The versatile Matti Laine’s career has taken different twists. After studying literature and dramaturgy at Tampere University, he enrolled at Helsinki’s Theatre Academy to become an actor. While filling time between acting jobs, he was drawn back to his first passion for words and fiction and starting writing crime novels - nine have been published since 2008.

He also turned to writing for theatre - two musical stage plays - and television. He was part of a writers’ room for the hit crime show Bordertown and also co-wrote Bullets.

His first series as sole writer The Paradise was also his first major international premium show partly set and produced between Finland and Spain. As Laine explains, The Paradise was a full collaboration from development stage between Spain’s major Mediapro Group (development executive David Troncoso and Emmy-award winner Ran Tellem, head of international content development), Yle’s head of drama Jarmo Lampela, and Finland’s MRP Matila Röhr Production. Marja Pyykkö directs.

The story is set in Fuengirola on Spain’s Costa del Sol, also known as little Finland due to the 15,000+ Finns, living there. As two murders shake the community, Hilkka Mäntymäki (Riitta Havukainen), a veteran crime detective aged 60, is sent there to help the local police officer (Fran Perea) investigate a case that will soon claim new victims. The series is handled internationally by Mediapro Studio Distribution.

What does it mean for you to be nominated for the Nordisk Film & TV Fond Prize? 
Matti Laine: It's a great honour. I grew up with Scandinavian crime series like Wallander and Beck. And of course series like The Killing, The Bridge and the whole Nordic noir scene, have inspired me, but also demonstrated that well-made Scandinavian stories can find big audiences from all around the world.

When did you get into screenwriting and why?
ML: Long story short: at first, I studied dramaturgy at the University, but then graduated as an actor from the Theatre Academy. Then as time went by, I got more and more back into writing, "my first love". I kind of discovered the whole craft all over again.

My first writings that got noticed were crime novels, which I still keep on doing. After a couple of books, some producers I knew started to ask if I could think of myself as a screenwriter and sure I could, because of my studies and all the work I had done as an author and as an actor too.

For me the TV format has been a natural environment to do things, much more than the movie format. For me building up a series is quite a similar process to writing a novel. The long-form inspires me and I feel like it gives me the opportunity to dig deeper as there is more time to use. The first bigger screenwriting production I was a part of was the TV series Bordertown, which ended up in Netflix. It gave me a good start.

What do you find most challenging but also exciting about writing for television
ML: As a writer and a viewer too, I always look for original ideas, something that draws my attention, makes the difference, because there's a lot of interesting content available. I look for something that is challenging, but also very exciting. How to find a good or appealing story and tell it the best way possible. That's the question with all writing which I love to try to solve again and again. The best TV series I have seen have changed my way of thinking. What could be a greater goal? As a writer there is always a possibility to evolve. 

You’ve specialised both in crime novels and screenplays. What makes the genre so appealing to you?
ML: Crime stuff is storytelling in a real pure form and the high stakes are easy to set up - it's always a matter of life and death.

In a pure technical sense, I am always excited to play with the form of the story, plot points, twists and turns, and I love to build up surprises for the viewer. On the other hand, through the crime stories, I'm able to comment on society and bring up dramatic stories and characters.

Plus, I like adventures too. But that's not the whole story: I have also written a couple of stage plays, which have nothing to do with crime, just pure character-driven drama, and I have also worked as a dramaturg and a script editor on a couple of TV series with no cops, guns or corpses.

Regarding The Paradise, can you confirm that the idea for the show actually came from Mediapro’s Ran Tellem and David Troncoso?
ML: Well David first met Jarmo Lampela [Yle head of drama]. David had noticed that there is a large Finnish community living in Fuengirola [Spanish Costa del Sol] and suggested that perhaps Mediapro and YLE could do a TV series located there and produce it together. Jarmo thought right away it was a great plan. Then they brought me and Ran Tellem in. The genre was obvious, as both Mediapro and Yle needed a crime series.

How was your collaboration with Jarmo, David and Ran?
ML: It was a true joyride. At first, we spent some time in Fuengirola, did some research and investigated stories to tell, speaking to the local community, Spanish police forces etc. We had brainstorming sessions, and after each session, I would fly back home to write storylines, drafts, character developments, then sent my notes back to them. I got great feedback, especially from Ran who went over the screenplay in minute detail with me to make sure it was as strong and authentic as possible. I wrote a lot of the material in Spain and continued the research there and in Finland during the whole process.

Using as a starting point real life situations and environment and borrowing techniques from documentary filmmaking to build a fiction story is quite unique…
Our goal was to push the Nordic noir boundaries by going deeper into reality and emotions.

What are the main themes of the series beyond the crime plot?
There are two main themes in the series: the first one is the aspiration for a different and better life abroad, that many Finns share with other people around the world.

The second theme is memory - the memories you want to remember and those you want to forget. From this idea, we developed the main character, the retired police woman Hilkka Mäntymäki. We felt that having a female cop in her 60s was something we hadn’t seen much in crime series. The series is also about opposites, darkness/light, male/female, remembering/wanting to forget, Spain/Finland. 

How was the overall experience of working on such a major international co-production?
ML: Writing is writing, no matter how big or small the production is, but to be honest, at first I was totally nervous. Mr. Tellem has an Emmy, for god sake...! But after a while, as we dived deeper into the story and the trust between us grew stronger, I realised that this production may become something really interesting. After that I was just thankful of getting the opportunity and simply just tried to do my best.

What's next for you?
ML: It sure would be great to get the possibility to write the second season of The Paradise. In fact, I have already started to put some thoughts on paper, so I really hope for the best.

At the moment, I'm working also with the London-based Blackbox Multimedia Production company. We have developed a new series and I am writing up the pilot as we speak. My latest crime novel got published in Finland in January and a TV series based on my Elias Vitikka -crime novel series is on its way too.