Killing Time
Kenneth Branagh Returns to BBC One in the Dark Crime Thriller Wallander

TBBC Press Office, November 2008

Kenneth Branagh returns to BBC One to play Swedish detective Kurt Wallander in three new single dramas based on the best-selling books by Henning Mankell – an international publishing phenomenon with over 25 million copies sold worldwide.

Here, Branagh tells Programme Information about Inspector Wallander and about his love for the novels.

Tell us about Wallander

"What has been so terrific for me about this role is that I was already a big fan of the books and had read them purely for pleasure. My first experience of these books, their stories and characters was entirely as a member of the public enjoying the rip-roaring tales and great whodunits.

Partly what made the books successful was that readers could experience the stories through Wallander's view of the world. Rick Cottan's script captures this and allows the viewers to become a part of how Wallander reacts to what he is seeing, and I think this will make the television series very compelling.

Rick, in his scripts, has managed to connect to the constant questioning in Wallander's mind and show his on-going empathy and open-wound quality."

What did you enjoy about the role?

"The world that Wallander lives in is a raw world where people have to deal with terrible news and with the death of loved ones in terrible circumstances. Wallander is very self-aware and perceptive and intelligent about human behaviour.

For me, this is more of a straight part as Wallander's character does not have all the same eccentricities that would normally appear in these types of stories."

What was your aim in making the series?

"I always think there is a responsibility to try to do something as well as you can and, with such a fine writer as Henning Mankell, we really wanted to do it justice. I think everyone involved already loved the books and the responsibility to get it right was keenly felt by all.

We wanted to give viewers the feeling that, for the police and everyone involved in discovering these crimes, it was far from usual, and that, emotionally, it costs Wallander and it costs his colleagues so much each time – there is no getting used to it.

I hope that we deliver very compelling stories that make viewers want to watch from the word go. I hope that we deliver images which are unusual, that are born out of being in another country and in another kind of atmosphere.

I think that we most wanted to capture the balance that Mankell strikes in his books between telling a great story of a police procedural tale with the sensitivity and substance of being a human being."

Why was the drama shot in Sweden?

"When you read the novels, it makes you want to come here to Sweden to have a sense of whether that unease that you're describing and seeing in the settings is genuine.

It is absolutely right that we came to shoot in Sweden as they have a different relationship to the landscape. People are much more aware of what the environment can do to you in sometimes a bleakish landscape and in that kind of atmosphere it is a really good place for drama."

Interview with Henning Mankell, author of The Inspector Wallander Mysteries

Internationally acclaimed author Henning Mankell has written eight novels and a collection of short stories featuring Kurt Wallander. The books have been published in 33 countries and consistently top the bestseller lists in Europe, receiving major literary prizes (including Great Britain's Gold Dagger in 2000) and generating numerous international film and television adaptations.

He has also published many other novels for children, young people and adults, and is one of Sweden's most frequently performed dramatists. He has spent many years in Africa, where a number of his novels are set. Born in 1948, Mankell grew up in the Swedish village of Sveg. He now divides his time between Sweden and Maputo, Mozambique, where he works as a director at Teatro Avenida.

Here, he tells Programme Information what he thinks about the BBC's adaptation of his work and about his inspirations.

What do you think of the British Wallander?

"I saw the tape of the show and I liked it enormously. I liked it because they had showed Wallander's warmth and also that the director and producers had gone in their own direction to create something that was completely new."

What crime drama do you enjoy?

"I really dislike characters like Poirot and Miss Marple as they never change – they are the same from the beginning to the end of the story. You and I are different each day because of what happens to us and that is how I write about Wallander and my characters.

My readers are always looking forward to seeing what direction Wallander will go in next."

Where does your inspiration come from?

"When people ask me where do you get these morbid story ideas from I always say that whatever I write, the reality is much worse.

Why set the books in Ystad, Southern Sweden?

"The town of Ystad, where my books are set, is like the Texas of Sweden, in that it runs along the border. I feel that in border countries there is a special dynamism that I use in my stories."

Back to the Wallander page | Back to Articles Listing | Back to the Compendium

Wallander (Kenneth Branagh) has a heavy workload with three murders and an apparent suicide to deal withKenneth Branagh returns to BBC One to play Swedish detective Kurt Wallander in three new single dramas based on the best-selling books by Henning Mankell – an international publishing phenomenon with over 25 million copies sold worldwide. The dramas follow Inspector Kurt Wallander – a middle-aged everyman – as he struggles against a rising tide of violence in the apparently sleepy backwaters in and around Ystad in Skane, southern Sweden. In this first film, Sidetracked, a girl is seen wandering alone in a rapeseed field. Inspector Wallander is called to investigate. Before his eyes, the girl douses herself in petrol and burns to death – the event is both shocking and baffling for Wallander. A hunt for the girl’s identity begins. On the home front, Wallander, recently estranged from his wife, has moved into his own place. Linda, his grown-up daughter, is keeping an eye on her dad as he adjusts to bachelor life. Wallander’s relationship with his own father, Povel, is difficult and, as it becomes clear that Povel’s health is in decline, Wallander strives for a reconciliation with him. Meanwhile, Wallander’s workload soars as three apparently motiveless murders are committed. The victims are all male: a former minister of justice, a small-time criminal and a rich playboy. All are viciously killed, their scalps inexplicably taken. Wallander and his team investigate, determined to discover who the killer is and how these murders are connected. Kenneth Branagh stars as Kurt Wallander with Jeany Spark as Linda Wallander, David Warner as Povel Wallander, Sarah Smart as Anne-Britt Hoglund, Sadie Shimmin as Lisa Holgersson, Tom Beard as Svedberg, Richard McCabe as Nyberg and Nicholas Hoult as Stefan Fredman. IJ