EXCLUSIVE Interview: Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Trapped

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Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 20.55.38By now, any self-respecting crime drama fan will be wrapped up in the superb Icelandic series, Trapped, over on BBC4. It’s filling that fabled Nordic noir, 9pm slot with aplomb and is proving a worthy successor to the likes of The Killing and The Bridge. Trapped is the tale of police chief Andri dealing with a murder investigation in his small, coastal town during a world-ending storm. This one-location whodunit, with added, poignant family drama, has really hooked me. Not least Ólafur Darri Ólafsson’s performance as Andri – a likeable, flawed man who leads a complicated work and home life. I managed to get hold of the award-winning actor, writer and producer (still trying to contain my excitement at this) for an exclusive chat about the show, and that’s after the jump. It’s well worth a read, even if I do say so myself.

The Killing Times: Andri is extremely popular here. What do you think of him as a character? What attracted you to him when you first read the script?
Ólafur Darri Ólafsson: I really love playing Andri. He has a certain honesty and empathy that I like. I got to watch Andri’s progression through the scripts over the past three years, which was fun to do. I guess in many ways that he didn’t change that much – he was sort of there and when I started to work it was not that hard to flesh him out. Me and Andri are very much alike as people, with similar qualities and faults. He does though have a nice stoic thing that I think I might be missing.

TKT: What kind of research did you do to become a policeman?
ODO: I spent a couple of hours with a very friendly police detective who took me around headquarters and we had a great chat. Most of the information I needed had to do with procedural stuff but we had a very interesting although a little scary chat concerning the psychological part of police work, interrogation techniques and such. That was also really helpful. Most of us don’t realise how taxing the work must be on those in the field. They really see the darkest sides of what it means to be human.

TKT: His relationships with Hjörtur and Eiríkur are very moving and very believable. It shows his empathy with people. Where do you think this empathy comes from?
ODO: Concerning the relationship between Hjortur and Eirikur and the family as a whole, that was quite complicated. I think the empathy comes from Andri seeing that even though Hjortur might be responsible for his wife’s sister’s death, he still lost his girlfriend, the woman he loved. I think Andri knows that if he was in Eiríkur’s shoes and that this was his daughter’s killer, he would behave in exactly the same way. I find it helpful as a male to be able to see other men in a situation and learn from it and I think Andri does that also. I sometimes find being a male an exhausting study in stubbornness.

000bd380-630TKT: There’s also his relationship with Agnes. There’s the slight hint that this case, and the evolving development of the town, might bring them closer together. Does Andri want this?
ODO: I think Andri is conflicted. His “former” wife is now seeing another man and wants to take their kids back to the city to live with her. He is really stuck. Living in a small village with his in-laws, with an unfinished house and working a job that he really is over qualified for. And as we discover later in the series there is a reason that he can’t just go back to the city and get a job with the police there. So what to do?

TKT: Trapped seems to be so much more than a crime story. In the real world, does the continued development and globalisation of Iceland make Icelanders fearful?
ODO: I think it is in the nature of Islanders to be suspicious of people that come from “the mainland”. I guess we want the world to move on and for us to have a part in it but there are only 320,000 of us Icelanders. I think it is obvious that we have to be careful to hang on to what makes us Icelanders but be brave enough to face that the world is changing and we, like the bamboo, must bend with the wind.

TKT: If you go onto Twitter on a Saturday night, a lot of people watching here in the UK seem worried for Andri when he goes out into the storm without a hat (!), but this seems to me to somehow connect him to the landscape and the elements. What do you think?
ODO: This has been a big debate here in Iceland as well. This is how I would dress. I’m not good at dressing for the weather here in Iceland. But then again, I do have a bit more insulation than most people.

TKT: We need to talk about the weather (Brits LOVE talking about the weather for some reason). Did you film in a storm, or is a lot of the blizzard and the storm special effects?
ODO: We Icelanders are such weather people too. It’s almost in every conversation. We really did seek out bad weather as much as we could. And we got a lot of it. There were nights when everybody was off except for a skeleton crew and a director and me. Driving in a snowstorm, trying to catch footage that we knew that we could use at some point. Having said that we also had a wonderful SFX and VFX group that really pulled off excellent work when the weather wasn’t behaving.

TKT: Trapped is a crime drama first and foremost, but there’s some great family drama in there, too. Is this what you think has made audiences fall in love with it?
ODO: I think drama is at the heart of any good thriller. And Trapped is in many ways a family story; a story about remembering the past and the need to deal with it. And that applies to Andri’s family but also the village as a whole and Icelanders. We here in Iceland have really had to look at ourselves and our part in the [financial] crash of 2008 and that has been cathartic. I just wish we would dare to go deeper.

TKT: Will Andri ever make it back to Reykjavik?
ODO: We will see what happens. I certainly hope that this won’t be our only season of Trapped.

TKT: Swedish and Danish crime dramas are hugely popular in the UK, and this is the first real taste we’ve had of an Icelandic drama. How do Iceland/Icelanders differ from the rest of the Nordic region?
ODO: We have an interesting relationship with the other Nordic countries as they do with each other. There is a common thread but then there are subtle differences too. We here in Iceland have been addicted to series like Borgen, Bruen [The Bridge] and Forbrydelsen [The Killing]. But I have to also say that I think British TV is phenomenal. I have loved watching recently stuff like Broadchurch and Happy Valley. Now I’m watching Black Mirror and loving it.

TKT: What has been the reaction to Trapped back home?
ODO: Trapped has done really well here, there has been a lot of excitement and the amount of viewers has been nicely surprising. The discussions afterwards and excitement about “who did it” has been fun to watch.

(Interview by Paul Hirons @Son_Of_Ray)

For our interview with writer Clive Bradley go here

For all our news and reviews for Trapped, go here

Trapped continues on BBC4 this Saturday, from 9pm

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