What better way to start the year than by getting sucked into a Nordic Noir series!
A new addition to All4 streaming service Walter Presents is Norwegian series Monster.
The gripping thriller was originally released in 2017 but premiered on channel 4 in the UK last night. The story centres around a police investigation into the disappearance of a girl from a fictional town up in bleak but beautiful far northern Norway, where there are some strange things going on and murky pasts being uncovered.
We contacted one of the actresses from the show, Agnes Born who plays Jani, to find out more about the series, her character, and the experience of filming in this northern Nordic region.
This interview does not contain any spoilers for the show.
Over in the UK we are really excited to finally see the release of TV series Monster – what can you tell us about the show and your involvement in it?
When I did Monster it was my very first time working on a TV production, and I had only done a few performances in theatre before that.
The casting was looking for a girl my age, and with the right northern dialect, but they ended up giving me a different role than the one I auditioned for. The role I got was the one for Jani Van Gebert, who is both deaf and mute. I absolutely loved the character, and I think I learned a lot by having to express myself without using words.
The scenery looks absolutely stunning in the show – whereabouts was this filmed and what was it like filming there?
Monster was filmed in Vardø and Vadsø, which is in Finnmark Norway. Some of it is filmed outside of Oslo. If you look up Vardø on the map, you can see it’s pretty much as far north you can get in Norway. It is absolutely stunning up there. The combination of the sometimes brutal weather and the barren landscape really added something special to the series.
I really enjoyed being up there. The people, the fishing boats, and the old wooden houses marked by tough weather. And not to mention the fresh air! The temperature can reach below – 50 in Finnmark, and the wind can be pretty harsh, so layering up with warm clothes on set was important.
What do you think separates Monster from your average Nordic crime series? It looks pretty dark!
In Monster, everything and everyone is presented to you in a very raw and authentic way. In my opinion people in movies and series often look too good, and too flawless. That is not the case in Monster, and I really love that about it! Instead of trying to make us look good, the director, Anne Sewitsky, wanted us to wear as little makeup as possible.
This really gave a more realistic look to it, and brings out a vulnerability in the characters faces. Another really cool thing that Sewitsky did was to put a woman in a role that was originally intended for a man, without changing the character in the script. This resulted in Gørild Mauseths brilliant interpretation of Janis’ mother, Margot Van Gebert.
The cinematography in Monster also makes this series unique, with Joergen Johansson behind camera. He was able to create what was, in my opinion, the very essence of this series, and capture details you normally wouldn’t notice. It is so visually beautiful that there’s no need to be a fan of crime series to enjoy watching it.
We see you are also making an appearance in the upcoming second season of The Witcher – what will be your role in this series?
I will play the character of Vereena, which appears in the short story A Grain Of Truth, alongside with Kristofer Hivju in the role as Nivellen. A Grain Of Truth comes from the first book in The Witcher book series, but Netflix have chosen to put this one in season 2 (You’ll find some descriptions of Vereena if you google the character and book, but I’m not allowed to say anything more than that at the moment).
Where in Norway did you grow up and what are some of your favourite locations to visit?
I grew up in a town called Mo I Rana, located in Helgeland. I feel very attached to where I’m from, and to the landscape and surroundings here in Northern Norway.
I’d say my favourite place to visit is Lofoten, further north than where I’m from, and surrounded by the open sea. It is absolutely stunning there, with its dramatic landscape, mountains and beaches. If you look up on google you’ll see what I mean.. And if you’re thinking about visiting Norway I’d say this is the place to go. No doubt!
What have you been listening to, reading, or watching recently – any great recommendations?
I really enjoyed watching the last season of Fargo on HBO. All of seasons are great, but the last one was really something special. And then, of course, I’d like to recommend The Witcher book series, by Andrzej Sapkowski. There’s no wonder these books are so popular.
I’ve been listening to them on audio book, and I absolutely loved them. The reader, Peter Kenny, really brings the characters to life, and it’s hard not to be swept away into the amazing world of The Witcher.
Finally, what are you plans for this year?
Yes, I do have plans for 2021! And I’m welcoming the new year with open arms, and blank pages.
After Monster had it’s premier in 2017 I was contacted by Neven Rufio who wanted me to offer me a role in his upcoming movie Tempest of Dust. The movie was planned to film in 2020, but because of Covid it was pushed to 2021. I absolutely love the script, and I’m excited to start working on it this year!
And, I’m happy to announce I’m moving to Copenhagen this summer to attend Panorama Academy where I will be sponsored by my agency. Panorama Academy is a 3-year education programme for TV and movie acting, founded by Lene Seested (Who is also my agent). I also got myself an agent in LA. Gary Burkhard from Alan Siegel Entertainment.
About the Panorama Academy programme:
“With our holistic approach, our Triangle Philosophy is at heart in all activities. Our Triangle Philosophy combines the focus areas below with the aim of strengthen the Artist’s daily life, develop, and lengthen carriers within the film and TV industry in Denmark, Scandinavia and internationally:
• Acting technique, Ivana Chubbuck’s 12 Steps, ‘The Power of the Actor’
• Personal leadership,
• Know your business / Business affairs.
Panorama Academy and Writers Academy are now embarking on an exciting collaboration aimed at strengthening the creative abilities of both actors and writers and expanding their field of expertise.”
And they’ve assured me I’ll be able to take jobs alongside with the study, which was important for me.
I think 2021 is going to be a great year. Hopefully we’ll be able to start living our normal lives again soon. Go back to meeting each other, and to create together.
Interview by Alex Minnis