Trine Dyrholm on The Legacy 3 and The Commune

Straight out of the editing room, Trine Dyrholm, Danish actress and winner of numerous Bodil awards, took a moment to speak to us about her recent work on The Commune and The Legacy.

Yes, I’ve actually just been editing. I’ve just finished directing two episodes for the third season of The Legacy before we wrap for the summer break. It’s been a wonderful challenge. It’s been great to have been involved with this project from the start. The creator, Maya Ilsöe, is very open-minded and has a collaborative approach and I’ve been invited into the script room from the beginning. So it’s been a natural step, when they asked me if I wanted the chance to direct, I had to say yes.

The Legacy has aired to rapturous reception at home and abroad. Very modestly, Trine shrugs this off and suggests that Scandinavian series like The Killing, Borgen, have had something do with this success.

I think we are standing on the shoulders of these series that have come before us; there was an audience waiting when The Legacy aired. It’s a great thing that content from such a small country reaches out so widely, we are very proud.

Following the ever-changing relationships within the Gronnegaard family, everything is turned upside down and bonds tested when the mother, a successful artist, passes away and leaves the estate to a daughter long forgotten.

The setting! The setting of the series in the art world is a wonderful thing. I have such an inspiring relationship with our production designer. She is a huge part of this show and adds so much to the series.

It is these close relationships that Trine has developed that seem to lend themselves to bringing out the full, emotionally fraught performance of her portrayal of Gro, the eldest sister of the Gronnegaard offspring.

It’s a very close family on the set, it’s a lovely environment to work in. I think that all the actors are very brave. They just jump in from the beginning of the very first shot, it’s full on. Whenever I’ve been outside of Denmark, we don’t always get to have the same sort discussions but here, everybody is allowed to comment and the main actors get involved with script development. It’s a special environment, it does something to the output, it brings out all the nuances. It really helps with The Legacy, where the audience’s sympathies are changing from character to character constantly.

In the most recent series, Gro is almost strangled to death by her brother Frederik (played by Carsten Bjørnlund). Where previously the viewer had felt sorry for his sore luck, this is quickly forgotten.

That’s what I mean by brave. Sometimes you have to be the evil one, the bad guy, the guy that nearly kills his own sister. It’s also what’s so fun working on this show, you have to be it all. You have to be fragile, dominating, terrible and shy.

In an altogether different family setting, Trine shows her powerful acting potential playing Anna in The Commune. Bored of traditional life, Anna suggests the formation of a commune. At first joyous of the presence of the wonderful characters that fill her days, she is later confronted with the unforeseen event of her husband bringing his new romantic partner to live in their house with them.

I had such a good experience working with Thomas Vinterberg, he’s a wonderful director. He invited me into the production process as well, so when I first read the script, it wasn’t finished. Of course, it was his script, but he works in a way where you can suggest things and he will listen to you. I love that, that co-creative feel. It means you start your preparation early for your character. The material gets into your body so when the scenes are finally shot, you can go so much further. There’s more of an understanding of the character, the writing, and in this case, what’s going on in Anna’s head.

This willingness to go further shows itself in one particularly poignant scene where Anna, a news presenter, is about to go live on television. As thoughts escalate of all that is going on at home, we see tears well up in Trine’s eyes to the very brim, before eventually breaking and flowing over. It’s a haunting moment.

It is always difficult to do emotional breakdowns, but I think that I approached it by working on the contradictions that are present in that scene. It’s a great set-up, Anna has to be on air, present and be charismatic. Then at home, she has to sit down for dinner each night at the same table as her husband’s new lover. I like that Anna is so open. She is bored and wants change. Maybe this life isn’t for her and she eventually goes on to start a new one. She’s longing for something and doesn’t quite know what it is yet. You know that feeling right? We all know that feeling.

An accomplished performer from a young age, winning a Bodil award for Best actress with her first screen debut, I asked Trine how she got into acting. She laughs at remembering her younger self.

I always wanted to be an actress. When I was little, I just remember I wanted to be a movie star. Not so much the acting, but a movie star and it was later on that I wanted to be an actor. I was doing youth theatre from when I was 10, then on to the big theatre in my city where I had a little part with some lines, you know. I started out early and after doing my first film when I was 17, I decided I wanted to go to theatre school and luckily got in. Now I’m trying directing! It’s always scary trying something new, but you have to expand and practice what you’re not good at it. I’ve developed such a respect for directors, realising how much they have to be responsible for.

Trine has recently finished filming an adaption of the book You Disappear with Nikolaj Lie Kaas. Following a couple in which the husband develops a brain tumour and subsequent personality changes, the film explores the ideas of self and free will. The third season of The Legacy will also be coming soon with filming finishing around November this year.

Christian Woolford

Christopher is a Film Studies Masters student at the University of Warwick. His interests are Danish and Scandinavian cinema, American Independent cinema and experimental music.