“He brings it upon Kurt very slowly, lots of almost detective-style hints that he must find out about himself. It’s very interesting and pleasing dramatically, so perplexing and finally tragic,” reveals Kenneth Branagh as we chat via webcam (watch above) about his character’s descent into the fog of Alzheimer’s in the final “Wallander” telefilm. As the knighted actor explains, “The challenge was to try and bring that to the screen as accurately as possible. I was so happy to be able to do that in a show like ‘Wallander’ where I knew that actually the show would be able to take the time it needed to watch someone have their moment be wiped clean by this snapping of synapses in a different way.”
This acclaimed British/American co-production, based on the popular novels by Swedish writer Henning Mankell about a small-town police detective, encompassed 12 telefilms over the past seven years. All aired on PBS in the United States including the most recent three this Emmy season. Branagh recalls, “When you get under those Swedish skies it really is cold. When that wind blows off the Baltic, it’s very, very nippy. That northern light really is so crisp and sharp. There’s something about it. You felt it. You didn’t just do the show but somehow felt the atmosphere in a very unusual way.”
“One Step Behind,” the third in the series, contended at the 2009 Emmys, with Branagh reaping a bid as lead actor and Philip Martin for directing. Rather than entering as a limited series, producers have once again chosen just one installment — the finale “The Troubled Man” — as their entry on the 2016 Emmy ballot. Among his four overall Emmy nominations, Branagh won on his first try in 2001 as Best TV Movie/Miniseries Actor for “Conspiracy.”
Branagh came to fame in the US when he was just 29 with his 1989 film adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Henry V.” He reaped the first two of his eventual five Oscar nominations for directing and starring in this celebrated film. He tells a rollicking story about traveling to the Oscars from Japan and immediately returning after it was over for a stage commitment. “The whole book-ending of that first Oscar experience was this amazing dream that involved great art, great artists, famous actors, craziness, drink, no sleep, with ‘King Lear’ at one end and ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at the other.”
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