Talking Shop: Kenneth Branagh

UK Press Association, 1 January 2010
*Thanks, Gillian

Kenneth Branagh is set to return to BBC One as angst-ridden Swedish detective Kurt Wallander on 3 January. The first series wowed critics and audiences alike, winning several awards and securing a Golden Globe nomination for Branagh at the forthcoming ceremony.

Branagh is also in pre-production of a new Hollywood adaptation of comic boom hero Thor.

The first series of Wallander has been a big success, were you prepared for it?

No, but we were pleased it was something that everybody involved had such a strong instinct about. There was a lot of enthusiasm amongst us, it wasn't just another job. It was really a passionate project for everyone.

Was it daunting to take on this iconic Swedish role, that has already been adapted for television there?

He's a national icon, they have a love-hate relationship with Wallander and (author) Henning Mankell. They were very welcoming to us.

As far as I was concerned, playing an iconic character in a much loved author's backyard, I'm used to working on things that are part of a classical repertory - where other people have played the role before. I knew about the Swedish Wallander, which I have not seen, nor will I see until we put our show to bed because it would blur the edges in an unhelpful way.

For me it was proof that we were doing something that people cared about. I think those things needn't be intimidating but can be inspiring and uplifting.

To add to the first series' awards haul, you've just been nominated for a Golden Globe. Do you ever get used to award ceremonies?

Well, it's always pleasing to see work recognised because often times it isn't, and we're very privileged to be in jobs that sometimes allow that to happen in a public way. I think everyone responds to a pat on the back every now and again. It certainly doesn't get old. It's not why you joined but it's very nice.

Wallander is in the classic mould of those angst-ridden TV detectives who has such empathy with the victims, it's almost painful to watch. What drew you to him?

What we're trying to do is show someone who, doing this job as well as he does it, really feels the pain of victims. It's an experience you can't help getting caught up with. It isn't necessarily depressing, but he brings the audience in with him and reminds them that although it's on television, it's about real things.

We're not taking lightly the idea of people being murdered. Wallander demands that he and his colleagues care and the drama invites the audience to do the same.

You are moving from Wallander into big-budget comic book territory, directing movie Thor, based on the Marvel character. How is it shaping up?

I can tell you only this, that we start shooting Thor in January and we have a terrific cast - and I'm right in the middle of it but I'm finding it very challenging, very enjoyable and truly rewarding. It's a huge adventure and I'm having a very good time.

And have you been immersing yourself in comic books and nordic mythology?

All of the above, clearly I've been drawn to Scandinavian material from Hamlet, through Wallander, so maybe heading on to Thor was a natural development.

Kenneth Branagh was talking to BBC entertainment reporter Kev Geoghegan.

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