Meet Jónmundur Grétarsson: star of new Icelandic thriller Sisterhood on Walter Presents

Jónmundur Grétarsson is an upcoming talent from Iceland who you might recognise from previous TV shows and films. In fact Jónmundur had a bit part in the Icelandic series ‘Case‘, which was one of the first Icelandic series to air on Channel 4 about ten years ago.

The actor is back doing a series and this time in a key role as Detective Einar in Sisterhood. We find out more about his character and what to expect from the series plus learn what other roles he is working on.

Nordic Watchlist: Sisterhood is finally coming to UK screens this month – tell us a little bit about the series and your role in it

Jónmundur Grétarsson: The series revolves around skeletal remains of a young girl who disappeared 25 years ago and are found in a gravel mine in Iceland. It focuses on three women, priest Elisabet, chef Anna Sigga and nurse Karlotta who once they hear the news of the remains being found, it shatters their calm existence.

The detectives who are in charge of the case are Vera and Einar. I play Einar who is a young detective who is very calm and focused on his work but eager to make a name for himself within the police department. This case gives him the chance to do so alongside his experienced partner Vera, whom he highly respects. 

Nordic Watchlist: What did you do in preparation for your role as a detective?

Jónmundur Grétarsson: I realized very quickly that this show was unlike most Nordic TV dramas that have been made, at least so far here in Iceland, since it’s not the typical TV crime drama which focuses on the detectives investigating the case.

But that’s not the case in this show nor is it about finding the killer, it’s more about the personal life of these three main characters, their past and current life which gives the audience more chance to relate to them and really breathe with these characters.

I realized very quickly that this show was unlike most Nordic TV dramas that have been made, at least so far here in Iceland

After reading the script a few times and really figuring out what it’s about, I did some research and created a backstory for my character like I always do when preparing for a part, then had a few talks with one of my best friends who works as a real detective within the Icelandic Police department. 

I quickly realized that my job, or the way the script was written, was sort of the same as the audience which is figuring out what happened and bringing the puzzles together. 

Nordic Watchlist: You got to work alongside an incredible female cast. How exciting was it to act alongside the likes of Halldora Geirhardsdottir and Lilja Nott Þorarinsdottir?

Jónmundur Grétarsson: After I graduated I actually moved into an apartment right across from Lilja Nott and we got along very quickly. Then few weeks later we worked together on a play at the National Theatre of Iceland, so me and her have been buddies since then and worked together a few times, but this was the first time we worked together in front of the camera.

There was one long scene with Lilja and Halldora where after every take I was just blown away by Lilja’s performance. Lilja has done a lot of amazing work and she really is a fun person to be around and such a wonderful actress. She probably doesn’t know this, but she has given me some really good advice which has had a big impact on how I think about this art form, something I am super grateful for.

I didn’t know Halldora and had never worked with her but I obviously knew who she was. Just as in real life the connection between people and artists isn´t something you can always take for granted but in the final audition for the show we had a reading together just the two of us with Silja the director and we just immediately clicked.

The great Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir as seen in the excellent Woman At War

She is such a cool, kind and fun person with a big heart and an artist who is such a big role model for every actor in this industry and also people in our culture and our community. No bullshit, just real talk!

It is easy to work closely with people like her and especially as an actor, the trust and respect between the two of us made every scene with her a lot of fun cause all I had to do was to just let go of all the preparation I had done for the role and for every scene just breath and listen. She had actually been on my list as one of the actors/actresses I really wanted to work with but of course I didn’t tell her that until after the last day of filming.

All of these actresses including Ilmur, Johanna and Maria Heba gave amazing performances and it was a true privilege to get to work with all of them. I also have to name Silja Hauksdottir, our director, I mean wow she is something else and she managed to create a magical atmosphere within the whole crew and I truly believe it’s all visible when watching the series.

I grew up watching some of these artists but when you get to work with them that’s when you first understand just how much they have mastered their craft. I have gotten the chance to work with some magnificent people both on Icelandic and foreign projects like director Terrence Malick and you realize what all these artists have in common is that first and foremost they are simply caring people with true passion for life and the form of art so every project I take part in I always try to watch and really observe the people I’m working with, acting is a constant learning process and you never know if these observations might come in handy on future projects. 

Nordic Watchlist: What makes this series stand out from the crowd and what are you hoping the audience can take away from it?

Jónmundur Grétarsson: Like I mentioned before, it’s different from other crime series. There is something unique about the writing and majority of the lead roles, the director, the script, producers are in the hands of females which certainly gives the show a different depth.

I truly learned a lot working with so many strong, kind and talented women! The amount of respect and trust on set was something I had never experienced before.

My biggest hope is people will relate to the show and look at it from the angle that we are all just people trying to survive in a sometimes cruel and unfair world. 

I’m of course hoping people abroad will like the show as much as the Icelandic audience did cause its a story about childhood; the innocence when being a child, being a single mother, going through life as an addict, being responsible by actually doing your job and the consequences of our mistakes and how hard it is to go through life with a big trauma lingering over you like a ghost.

So my biggest hope is people will relate to the show and look at it from the angle that we are all just people trying to survive in a sometimes cruel and unfair world. 

Nordic Watchlist: Iceland has been developing some fantastic series recently – what series have you been enjoying?

Jónmundur Grétarsson: The most recent Icelandic series I really liked was Black Sands written by my friends and co-workers, actress Aldis Amah Hamilton who also plays the lead, and director Baldvin Z and Glassriver. Another one is period TV series Blackport, produced by my colleagues at Vesturport. 

But as far as recent non- Icelandic shows go, I would have to say the Danish comedy show called Klovn, the US shows Dave, Ramy, Euphoria and last but not least Atlanta which is hands down the best TV series I have ever watched!

Nordic Watchlist: What is coming up next for you?

Jónmundur Grétarsson: I have a few projects coming up in both film and TV in the upcoming months. But the two projects I am most excited for are a new version of The Icelandic Bell at the National Theatre of Iceland, where I get to work and act alongside some of my closest friends in the business and directed as well by a good friend of mine Þorleifur Örn Arnarsson (2018 Director of the year in Germany).

The other one is a film called Dýrð í Dauðaþögn, produced by Glassriver, which we have been working on the script for almost four years, the beautiful thing about these two projects is to get the chance to work with not only colleagues but also close friends actresses Aldís Amah Hamilton (Black Sands and Katla), María Thelma Smáradóttir (Entrapped and Arctic), actor Davíð Þór Katrínarson (Trapped and Flight Attendant), writer Elías Kofoed Hansen (Black Sands season II) and director Baldvin Z (Black Sands, Let me Fall, Life in a Fishbowl)!

‘Sisterhood’ will launch on Channel 4’s Walter Presents on 19th September 2022 from 11pm.
The full boxset will be available via All 4 from 16th September.

Interview by Alex Minnis

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