This chilling new series from the producers of The Chestnut Man, begins with a nurse called Pernille starting a new job in a Danish hospital, where she soon befriends a charming, confident, well-liked colleague called Christina. Pernille starts noticing strange things happening and drama ensue on every shift she shares with Christina.
Pernille begins to suspect Christina of creating the drama that has tragic consequences, but why? And should she trust her instincts, or is it all in her imagination?
The synopsis reminded us of another Netflix production, A Good Nurse, by Danish director Tobias Lindholm (A Hijacking) but set in the US. We first thought that this new Netflix series was telling the same story but bringing it into a Danish setting, but we were wrong. Terrifyingly, this, much like Lindholm’s film, is also based on true events but about a different case.
Nordic Watchlist spoke to four of the stars from The Nurse – Jospehine Parks, Fanny Louise Bernth, Peter Zandersen, and Amalie Lindegård – to hear their thoughts on playing these real characters dealing with a traumatic work situation.
Nordic Watchlist: Tell us about your characters in The Nurse and what you like and dislike about them?
Josephine: So I play Christina – I was very obsessed with making the portrait as close to reality as possible and at a certain point I realized that I couldn’t, I kind of had to let go of all the information and make it like a fictional character, because, I mean, I’ll never be able to make a complete, perfect portrait.
What was interesting for me was that Christina was extremely popular with people and they described her as extremely charismatic, great at her job, and she was very well liked among her colleagues.
So I think, how can you be all of these things, and at the same time something is completely wrong? How do you kind of connect these conflicting character traits? So that was the interesting part for me, to play a whole character that was both nice and charismatic, and had this incredibly dark side.
Fanny: My character is Pernille and I don’t know if I can answer what I disliked about my character – I really like her. I met the real Pernille and she was the coolest, most kind person. She’s kind of unbelievable, actually, almost too cool for a story.
I think I made her more vulnerable, but I think she was so brave in a very unselfish way, you know? I think she’s actually a hero without even trying to be – she was so self-sacrificing in her actions and so very unselfish in this story.
I met the real Pernille and she was the coolest, most kind person. She’s kind of unbelievable, actually, almost too cool for a story.
Amalie: I play Katja, who is kind of the character who knows a lot of stuff is going wrong in the workplace. And she sees it all, but she doesn’t get to be brave enough to do something about it. And I really like her. She’s got two lines. I really like that. She’s just doing her work and minding her own business.
What I really like about the character is that I really understand her. Because if you ask me, as a person, I would wish that I would be the one who is really brave and, you know, goes against the system and tells what she sees out loud. But I’m not sure I would do it.
But I also really understand Katja is just trying to make her own life work, you know, and that’s what I like about the character – that I really understand her.
Peter: I play Niels and he is a doctor at the hospital who gets involved in this case. His dilemma is that he has a big responsibility for this group of patients. So when he first finds out that there is this suspicion he totally loses it because he feels such a great responsibility.
He feels he has been a bit blind to it and feels anger towards that – then he teams up with Pernille to find out who the murderer might be.
NW: How familiar were you with the story before you made the show?
Amalie: It was a very famous case in Denmark.
Peter: I was very lucky to have actually met both Pernille and Niels. To hear their versions of the story was very interesting. That made it feel even more real to me because I was actually talking to these people.
When you read the book, sometimes you forget that it happened in real life and you read it like a crime book, which you are used to. But when you realise that this happened in real life, and when you actually speak to the people who did it, it gets so crazy. It felt a lot more sensitive and emotional to do than if it had been just fiction.
NW: Fanny, you mentioned you actually met Pernille in real life too – did you feel much pressure portraying her character?
Fanny: Yeah. I mean, I’d already done a lot of preparation before meeting her. I read the script many times and I was looking very much through the whole storyline. I did meet her quite late on in the build up to shooting the series and I think it was the first time I really realized, okay, these are real people.
For these people, this isn’t just a story it is a horrible thing that happened in their lives and they had to get past it. So when I met Pernille I was a bit shocked because I’d been treating it as a story until that moment – and it really brought everything to life.
For these people, this isn’t just a story, it is a horrible thing that happened in their lives and they had to get past it.
NW: And you, Josephine – did you ever get to meet the real Christina?
Josephine: I obviously had read the book and I talked to people who knew her. I read the prints from the trial, I talked to a psychiatrist and generally tried to collect pictures of her. I got really obsessed with gathering all this information.
I think that there wasn’t a big difference between working with these real people, except for the fact that you really wanted to be respectful about it. I kind of treated the work the same as if it was pure fiction, as I think this is also kind of fiction because everything that I heard about her were people’s opinion of her. So in a way that is almost fictionalized too.
What I think was nice as an actor was that you could actually gather all this inspiration and then join the dots for your own portrayal of them.
NW: Have you ever been in a position where you’ve had to call a colleague out for something that you didn’t believe was right?
Fanny: I just remembered I haven’t made this connection before, but when I was 18, I actually was involved in a sexual harassment case. I was working in a postal office and it was this a very male-dominated environment. Then this incident happened.
I told a colleague and he said that it was sexual harassment. So we got the union involved and five other women also joined and spoke up. But when it came to them running the case they all pulled out of it. The other women and I actually ended up just quitting.
I remember hating being there afterwards – it felt so weird and eventually I quit too, but I still had these three months of sitting in my own room sorting mail and just hiding from everyone. So that was actually a horrible experience and he just went on working there.
And here I am playing Pernilla, a young woman who is very excited to start her new job and instead finds herself up against a system that is broken and she can’t understand why nobody believes her.
NW: Finally, who would I trust to be the best at CPR in the event of an emergency?
Peter: I did a course when I took my driver license but that’s a couple of years ago, so, um, I should probably take it again. I didn’t learn from rehearsing on the series, did you Amalie?
Amalie: I didn’t but I am a mother of two so I know how to do it actually. I don’t know about you, Peter, but I think, you could save me if I was to die, right?
Peter: I would do my very best!
Fanny: I think I would go with me.
Josephine: I would be a bit sloppy to be honest.
The Nurse is an enthralling series made all the more fascinating knowing it’s based on a true story, and the characters will leave you wanting to understand more about them. Those who do want to know more might want to read or listen to the book that the series is based, also called The Nurse by author Kristian Corfixen, which was the starting point for the makers of the series.
The Nurse is available to stream on Netflix from April 27th.
Watch the Netflix teaser here: