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Rakel Wärmländer as Ebba (Courtesy of Viaplay)

TV Interview: Rakel Wärmländer on ‘Limbo’

Rakel Wärmländer is a Swedish actor, writer and executive producer in a drama called Limbo. The series made its North American debut on Nordic streaming service Viaplay on August 10. The plot focuses on three friends, Ebba (Wärmländer), Gloria (Louise Peterhoff) and My (Sofia Helin), and how they deal with a tragic car accident that their three sons were in. I spoke with Wärmländer to learn more about her approach to the story as an actor and a part of the creative team.

On Changing Perspectives

Wärmländer’s (Vuxna människor, The Sandhamm Murders) acting credits go back to the mid-1990s. Over the years, two lessons stick out in her mind that helped her in developing Limbo. As she put it, “Try to go with your gut feelings…and believe in your ideas.”

Since the Scandinavian drama is based on true events in her life, she was particularly concerned about getting things right. Also, Wärmländer was surprised about what she found when she revisited the events through conversations with family and friends. “When I was 16, this accident happened. It was very interesting because I realized during this film process that the real process has also been in my body for 25 years. I hadn’t understood that [there] was so much emotion still.”

The creatives and cast explore a few hefty concepts in the storyline, including parenthood, motherhood, and friendship. These play out through the main idea about how fragile life is when tragedy strikes. “You don’t think about that every day. I don’t think you should do that, because you would become mentally sick if you did. The beauty of the series is the simplicity in it. It’s something that can happen to anyone, all over the world. It takes just a second and then it’s over.”

Photo of Rakel Wärmländer, Louise Peterhoff and Sofia Helen looking at each other
Rakel Wärmländer, Louise Peterhoff and Sofia Helen (Courtesy of Viaplay)

On Bringing Audiences into the Drama

Wärmländer emphasized the focus of the plot. “It’s about the mothers. It’s not about the boys.”

And that emphasis was crucial in the framing of the scenes and where viewers would be situated in relation to the action. “They are in the room with us and not just watching something. We wanted them in some sense to be the subject in my vision of this whole thing, like taking time in the scenes to be in it, and not go to the next room. We wanted to make it as alive and painful as possible to watch, because you have to be in there breathing with them.”

There was also careful planning and a conscious decision not to depict the accident itself. “If you show the accident, then the audience knows what happened. We wanted them to have the same feeling as the mothers because they don’t know.”

On Collaborating with Cast and Creatives

Wärmländer spoke positively about the hard work by her costars Louise Peterhoff (The Bridge, Midsommar) and Sofia Helin (The Bridge, Atlantic Crossing) as they portrayed the ups and downs the friends encountered apart and together. “They really put their heart into the series. We rehearsed. In Sweden at least, it’s not so common that you do because of schedules and money…We talked scenes through.”

She felt their ideas came through in the final product. She fondly recalled a nice memory on set when they all decided to swim during a scene. To Wärmländer’s amusement, the camera crew and makeup teams tried to dissuade them from getting wet and ruining their makeup. She said, “You have to take a bath before the big drama, so we just did it!” 

As an executive producer and writer, Wärmländer spent a lot of time collaborating with director Sofia Jupither and writer Emma Broström. Her experience as an actor helped with her approach to writing the scripts. “I’m so used to talking that I have the sense of how it’s going to sound. I had the vision so clear[ly] of what we were supposed to do. And because I knew the other actors, I could hear how it will sound when they say it. Sometimes the imagination is better if you’re an actor.”

Photo of Rakel Wärmländer standing outside
Rakel Wärmländer as Ebba (Courtesy of Viaplay)

On Final Scripts and Award Horizons

Wärmländer observed that Jupither and Broström came from more of a dramaturg background than she did, but the team effort went well overall. “I’m more into words and the situations. You have to give and take, but it was important to us that all the actors would have the final scripts in their hands two months before.”

Final scripts were essential in the process out of respect for the actors’ time and for making sure all the pieces of the story fit. “The script is very worked through. That was important to us not to leave anything halfway.”

Everyone’s hard work appears to have paid off: Limbo received nominations for two 2023 Kristallen awards, which recognize the best in Swedish television: Female Lead of the Year (Wärmländer) and TV Drama of the Year.

Watch all six episodes of ‘Limbo’ on Viaplay.

About Pat Cuadros

Pat Cuadros is Pop Culture Editor for Blogcritics Magazine. She frequently covers TV, film and theater. Her portfolio includes interviews with Ndaba Mandela and actors Juliette Binoche, Fran Drescher, Derek Jacobi and Brent Spiner. She's also spoken with notable voice actors Petrea Burchard, Garry Chalk, Peter Cullen and Brian Drummond.

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