Sidse Babett Knudsen: The Borgen star, the Danish drama and Westminster...

Sidse Babett Knudsen: The Borgen star, the Danish drama and Westminster...
Sidse Babett Knudsen: The Borgen star, the Danish drama and Westminster...
Sidse Babett Knudsen had an underlying motive for joining the cast of BBC One’s new political thriller Roadkill and playing the mistress of Hugh Laurie’s ambitious Conservative minister. Sure, she’s a fan of Roadkill’s writer David Hare (whom she calls “one of the gods”); In her theater group days she traveled regularly from Copenhagen to London to see his plays at the Royal Court. But that’s far from the whole story. “One of my all-time favorite shows is Veep, and Selina Meyer’s obsession with Hugh Laurie’s character is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen,” she says. “I thought if I could get a photo in bed with him and send it to her, it could be so funny!”

It’s the kind of cunning plot that would surely lie beneath the dignity of Knudsen’s most famous character, Danish Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg, in the soon-to-be-revived drama Borgen. In any case, she admits that kompromat was never received. “I never really got around to it. The ambience when we were filming wasn’t exactly silly. ”

Chances were few, either, since Knudsen’s roadkill character Madeleine Halle isn’t the way to hang around the bedroom in revealing lingerie. There are lots of risky roles in her back catalog – she played half of a dom / sub lesbian couple in Peter Strickland’s 2015 film The Duke of Burgundy and a senior manager for femme fatale on HBO’s Westworld – but Knudsen doesn’t do any nude scenes. It’s a decision she made against the grain of her acting training in France, where she says dryly, “It was all crazy and psychological and the more you got fucked up thinking you were the part, the better.” Her experience since then only confirmed the choice.

Sidse Babett Knudsen as Madeline Halle with Hugh Laurie as Peter Laurence in Roadkill

The end of the affair? Knudsen as Madeline Halle with Hugh Laurie as Peter Laurence in Roadkill. Photo: Robert Viglasky / BBC / The Forge

“I can’t help but look at someone naked and think, ‘Oh, This is What the actress really looks like! Oh, she has really nice breasts or her knees look very funny. ‘I don’t want people to walk away from the part and think that about me. For some reason I think nudity does. “And she’s not a fan of sex scenes. “There are only so many ways you can throw your head back and paw the laundry. It just becomes a cliché so quickly. ”

In contrast to the roles she became famous for, Knudsen is currently playing weak characters with little personal authority. “I want to try something different, you know? And I actually read [Madeleine] as pretty pathetic. A bit of a sad, sad creature who doesn’t understand what it’s getting into. “Hare, who was on set for much of the production, had a” healthier and more sensible “vision of the role he had written and Knudsen says she was in – but you feel reluctantly,” Because I mean, me really love poor parts, ”she laughs.

Roadkill is privileged to be one of a small handful of roles that Knudsen took on during a year when he shouldn’t have been acting. “I kind of locked myself in front of the virus thing,” she says. “I intended to be very isolated and calm and when everything was done I just thought, ‘Welcome aboard! ‘“She likes to take these longer breaks every now and then to reset them, she says. “I mean, it’s not natural to be someone else and sometimes you just have to take some time off and find out who you are now. They are also influenced by: “What kind of drama are we doing now?” You just have to be very out and out of the trend at all. ”

Sidse Babett Knudsen as Birgitte Nyborg, the Prime Minister in Borgen

Power game: Knudsen as Birgitte Nyborg, the prime minister who is fighting to stay ahead in Borgen. Photo: Mike Kolloffel

This current dormant period ends in January, when the new series of Borgen is due to start filming, if the pandemic allows. The original three-series run was produced by Danish public broadcaster DR and came to the UK as part of a wave of rave Scandi shows that included crime thrillers The Killing and The Bridge – albeit borrowed as a murder-free political drama has more to do with the west wing. In April, Netflix announced the revival seven and a half years after the last episode aired. How difficult was it to convince Knudsen to return to the role that made her an international star? “Very difficult. It took her – what? Eight years? I mean we talked about it every now and then. I met with Adam [Price, the creator of Borgen] and we both agreed we had a really nice run, but let’s just stop there … unless a good idea comes up. ”

Knudsen can’t say exactly what this convincingly good idea was, but she says the new borrows will “definitely, definitely” recognize the massive shift in political culture that has taken place since 2010 when the sane centrist Nyborg first saw it rose to the top of a coalition government. This is also a topic that Roadkill has explored and summed up in a cocky comment Laurie’s character makes to his special adviser: “Voters see me as a character. They would much rather be led by characters than zombies. ”

Sidse Babett Knudsen as Madeline Halle in Roadkill

“A bit sad, sad” … Knudsen as Madeline Halle in Roadkill. Photo: Robert Viglasky / BBC / The Forge

For Knudsen, Borgen’s lack of cynicism stands out both in retrospect and in contrast to British political television. “Especially in the UK when you were talking to people about it [Borgen]They said, “We could never do anything that is not cynical. We to have to show this side; that’s in our mentality. ‘Borrowing comes from a really soft, cute, idealistic place. I mean, it was a nice place even for the Danish public. I think we just had the last era where a little bit of innocence is allowed. ”

In some ways, however, Borgen was astute foresight. It featured the first Danish Prime Minister a year before the country’s election, Helle Thorning-Schmidt (who is married to British Labor MP Stephen Kinnock) and five years before Selina Meyer was elected to the presidency in Veep. Since then, Nyborg-like leaders around the world like Jacinda Ardern have done better than their male counterparts – according to an analysis – amid the Covid-19 crisis.

But Knudsen does not see leadership as strongly gender-specific. “I think maybe deep down – I’m very, very careful when I say this – but instinctively, when it comes to ‘Let’s get together and protect our weak,’ humanity more than the economy, we will maybe believe a bit faster from a woman? “On the other hand, she channels the bridging nature of her most famous character:” If you look at the men who did the worst in this crisis, it’s not because they are male. They are just really not capable of being leaders, ”she says with a joyless laugh and again sounds more like a character from Veep or Yes Minister than like her own Birgitte Nyborg.

“That thing in America could have been a woman and would have been just as bad.”

• • Roadkill starts on Sunday at 9 p.m. on BBC One

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