There are spoilers revealed in this Q&A, so if you haven't seen the last episode and don't want to know what happened, watch the episode first.
Question: The ending leaves open whether Richmond is really the killer. Why did you close the season like this so open-ended, rather than having the Linden and Holder feel good about solving the case?
VS: Several reasons. First off the original series, "Forbydelsen," went for 20 episodes their first season and there was material there I was potentially interested in exploring. But since our first season is only 13 episodes, I didn't have enough real estate this season to do it, thus the desire to have more time.
Second, from the very beginning I was striving to avoid any sort of "formulaic" approach, really turn the genre — and expectations of the genre as we've come to know it — on its head. Clearly, I knew we wouldn't be doing a crime an episode, but then I started to wonder if we do a crime every season, isn't that a sort of cliche and formula and aren't we then simply re-creating tropes albeit on a broader canvas and over a longer timeframe?
So I, and my writers, tossed out every notion of "when this investigation will end" and let it play out in an organic manner, without a set timeline for solving the case.
Lastly, please remember that every episode is one day in the investigation. This is a high-profile murder involving the city's highest political players. High-profile murders like this usually don't get solved in 13 days (Chandra Levy, etc.) I wanted to strive for authenticity as much as I possibly could within the framework of a fictionalized TV show and solving this murder in 13 days didn't feel very real or true.
Q: Holder obviously created evidence to help put away Richmond. Was he a good cop during the investigation and went bad in the waning moments of trying to make a case against Richmond out of frustration, or do you think he was a bad cop all along?
VS: We will find out during season two.
Q: Mitch had to deal with a lot of issues following Rosie's death and decides she needs to get away from her family. What exactly is she wrestling with that is weighing so heavily on her?
VS: Mitch had big dreams before she got pregnant and found herself, 17 years later, a hard-working housewife and business owner. Now everything she has built her life on for the last two decades — her daughter, her marriage — is gone or crumbling beneath her feet.
She is also shaken to the core by the knowledge that maybe she knew nothing about Rosie and maybe she forced her daughter to keep secrets from her and maybe that's what got her killed. So much is going on for her right now, in these last two weeks, everything she has known stripped away. And being in the house where her daughter so recently lived is killing her, as she says "Every piece of this place hurts me."
She has gone into a part of herself that is remote and untouchable and deeply isolated in her grieving.That is why she's leaving, she doesn't know how to stay.
Q: What your biggest challenges story-wise for the first season?
VS: Juggling a season-long (and now longer) investigation with all its twists and turns, balancing three intersecting worlds and storylines with all their subplots and various character-fueled detours, creating basically a very precarious yet breathtaking house of cards and hoping it doesn't collapse!
Q: Thoughts on the second season?
VS: See above, TBD
Q: Can you talk about the performances a bit? A handful of these actors were relatively unknown to U.S. audiences. How did they enhance the characters you and the writers had envisioned?
VS: We were fortunate to have such a wildly talented cast and great casting directors who helped us find them.
Joel was a true international find. He's a Swedish actor who had just moved to Los Angeles months earlier. He was back in Oslo and had put himself on tape. The minute I saw him with his tattoos and his awesome accent, I knew I had found Holder.
Had to fight for him a bit since he was so different from anyone we've ever seen on TV, but he was just that perfect Pacific Northwest wannabe banger white boy I had imagined for Holder -- a kid who'd grown up on the streets and blended perfectly into undercover work. He wasn't acting a part, he was the part.
Mireille came into the room toward the end — she and others had read a few times for the role and we were down to the wire — and there was literally this moment when she was reading Sarah's lines and I could see her in that field in Discovery Park. Her eyes, her hair, her skin, I could hear her voice and I knew we had found our Sarah.
This role was so difficult to cast — the character has so much depth and range and guarded intensity and this hidden compulsion and need. We needed an actress who could perform at this depth and in a very internal way -- a rare quality to find. We found it in Mireille in spades.
There's that moment where you're casting, you're in the room and you've lived with these characters for months and months. And all of a sudden an actor, like Mireille or Brent, steps into the characters shoes and you just know they are the one. It's almost like falling in love. You just know.
It's phenomenal to be able to cast the way we did — looking for the best actors out there who best embody the roles instead of trying to force a "name" into a role that ultimately they don't have the chops to deliver on. Our cast is truly the cream of the crop and because of this the audience steps right into their world and believes they are who they are in the first second, the first frame of film.
Q: Were you trying to say anything about our win-at-all-costs political system, considering everything that Richmond went through to win the election?
VS: Absolutely, I'm fascinated by politics and the myriad compromises one must make since so much of it is a team sport, a finding of consensus among so many warring interests.
I was fascinated by the ascendancy of someone like Barack Obama, who stood for such ideals and aspirations at a time when our country was in desperate need of hope and vision — to see a man as formidable as he having to make so many compromises along the way.
At what point do you stop standing for what you believe in anymore? At what point have you sold out? What is the moral core of someone like Darren Richmond and as that core is chipped away at, does it disappear eventually? Inevitably? Is it possible for good men and good women to preserve their character in our political system? To preserve who, ultimately, they are and what they stand for?