TV series Cold Courage ventures beyond the North
by Marta Bałaga
- The new drama series, based on Pekka Hiltunen’s novels, promises a truly international take on “Nordic noir”
The eight-part drama series Cold Courage, currently filming and being directed by Agneta Fagerström-Olsson and Kadir Balci, is based on the first of Pekka Hiltunen’s popular novels about two Finnish women living in London and slowly becoming involved in a secret organisation. Alongside Sofia Pekkari, cast as Lia, Finnish actress Pihla Viitala will play Mari. Drawn together by a mysterious group called Studio, dedicated to righting the many wrongs of influential people whose deeds usually go unpunished, soon they have to put their many differences aside and learn, just like a certain masked superhero, that with great power comes great responsibility.
“They share a very complicated relationship, and they couldn’t possibly be more different,” opines producer Markku Flink, of Helsinki-based Luminoir. “Then again, both have that Finnish toughness and resilience that makes them fascinating.” Adapted for the screen by BAFTA nominee David Joss Buckley and Brendan Foley, the story won’t exactly shy away from the current headlines or political turmoil either. “Lia and Mari think they are the good guys, but how do you decide what’s right or wrong in the post-truth world? And what happens when personal agendas meet global issues?” wonders Flink while talking to Cineuropa. “These great ambiguities are all around us, and these characters’ different responses to the tough choices they face are precisely what makes them so compelling.”
“Nordic-flavoured crime stories are often very minimalistic and have a realistic touch to their storytelling,” observes Pihla Viitala, soon to be seen in Zaida Bergroth’s period drama Maria’s Paradise [+see also:
interview: Zaida Bergroth
film profile]. That being said, the story, based in London but with shooting days also scheduled in Ireland, Belgium and Finland, is bound to launch into much more international waters. “The role in Cold Courage was interesting to me precisely because of this multilingual and multicultural aspect,” she adds. “We mostly speak English on set, but Agneta Fagerström-Olsson speaks Swedish to me very often, with our sound department I speak in French, and with the focus puller and the light department I use Finnish.” Fittingly, both actresses will be joined by such international thespians as Arsher Ali, Caroline Goodall and John Simm, playing a right-wing politician who will be the focus of a sprawling investigation spanning the entire first season.
“As Arthur Alexander Fried, a businessman and populist on the rise, he has more layers than an onion and has shed more skins than a sociable snake,” points out Flink while discussing Simm’s role and the character that ultimately becomes the glue that keeps both reluctant women together. While the fact that the series is based on Pekka Hiltunen’s novels seems to work in Cold Courage’s favour, the Finnish producer prefers to keep his cool – rather appropriately, given the title. “It generates a lot of good buzz, which of course makes us very proud, but it also creates a lot of expectations. Luckily, we have very talented directors, crew members and cast members ready to bring these excellent scripts to life. In a year’s time, we’ll know how it’s likely to reach audiences internationally, but for the time being, we’d better just concentrate on doing our best and making a great series,” he explains, before adding more cryptically: “It’s only the Northern Lights that cast some glimmers of light for a little girl on a dark path. If that image seems familiar, it’s because before, there would have been a guardian angel following right behind her. But as you might have guessed, there is no angel any more.”
Produced by Finland’s Luminoir and set to be distributed via streaming service Viaplay, Cold Courage is being co-produced by Belgium’s Potemkino, Ireland’s Vico Films and Iceland’s Sagafilm, and is slated to premiere in 2020. Lionsgate will handle the distribution outside of the Nordic countries.
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