Johan Renck on His Swedish TV Debut: ‘The Old Country Was Serenading Me’

The director behind 'Breaking Bad,' 'The Walking Dead' and 'Vikings' is turning his attention to ever darker fare

Johan Renck on His Swedish TV Debut: ‘The Old Country Was Serenading Me'

After helming episodes for some of the most popular American TV shows, including “Breaking Bad” and “The Walking Dead,” multi-hyphenate TV, film, music video director and musician Johan Renck has ventured into Swedish TV. Renck, who was born in Uppsala, Sweden, but currently lives in New York, said “the old country was serenading me in a compelling way.” His mini-series “Ones and Zeros” — inspired by real events — previewed at Goteborg on Thursday. The series will premiere on SVT 1 on Feb. 9. The second of the two 90-minute eps will air on Feb. 16.

Tell us about your mini-series “Ones and Zeros.”

It is an intricate, dark and violent comedic drama about some kids from the projects ripping people off via various skimming methods over the Internet. Complications ensue.

 Why did you choose this project for you Swedish TV debut?

The script was intriguing and the possibilities for some filmmaking vast.

Like other shows you’ve directed, such as “Bates Motel,” “Vikings,” “Breaking Bad” and “The Walking Dead,” this is a dark and twisted drama. What attracts you to this genre?

Probably my dark and twisted mind.

 What was it like to reunite with your “Vikings” star Gustaf Skarsgård?

It was great. I like his mind and I like his physicality. He is a very talented boy.

 As a musician and music video director, how important was it for you to get Kent on the mini-series’ soundtrack?

I have worked with the band extensively in the past, entailing everything from directing videos, directing tours and art directing. I have also written songs with Joakim Berg back in my music years. I’ve always wanted to do something like this with his very visual sensibilities.

What does the movie suggest about the current social climate in Goteborg?

A lot. Gothenburg is the Baltimore or Liverpool or Marseille of Sweden — plagued by the death of wharfs and other industries, and with complex segregation of the populace from southern Europe, which once brought in a labor force that suddenly found itself living in remote projects without jobs.

Elsewhere, film is yielding to TV. Do you find that to be the case in Sweden as well?

Possibly. The interest in character-driven content over narrative-driven ditto is increasing; that’s why television steps in. Personally, I love it since psychology and character, really, are my beacons.

With “The Bridge,” “The Swede,” “The Killing” and “Borgen” adapted (or in the process of being adapted) to American TV, what about Scandinavian dramas makes them a draw to U.S. audiences?

I can only guess it is the exotic tone and the dark undercurrents. However, good content is good content wherever it might come from.