Nanna Kristín Magnúsdóttir er tilefnd til Norrænu sjónvarpshandritaverðlaunanna fyrir Pabbahelgar, en þau verða veitt á Gautaborgarhátíðinni. Vefur Norræna kvikmynda- og sjónvarpssjóðsins ræddi við hana af því tilefni, en næsta leikstjórnarverkefni Nönnu er dans- og söngvamyndin Abbababb sem fer í tökur á árinu.
Happily Never After (Pabbahelgar) centres on Karen, a 38-year old couple counsellor and a mother of three, suddenly faced with difficult choices when she finds out her husband (Sveinn Ólafur Gunnarsson) has been cheating on her. Her struggle to cope and unrealistic expectations start to affect her family and her job. Magnúsdóttir co-produced the show with Martein Thorsson (XL) and produced it with Birgitta Björnsdóttir and Thor Sigurjonsson. REInvent Studios handles world distribution.
How does it feel to be nominated for the second time for the Nordisk Film & TV Fond Prize?
Nanna Kristín Magnusdóttir: It’s an honour and it means a great deal to me professionally. The second time around is a little bit sweeter, as Happily Never After is my baby. It took guts to be self-consistent over many years in development and not to loose focus on the story I wanted to tell and more importantly the raw narration.
Was it a natural step for you to move from acting to screenwriting and directing?
NKM: Having worked for decades in the business, I wanted to evolve. As an actress, I’ve worked with numerous directors, screenwriters and artists in filmmaking who all have either their own style or approach. Their work inspired me and encouraged me to develop within the industry. I’m now finding my own voice as a director and the urge to tell a certain kind of stories. I love it!
You have written, co-directed, produced the series, you play the central character and you have gone through divorce yourself. Was this a therapeutic way of dealing with your own experience?
NKM: Actually I had been working on the script for a year when I went through my own divorce. I put the writing on hold for a long time because I was not capable of handling the situation both in my real life and writing fiction side by side. In my own life, I sought professional guidance and therapy. So the answer is no, my creation of Happily Never After was not a way to deal with my own experience, as the fiction does not reflect my life. But I have to admit that Karen’s struggle to be an independent modern woman who is supposed to be secure and not easy to influence I can relate to.
How have you structured the show?
NKM: The structure of the story is one main thread throughout the six episodes – the question is: will Karen have the courage to be single and let go of her idea of the perfect nuclear family. Then each episode has obstacles for Karen to make up her mind – characters, plots but also everyday life makes it so very difficult for her.
What were the main challenges in the writing process?
NKM: My main challenge was to find my own tone in storytelling and the gut to trust my own sense of taste. This is a little hard to explain. But for example, I gave myself the freedom not to create a mainstream protagonist and the drama is everyday life situations. I let the character be multilateral but that means that she isn’t always sympathetic or even a nice person. The drama often comes within. Our heroine suddenly deals with loneliness, anxiety, low self-esteem and lack of self-preservation.
The first image where we see Karen on the toilet seat, wearing a baggy T-shirt sets the tone for the rest of the series. Can you expand on your raw visual style and openness about sex and nudity?
NKM: When talking about marriage and the ugly battle divorce can be, sex has to be addressed. And when we have sex we are most often naked. For Karen to go out on the dating market again is a challenge for many reasons, and one of them is to have sex with someone who is not her husband. Someone she has to be nude with. I wanted to cover body image and to be loyal to the matter I had to be sincere. It was not my favourite scenes to act in but considering the response I got from female audience, they were definitely crucial. The first scene is in sync with the overall artistic overview of the series where no filter is needed. The topic being a harsh divorce, body image and how a woman needs to find her identity again, the raw visual style is in the core.
Was Lena Dunham and her bold and earnest female portraits in the back of your mind?
NKM: Yes. She opened up a new world for me as a woman. Her vision was in contrast to how women are usually presented in majority of films and TV… and media. I wish I had a role model like her when I was younger.
There has never been as many stories about women on screens, yet there is still an under-representation of women writers and directors in Iceland. How do you feel about that?
NKM: I feel strongly about that in a way that calls for a whole new interview.
What’s next for you as writer/director/actor?
NKM: As an actress I would love to have the opportunity to go to more auditions…abroad wouldn’t hurt. My next directorial, now in post- production, are episodes of the TV series The Minister [premiere on RU in fall 2020]. As a writer /director, the sequel of Happily Never After is in development, and the family musical film Twelve Hours to Destruction [Icelandic title Abbababb] is in pre-production.”
Sjá nánar hér: In Focus: Nordisk Film & TV Fond Nominee, Iceland