“I didn’t go in with the expectation of making something as extraordinary as the British version,” says Björn Gustafsson, playing “Viking”, better known to English speaking viewers as Gareth or Dwight.
“We don’t even have 10 percent of the originality of the Gervais version, we know that, but this is funny in another kind of way”.
Gustafsson, 25, was voted Sweden’s funniest man in 2008, and plays an irritating co-worker with delusions of grandeur, and self-proclaimed military expertise gained from a few years in the Home Guard.
Meanwhile, Henrik Dorsin, in a direct reprisal of the hugely popular Ove Sundberg character from Swedish sitcom Solsidan, will be playing the dreaded boss.
According to Dorsin, Sweden’s quite specific social values bring a lot to the table that other countries haven’t offered.
“Sweden is the most politically correct country in the world,” he tells The Local.
“You can’t say anything in Sweden without offending people, and that creates a very tense environment.
“We’re remaking the show because it’s a very good concept, and there are things in Sweden that are considered awkward which are not so embarrassing in English, and vice versa. There are aspects of Swedish mentality that apply very well to this setting.”
At the press premiere of episode one, the show itself was certainly familiar, a blend of the gags from the US version and the cringe-worthiness of the British.
This, according to Gustafsson, is exactly what the producers were aiming for.
“This is the 23 minute version. The Office was shown on the British public service channel BBC two, but ours is on a commercial channel – so it’s about selling. The show is sniffing its way toward becoming a sitcom compared the British version, but what we do have is a very well-known and very great cast,” he tells The Local.
“In terms of originality, the American version got its own life in the 2nd or 3rd season. We do that a lot earlier. It becomes something else pretty quickly.”
In terms of Dorsin’s revival of the Ove Sundberg character, the grafting was seamless – Ove Sundberg was born to run the ‘Svensk Kontorshygien AB’.
Dorsin himself believes the character is so popular because it reflects the Swedish psychology, even if the people on the street don’t realize it.
“Loads of people are approaching me in the streets, saying my phrases,” Dorsin says, letting a low “tjenare mannen” roll off his tongue in pensive retrospection (‘hey man’, a treasured catchphrase from Solsidan that sneaks early into the first episode of Kontoret).
“As for Ove, I like to quote Anthony Hopkins from the movie ‘Nixon’, when he played Nixon himself: ‘When they see Kennedy, they see who they want to be. When they see me, they see who they are’. Ove reflects the lowest part of the Swedish mentality.”
As for the future, Dorsin is happy to see where Kontoret goes, and the next season of Solsidan is underway. However, both Dorsin and Gustafsson admit that they’re setting their sights even higher.
“My dream role is a Bond villain – I have the head!” Dorsin says, to the amusement of his younger co-star Gustafsson, who is quick to add:
“If you’re the villain, then I’d have to be Bond”.
“Kontoret” launches the first of the eight-episode series at 8pm on Sunday on TV4.