In his native Sweden, actor Krister Henriksson has won the most prestigious of awards for his performances on stage and on screen, but it was not until Swedish-made crime drama Wallander, in which he plays the title detective, joined the roster of must watch foreign-made television that he became known on British shores.
Now theatre fans have the chance to see him live as he brings his acclaimed production of Hjalmar Söderberg’s Swedish classic Doktor Glas to London. The tale of a 19th century physician who has to choose between his passion and his morality when the object of his infatuation confides in him marks Henriksson’s West End debut.
We caught up with the Swedish star to discover more about the intriguing production, how silliness changed his career choice and why hearing impediments might be useful for performers.
CV in Brief:
1973: Breakthrough performance in Peer Gynt for Stockholm City Theatre
1998: Wins Swedish Guldbagge Award for performance in the film Veranda För en Tenor
2005: Wins Swedish Guldbagge Award for performance in the film Sex, Hope And Love
2005: Debuts in Swedish crime drama Wallander
2007: First performs Doktor Glas, winning Sweden’s Guldmasken Award
2013: Makes West End debut in Doktor Glas
How did you first get into acting?
It wasn’t my idea to be an actor. My idea was to study medicine and become a doctor. When I did my military service there were a lot of guys who were going to become authors, singers, actors, and I thought it was so much fun to be with them. Then I thought of my friends when I started medicine, and I found them so boring, clever but boring. I thought “I can’t spend my life with these people.” I met actors and they were so silly, but not boring. I thought “Yes, I want to spend my life with that kind of people.”
How much has Wallander changed your life?
It has changed my life to the degree that I’m suddenly going to make my debut in the West End. When I said yes to Wallander, if somebody told me at that time that this would lead you to the West End I wouldn’t believe it.
People outside Sweden know who I am. If I go on the street in London they even know my name here. But in Sweden it hasn’t changed my life because I was, even before Wallander, an established actor. That’s the condition for being an actor. You can do lots of parts but one day you do a part and the audience just knows you for that.
How are you feeling about making your West End debut?
I feel very enthusiastic about it. I couldn’t imagine that something like that could happen in my career, that I should be invited to the West End and do a monologue in Swedish! I don’t know what will happen. I hope people will come and see it because it’s a very fantastic monologue. It’s based on a very good novel. I know it isn’t so famous in Britain, but in Sweden it’s kind of Shakespeare.
What are you expecting from English audiences?
We have surtitles; the audience has to read simultaneously and sometimes they read too fast, so when I come to the punch line they have already read it and laughed. You’re looking at your trousers thinking “What has happened?” I’m quite used to it, but you have to be very confident with yourself because s**t can happen.
As a Swede you’re used to surtitles because everything you watch on TV, every movie you go to, there are surtitles because Swedish is such a small language. English is a worldwide language, so you never read surtitles. I think that it is important you can hear the original language. It’s right to do this in Swedish because he wrote it in Swedish.
Which fellow performers do you most admire?
I have been to London a lot since I began studying theatre and I’ve seen them all on stage; John Gielgud, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench. Simon Russell Beale; I have never seen him on television, but he’s a fantastic stage actor.
What’s most enjoyable about being an actor?
The challenge. And that you must be fresh every night and not doing it the same way you did it last night. That is what I love about the profession. That is also what I hate about the profession.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever given?
Tell the director you’re hard of hearing. That is a very good quality for an actor, not to listen too much to what the director says. Listen to your stomach, don’t listen to your brains.
If you weren’t an actor what would you be doing?
I can’t imagine, because I’ve been an actor for such a long time. It’s kind of an addictive profession. For me, acting is kind of an addictive thing. I can’t live without it.