Nanna Kristín Magnúsdóttir on Icelandic Series ‘Happily Never After’

‘Happily Never After’ competes for the 2020 4th Nordisk Film & TV Fond Prize for screenwriting, awarded Jan. 29 at Sweden’s Göteborg Festival.

Nominated for YJR Best Nordic TV Drama Screenplay Award at Sweden’s Göteborg Film Festival, a second season of “Happily Never After” is already in the works – a clear indication of a shift in audience tastes, in what was just a couple of years a Nordic Noir dominated market. It’s also a sort of rarity as it received funding from the Icelandic Film Centre and public broadcaster RUV after a quite successful short film from its showrunner.

Written, produced, directed and starring Nanna Kristín Magnúsdóttir,“Happily Never After” turns on Karen a couples’ counselor whose ideal life starts falling apart after she discovers her husband’s cheating on her. Suddenly, with a broken marriage and three kids. Karen, aged 38, has to face a new prospect of life and re-invent herself.

A heart warming portrayal of the complexities of early mid-life that from the get go picks apart the whole mirage of an ideal life, with a perfect, functional family where a woman has to be professionally successful and yet take of three kids, be sexy at will as if time didn’t, and endeavor to sustaining a functional marriage. And this, for decades, has been called emancipation. Variety talked with Nanna Kristín Magnúsdóttir about her debut show

Several years ago we started adopting the formal convention of onscreen text to depict mobile interaction and yet still the question of how to depict our interaction through the internet is a broadly open question. Your series tackles it fully on, given that so many areas of the characters’ life happen on the Internet. How did you face that challenge formally? What was your main interest in that exploration?

True, this is always an important issue in contemporary storytelling. In the case of “Happily Never After,” the full frontal approach to onscreen text and pics is in sync with the comprehensive artistic overview –  the dialogue, acting, music, cinematography etc.  The main interest was to show the new world our main character, Karen, steps into where communication on the Internet has become normal whether it’s dating or bringing up your children. Then we leave it up to the audience to judge if this world is ideal. Karen, however, sure has troubles adapting to it.

There’s a vague echo of Bergman’s “Scenes from a Marriage” very early on which disappears as soon as the music enters and establishes a far more energetic pacing that manages to mix very well light hearted scenes with the deeply cutting moments of a divorce. What was your design when choosing the music and was this change of pace already envisaged in the screenplay?

I’m so pleased that you notice this emphasis. My cooperation with music composer Gísli Galdur was delightful. We are very true to the script and yes, the change of pace is thought of in advance. The intention being to express the sudden change in Karen’s life where every new information comes as a gust of wind in her face that sweeps her of her feet. That being said music is essential to move the storyline forward and add to the emotional state of the characters. I loved having the music in contradiction with the dialogue. We rarely say what we are thinking in complex conversations where ego or shame are intertwined with  circumstances.

The series manages to pull off an emotional comedic tone that doesn’t rely entirely on dialog but also on the behavior of its characters, and feels immensely intimate: It’s spangled with small details that we as the audience recognize with an empathetic smile. How was the work with the actors on set? Was there room for improvisation or was everything pretty well also anticipated by the screenplay?

As an actress myself I know how much it means to be well prepared on set. Instead of improvisation, we had several read throughs, rehearsals and constructive discussions.  Afterwards I made changes to the scripts based on this preparation work with the other actors. When all of us showed up on set there wasn’t room for the unexpected. This series had a tight budget where time is the keystone.

What are you working on now?

I’m actually in development for the sequel to “Happily Never After.” As the series was very well received by the audiences, continuing a successful cooperation with the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service was easily attained.  My next directorial work, now in post-production, is episodes in the TV series “The Minister” premiered in fall. Then my focus will shift to a totally different genre, a family musical film, which is in pre-production, with children in all the leading roles. 2020 starts of with all kinds of exciting challenges.

Happily Never After
CREDIT: CUBS Productions

More TV

  • Caroline Flack

    'Love Island’ Pulled For Second Night After Former Host Caroline Flack’s Death

    For a second consecutive night, ‘Love Island’ will not air on U.K. broadcaster ITV2 following the death of former host Caroline Flack, Variety has confirmed. An ITV spokesman said: “Many people at ITV knew Caroline well and held her in great affection. All of us are absolutely devastated at this tragic news.” “After careful consultation between [...]

  • Caroline Flack

    Caroline Flack's Death Prompts U.K. Petition Demanding Media Inquiry

    A petition calling on the U.K. government to launch an inquiry into British media coverage of public figures has garnered close to 206,000 signatures. The death of former “Love Island” host Caroline Flack, one of the country’s most popular TV personalities, spurred the initiative, which asks government to investigate the press following “the maltreatment of [...]

  • Caroline Flack

    'Love Island' Host's Shock Death Revives Concerns Around Mental Health, Media Scrutiny

    The death of popular “Love Island” host Caroline Flack has sent shockwaves across the U.K. and again raised long-running concerns about broadcaster ITV’s support of cast members on the hit reality competition as well as the country’s intense media scrutiny of public figures. Flack, one of the U.K.’s most recognizable reality hosts, was found dead [...]

  • Caroline Flack'ITV Palooza!', Royal Festival Hall,

    Caroline Flack, Former 'Love Island' Host, Dies at 40

    Caroline Flack, the former host of the U.K. reality competition, “Love Island,” has died. She was 40. “Everybody at ‘Love Island’ and ITV is shocked and saddened by this desperately sad news. Caroline was a much loved member of the ‘Love Island’ team and our sincere thoughts and condolences are with her family and friends,” [...]

  • Lynn Cohen

    Lynn Cohen, Magda on 'Sex and the City,' Dies at 86

    Lynn Cohen, a veteran stage and screen actor who played Magda on “Sex and the City,” died Friday. She was 86. Magda was Miranda Hobbe’s (Cynthia Nixon) housekeeper and eventually her nanny, and Cohen also appeared in both film adaptations of the show. She talked to Cosmopolitan about her role in 2018. “It showed a [...]

  • 'Outlander's' Sophie Skelton on Brianna's PTSD,

    'Outlander's' Sophie Skelton on Brianna's PTSD, Motherhood in Season 5 (SPOILERS)

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you haven’t yet watched the Season 5 premiere of “Outlander,” entitled “The Fiery Cross,” streaming now on the Starz app. In the Season 5 premiere of “Outlander,” Brianna (Sophie Skelton) gets confirmation of something viewers have suspected since the Season 4 finale — that her rapist, Stephen Bonnet (Ed [...]

  • Netflix's 'Love is Blind' Pods

    How Netflix’s New Reality Series ‘Love is Blind’ Works

    Apologies to “The Bachelor,” ‘Love Island” and “90 Day Fiance” — you’re all decomposing roses compared to the majesty of Netflix’s out-of-left-field SENSATION, “Love is Blind.” The premise of this “experiment,” a label this reality series delights in using, is simple. A handful of singles enter soundproofed “pods” where they then date other singles without [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content