Interview: Henrik Norlén (Modus) – 'We know who the killer is from the start, so it's a why story rather than a whodunit'

Interview: Henrik Norlén for BBC series Modus

Star of the latest Nordic noir tells us about the dark Swedish thriller

Two high profile murders overshadow Christmas in Sweden. Detective Ingvar Nyman (Henrik Norlén) turns to psychologist Inger Johanne Vik (Melinda Kinnaman) for insight into this baffling case. Little do they realise Vik's daughter Stina (Esmeralda Struwe), who has autism, may be the only witness to this bloody crime.

Modus is the latest Nordic noir to make it to UK screens. You might recognise Norlén from previous Scandi crime exports Thicker Than Water and Wallander while Kinnaman had a recurring role in series three of The Bridge. Based on a novel by Norwegian author and former Minister for Justice Anne Holt, Modus is a dark and bloody thriller that examines the effects of violent crime on everyone involved from the police and witnesses to the perpetrator and victims.

We caught up with Norlén to find out more …

So what's the premise of Modus?
The story is about a killer who comes to Sweden, he kills a TV chef in Stockholm and a bishop in Uppsala. Then there's policeman Ingvar Nyman who I play. I try to get Inger Johanne Vik – a retired profiler who used to work for the FBI and the Swedish police – to help me work the case. It's set over Christmas, over 15 days, and the killings increase as time goes on so we start seeing a pattern. We know who the killer is from the start, so it's a why story rather than a whodunit.

Can you tell us more about the character you play?
He's a federal police office, probably equivalent to your Scotland Yard. He lost his daughter, she died of a heart condition two years ago, then he gets divorced. It's Christmas, he gets lonely, so it's a tough time for him in the story. He's a very good policeman, very by the book, he's longing for love, he misses his family, he's kind of sad.

How did you get involved with Modus?
They asked me if I was available, but wouldn't tell me what it was. Apparently they had thought of me from the start when they first started thinking about the project. I was very proud when I first read the script because it was so good.

I don't want to give too much away but do you think Modus reflects the current political climate?
I think author Anne Holt is very good at seeing society for what it is, and I think Modus is reflecting how people don't tolerate openness in society.

Why do you think Scandinavian crime shows have become so popular globally?
I think we take the characters seriously. It feels like they have a backstory, you can feel for the victims, they're not just dead bodies. The policemen aren't just policemen, they are human beings.

Will there be a sequel to Modus?
We start shooting season two in January, so we are right in the middle of pre-production. We're very excited about it, the script is really good.

Modus concludes on BBC Four, Sat 17 Dec, 9pm. Available on DVD and Blu-ray from Nordic Noir & Beyond on Mon 19 Dec.