Thanks the quality of series like The Killing and Borgen on international audiences, people always look to the next Nordic series and with that more Scandinavian actors have become a household name. Louise Peterhoff, ex-ballet dancer, singer, stage and screen performer is a name we will surely be hearing more of as the love for these dramas continues to grow.
At the time of this interview, Blue Eyes had just finished its run on UK television. A series that follows the Swedish minister for justice’s chief of staff, Elin Hammar, who is flung into inter-party politicking, a series of murders and cover-ups and the ramifications of the rise of the right wing party, ‘Trygghetspartiet’. Louise Peterhoff, who plays Elin, brings a wonderful depth to the role and the audience quickly builds an empathetic connection with the protagonist. Receiving acclaim from a wide international audience, when it originally aired in Sweden in 2014, it attracted both huge viewership and attention.
There is a national board where you can file a complaint if you feel you’ve been wrongly treated in the media and I think our show got around a 100 complaints which is a lot! Half said that we were treating them (Trygghetspartiet) too well, we were making them too human, too nice, and the other half were complaining that we were making them like demons! It was interesting that it created that kind of attention. I liked that. It meant that we were showing a good complex image of modern politics.
I don’t know if people liked to watch it because of the classic excitement of wondering how it’s going to end or also because it puts a finger into the things that are going on now. I was clear making it that its was entertainment, we’re not going to change anything with it but it’s good that it can be the starting point for people to talk.
With the release of the Panama Papers, the documents showing foreign bank accounts of wealthy people, the ensuing scandal, the recent loss of the right wing presidential candidate in Austria and the United Kingdom EU referendum having taken place in June, despite the series originally having aired two years ago, the topics that Blue Eyes delves into are certainly relevant to current events.
It was weird that our script writer was so close, it was almost scary for a while. He was almost making a prophecy. Everything he writes kind of happens! He said he had looked at several countries that had started down this political movement before us. He just said that we were a little later in these kind of things and that it would eventually come here to Sweden.
Despite all that occurs during the series, at the end, Elin Hammar decides to continue her work in parliament. The audience, after experiencing the confusion and the horror of the events that play out during the 10-part series, are still left with ‘a soldier in the fight’. Glad that there is someone in the political machine they can relate, too.
That’s what I loved about her, still there at the end, she’s such a fighter. Instead of just leaving and saying this is too much, she goes back in there.
In preparation for the role, aside from brushing up on the day to day workings of a political party, Louise met up with her opposite, the real world chief of staff to better understand the background to the character.
We were texting to find a time, she said could you meet me on Sunday at 9.30 in the evening! Really like Elin, a workaholic, squeezing things in. She’d just done a spin class before we met. It was really nice to meet her, to ask about her relationship with the minister. Sweden has a very flat structure; we don’t have a lot of hierarchies in working situations. Your boss could be your friend so I wanted to know about that, how was it with the minister, what did they talk about? It seemed quite the relaxed relationship.
Louise has also recently played a prominent role in the latest season of the ever popular The Bridge. Following the case of a series of murders based on a collection of artworks, one of the suspects becomes the subject of a stalker’s attention. Enter Annika Melander, a disturbed, controlling funeral proprietor who had viewers feeling very uncomfortable.
That was so much fun! Elin was more work and very interesting but Annika was just really fun. I thought I was going too far sometimes, thinking ‘Oh God, this is going to be too much!’ She’s not restricted, a woman without limits. It was really nice to just go with it. When I see it from the outside, it’s embarrassing what she does, ‘No, you can’t do that!’ We were shooting to get to the point where I thought, of course I had the right to do these things. It was really fun to get to that point.
With more Scandinavian series being aired abroad, I wondered if Louise had an idea as to why there is such appeal for these series to foreign audiences.
It’s really so hard to tell. I think the variety of series that are airing now are quite different. I don’t think there’s a trend. Don’t you think, that in another language, another country, it’s easier sometimes to think it’s for real? You can’t hear any acting. You’ve almost removed a barrier. For me it’s difficult to watch Swedish films, we’re not that many actors in Sweden so we almost know everyone. ‘Oh, there’s John! Oh, he was in that!’ It’s nice to see an actor you don’t know; you’ve not seen them before in anything else.
It was after spending 10 years training with the Royal Swedish Ballet and after touring Europe, that Louise returned to Sweden, to try acting and found herself on the stage.
The ballet was hardcore. When you’re so small, classical education is insane I must say. So doing that for a big part of my upbringing and quitting when I was 19/20, now I don’t know if this is an after construction, but it almost feels that was a big detour to get me to where I really wanted to be. Of course, I really loved the dancing. It’s interesting. You often get asked, why I started acting, and it’s nice to think about. I never have a clear answer of course. Today I thought, and it’s maybe a cliché answer, when you’re on stage or in a scene on a film set, there’s almost like a deal. There’s an agreement that whatever I’m going to say isn’t going to have consequences. We have this frame to explore that I find really liberating. In the real world, you worry about what you say and how you say it. With acting, it’s a safe room where I don’t have to be busy with my own radar and just bounce off the other actors and my character. It’s always changing though, why I think I got into acting. It’s really interesting to be confronted with different characters like Annika, for example, who does such weird things, to really understand why she does what she does without judgement. My understanding for people I think has to grow, to develop for my character.
Louise has recently finished filming a short film, Ladies Who Lunch, that’s currently in post-production. Set in a high class restaurant that may be in Vienna or Paris, two women are seen to be discussing shopping. As the story progresses, there might be a much more sinister undertow to this perceivably normal discussion.