with the characters, with the story. People say that TV series is such an excellent medium for character studies and character development.
As an audience you get to spend so much time with the characters, but I disagree that due to that, things have to happen. You have to get to really know your character and sometimes that is easier in a feature film because you know that the film will end in one and a half hours or two hours. But in a TV series, you have this enormous amount of time you have to make sure that you don’t bore your audience.
It is a big challenge and sometimes I think that one of the general problems in television nowadays is the plotting and that there is just too much plot and not enough character, not enough themes.
NW: So, like The Wire had a lot of those elements?
ADL: It is a very, very noble art to be able to create television where you have an effective plot, you know. The Wire is one of my favourite TV series.
Then there is The West Wing or Twin Peaks where the plot is not the most important thing. Here there is a universe you want to spend time being in. TV series’ work best for me when I get that feeling, that there is this very specific universe. I just want to hang out in The West Wing for 40 minutes, if you see what I mean? And that is much more challenging to create than you think.
ADL: With a TV series compared to a film, you have to get the mechanics of it, so I always feel that every time I’m part of a TV series, I learn so much. I learned so much about storytelling, about screenwriting, abut acting and how to compose a character that will work during the whole TV series.
You can’t give it all away in the first episode.
NW: What have you been enjoying recently when it comes to music, reading, and watching films – anything you have caught recently you recommend?
ADL: Oh, great question. So the last album I listened to that… that’s a good question because it feels like I’m listening to everything! I listen to old Jazz from the nineties and the eighties, things that are not really good taste. I just think it’s a lot of fun to listen to it. Recently it was a band called Spyro Gyra – they are like Jazz fusion and this was an album called Fast Forward from 1990, which is just really cheesy. Jazz fusion is not very hip.
The last film I watched was The Green Knight which was a very interesting film – I liked that a lot!
The last book I read was The Sweet Spot: Pleasures of Suffering and the Search for Meaning by Paul Bloom. I had heard Paul Bloom talk on a Sam Harris podcast. Sam Harris is an American neuroscientist who has a very interesting podcast, which is called Making Sense. Which I highly recommend too!
Seizure will be available on boxset through Walter Presents via ALL4 from 24th June.
You can also catch Anders in Joachim Trier’s Oslo trilogy (Reprise, Oslo August 31st, and The Worst Person in the World) as well as soon to be released Bergman’s Island which features on MUBI – click here for a free 30 day pass!
Interview by Alex Minnis