Created, written and executive produced by Hoppe, DNA follows Rolf Larsen (Anders Berthelsen), a criminal investigator at the CPH Police, still grieving the tragic loss of his daughter five years earlier, who finds out about a system failure at the National DNA register. Hoping that his daughter might be alive, he starts an unauthorised investigation that takes him on the trail of a case of illegal child trafficking.

The series had a solid linear opening on TV2 Denmark September 9 according to preliminary results, with 629,000 viewers for a 34% share (40% within the 20-60 age group).

DNA was produced by Nordisk Film, in co-production with France’s French Kiss Pictures, TV2 and ARTE, with support from the Danish Film Institute’s Public Service Fund, Vestdanske Filmpulje and Nordisk Film & TV Fond. Newen Distribution handles world distribution.

When did you first have the idea for the series?
Torleif Hoppe
: I was first approached by Eyeworks Scandi Fiction, who told me that TV2 was interested in doing a crime series. The project eventually landed at Nordisk Film. I had heard that there had been an error in DNA records in the central registry in Denmark several years ago. That intrigued me. I felt it could give an opportunity for old cases to be reopened. I developed the idea of a missing child, which led to child trafficking for adoption.

Before, procreation was just a natural thing, but now it’s evolved into a commodity, with poor people selling their children to rich families and crime networks living off the trade. DNA is something that you pass to your children, but it’s also about your origin, how your social and geographical environment affects who you are. The series is therefore a metaphor about identity. I felt DNA was an interesting starting point to tackle existential and societal themes. 

Can you explain how you developed the overall crime investigation about the kidnapping of a child, and the story of police officer Rolf Larsen who is driven by personal motives?
I wanted to do a new crime series with a personal story at the core. Here Rolf Larsen is driven by his own tragedy and agenda. The story also had to be meaningful to me and when you have kids, this is the most important ever. Then I started to develop a plot about a missing child.

The story also evolves beyond Denmark, in Poland in particular, with the Polish woman Julita (Zofie Wichlacz) who believes her child was abducted…
I had the idea to set part of the story in Poland as it’s close to Denmark but somehow it still feels exotic to many people. With the theme of human trafficking, it felt natural and organic to expand the plot on a European scale.

How did you develop the main characters and did you have specific actors in mind for Rolf Larsen, his sidekick Neel [Olivia Joof] and his French counterpart Claire Bobin [Charlotte Rampling]?
Rolf Larsen is close to me in many ways. I have a daughter as well. In the series Rolf is disillusioned after the loss of his daughter and burdened by heavy guilt. He doesn’t care much about his job. As his colleague, I wanted someone young, street-smart, full of energy. Olivia Joof is amazing and this is her TV breakthrough. For Claire Bobin, I wanted someone with authority, an elder woman with charisma who could challenge Rolf.

I go fly fishing in Wiltshire. The landowner there is like an old school headmistress. I showed a picture of her to the people at ARTE and someone said…what about Charlotte Rampling? That made sense!  She is French/British and has the look and charisma I was looking for. Charlotte has been incredibly supportive. I am so grateful for her dedication.

How was your collaboration with Henrik Ruben Genz?
Henrik directed four episodes and as concept director, his role was to set the tone for the entire series, which he did. But perhaps he’s more at ease with a project that he can have full control over. Kasper Gaardsøe directed the remaining four episodes.

How was your experience of working with TV2, ARTE, and with an international crew?
TH: I had great collaborations with executive producers Pernille Bech Christensen at TV2 (Susanne Bier’s former editor) and Clementine Bobin at ARTE who gave constructive feedback, and challenged me. Pernille was one of the first persons that followed my thought process, and I often bounced back ideas with her. Clementine helped me develop the French elements to make them authentic.  For the anecdote I used her name for the character of Charlotte Rampling, Claire Bobin. Although ARTE was heavily involved from early on, they did not make demands in terms of French elements in the cast and crew. They always said the story is the most important; it has to evolve organically.

You’ve played a central role in making this series happen, although it changed production hands a few times. What will you do differently next time?
It’s been a learning process and sometimes it felt like pushing water uphill. I’ve had seven producers working on the show! Next time, I will make sure that from day one, I have an experienced producer whom I trust. At the end, with DNA, veteran producer Sven Clausen came on board. He knew how to read the script and find solutions. He worked closely with up-and-coming producer Trin Hjortkjær Thomsen at Nordisk Film.

You’re associated to a handful of seminal Nordic noirs, from The Killing to The Bridge. What do you say to those who assert that Nordic noir is dead?
TH: Frankly, I don’t really know what Nordic noir is. It’s a word that the media has created, not something that inspires me. DNA is more of a crime drama, with one character driven by his own motives. And instead of having a linear plot with a central character uncovering things second hand, I developed a parallel plot-line in Poland, to be with the person who actually experiences what Rolf Larsen is about to find out. It felt refreshing. You couldn’t have done this ten years ago. Now, it’s Ok to have different layers, and to play with time and space to make stories more complex.

What do you watch these days?
I write all the time, but I did enjoy Chernobyl. I tend to watch stuff with my kids to share things with them. We watched Stranger Things with my daughter.

What’s next for you?
TH: I have many things cooking. TV2 has asked me to think of a season 2 of DNA. Then I have a crime drama set in the banking world and a project about divorce…actually, it’s yet another crime story, but more in the Fargo-ish style, absurd and realistic at the same time.