Following the fall-out of two divorces, and the subsequent merging of families, Bonus Family (Bonusfamiljen) is the closest Sweden has come to a soap opera. It ran for three series and won a Kristallen award for Best Drama in 2017. Moa Herngren, its co-creator, explains why, while the complexities of its drama seem – with such a high divorce rate – uniquely Swedish, they’re universal in appeal…
Vera Vitali as Lisa and Erik Johansson as Patrik
You’re in a bonus family yourself. Was your experience what drew you to create the series?
Both me, my brother, Felix, and my sister in law, Clara, live in bonus families and we’ve always shared thoughts and problems. Clara thought the drama and comic tragedy would be perfect for a television series and we agreed.
As you’ve mentioned, your brother, Felix, and his wife, Clara, worked alongside you on Bonus Family. What was it like to create the series as a family?
I was a bit nervous at first, since we haven’t worked together professionally. I was particularly worried that my brother and I would argue. But actually it worked really well, and we could separate our private relationship from our professional relationships easily. I’m really close to both my brothers (my other brother, Måns, directed series three) and my sister in law. We have the same sense of humor and think alike when it comes to a lot of things. I think we all have a lot of respect for each other and this helped when it came to situations where we didn’t agree.
The Herngren family (from left to right): Clara, Felix and Moa
How present were you during production?
Me, Clara and Ditta Bongenhielm (co-writer for series three) focused mainly on the script, but we often visited the set and had a close dialogue with the producer and directors. The writers room consisted of four to five writers, all with experience of bonus life, and we worked closely on all scripts. Felix was the show runner and head director of series one and he was also heavily involved in scriptwriting, as well as setting a tone for the whole series.
Are you surprised the series was successful abroad?
I was quite surprised, since it feels very Swedish. But, on the other hand, bonus families are universal and something many people can relate to. I think basically the show is about relations between people and how complicated that can be. I seems many viewers like the show regardless of their own experiences living in a bonus family.
Aside from screenwriting, you’re also an author and journalist. Do you enjoy writing in a variety of formats?
Yes, I think it’s fulfilling to write in different formats and I gain a lot from this. Screenwriting is very much a collaborative effort. Writing my novels is lonely work, but when I do journalism I’m inspired by meeting people. I think the combination of different formats keep my passion for writing alive. I would say that novel writing is very much a need for me and I could not live without it. I’ve had many different jobs in my life to pay the rent but I’ve always kept going with my novels, so this is very close to my heart. I’m currently writing a new novel that comes out next spring. Screenwriting is still quite new to me and very different from writing novels, though it’s a challenge I love. Instead of describing what happens you have to leave more to the actors and work with the subtext.
What are your future plans?
To keep writing! As I mentioned, I’m working on a new novel, and also on a couple of film and television projects. I hope we’ll see a fourth series of Bonus Family. It would be great fun and we have plenty of ideas.
All three series of Bonus Family are available now via Netflix.
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Tags: Bonus Family, interview, scandi comedy, scandi tv series, swedish, swedish tv series
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