Aníta Briem creates and stars in “As Long as We Live,” an upcoming miniseries about a new mother – and once promising musician – suffocating in her marriage. But things change when a young man, her new nanny, starts giving the couple little “assignments” to do.
“This boy is like Mary Poppins! He brings this new, sexy element into their home that neither of them can control. He helps them rediscover each other,” explains Briem.
“Beta has an 18-month-old child, she is in the midst of postnatal depression, but at the same time her body is becoming her own once again. I use sexuality as a representation for her awakening. She has this whole world locked away inside of her head and a big part of her journey is to bring it all out.”
She drew on her own life for inspiration, she says.
“I also found myself at a point where I was experiencing these complicated feelings. There were no stories and no references to what I was dealing with, so I assumed that a) I was completely alone and b) there must be something wrong with me.”
Briem adds: “I started to research this seven year itch phenomenon. I kept reading about what happens in our bodies and brains, about this insane need to connect, which is the closest thing to a higher power I have ever experienced. The thing is, we always talk about people meeting and falling in love. And then what? They post: ‘Oh my God, it’s our 24th anniversary and things are better than ever.’ Which makes me go: ‘Really’?!”
Nominated for the Nordisk Film & TV Fond Prize 2023 and set to premiere this year, the show was commissioned by Channel 2 Iceland and produced by Arnbjörg Hafliðadóttir for Icelandic powerhouse Glassriver (“Black Sands,” “A White, White Day”), while Katrín Björgvinsdóttir directs. Sales are handled by Eccho Rights.
“This nomination is an incredible encouragement. For years, I kept thinking I am not a writer, that I am not good enough. Until the producers sat me down and said: ‘This is the voice we are interested in’,” admits Briem.
An established actor also outside of her native Iceland, she played Jane Seymour in “The Tudors” and alongside this year’s Oscar hopeful Brendan Fraser in “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” with Terrence Howard starrer “Selfie” already looming on the horizon. But writing was a whole different struggle.
“I was in L.A. for 13 years, before the #MeToo era, and I had this bitter taste in my mouth from some of the things I’ve experienced there, as a young woman in Hollywood faced with powerful men misusing their power. But when I started to write, I discovered skills I wasn’t even aware of.”
Originally considering a feature, she quickly embraced a longer format which allowed the story to “breathe,” she observes. Currently clocking in at six episodes, the show could expand in the future, however.
“Right now, I feel like I have excavated my head and my heart. But I really related when I read an interview with Phoebe Waller-Bridge about ‘Fleabag.’ It was supposed to be just one season and then she made another one, which is maybe even better, so I just don’t know!”
Briem acts with Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, her co-star in political series “Minister,” Mikael Kaaber, and Sweden’s Martin Wallström.
“Originally, the husband character was Icelandic, because mine isn’t and I wanted some distance. Then our distribution company suggested a foreigner and it made sense to me. What it also did is that half of the show is in English now, but the idea of remaking it is certainly interesting,” she adds.
Still, Briem’s main ambition was to tell her audience, especially women, that what they are going through is perfectly normal.
“I was writing in complete isolation. I put it all out there, but there was this moment when I went: ‘Oh my God, everyone is going to know this came from your filthy head’,” she laughs.
“The more people I talked to, it felt like everyone had a story. ‘Oh my god, let me tell you what happened to us.’ It drove me to focus not just on the nice things, the pretty things, but also the uglier thoughts we all have.”
“Our experiences are clouded in shame way too often. Saying things aloud makes them seem smaller and something beautiful can come out of it too. It’s a story of love and it’s hopeful, but not the riding-off-into-the-sunset hopeful.”