We decided to check in with American comedian and expat Greg Poehler from TV4’s Welcome to Sweden at a Stockholm café to talk past, present and future as well as how it feels to mock an ABBA great …
“Right now I am writing season two, so I have moved on. At least my brain has moved on, but my heart is still with season one,” Poehler told YLC over coffee.
Poehler, a love-refugee, met his Swedish wife in the US where he had been working as a lawyer for twelve years prior to relocating to Stockholm.Here, he spent the first few months on parental leave before getting to grips with the language and getting a job. As an expat, Poehler thinks that it is important to find your place in your new country and that this is an ongoing process.
“I think that when you move to a new place there is just this kind of moment when you get there and you’re finally settled and you realize ‘I have nothing here’ . I mean, I had my wife and my son but that was it. So, I think it’s still an adjustment. It’s been eight years and I’m still kind of trying to find my way and feel like I am a part of Swedish society.”
Once in Stockholm, he also took up standup comedy, which had always been a dream. It also proved to be a catalyst.
“Once I started doing that as a hobby, I realized just how much I enjoyed it. And then I thought ‘I have always wanted to act, so let’s try that’ and it’s been great so far, ” said Poehler.
Poehler wrote Welcome To Sweden in his attic some two and a half years ago. The series is based on his own experience of moving to Sweden and the strange and sometimes hilarious situations that expats and their Swedes are faced with. In the show Poehler plays a New York accountant, Bruce, who falls in love with Swedish Emma (Josephine Bornebusch) and moves to Sweden to be with her. However, life in Stockholm turns out different than what he had expected. But we couldn’t help but wonder – how much of Greg is there in Bruce and vice versa?
“In terms of how he deals with certain situations and how he comes across I think we are very similar. But I think he is much more naive. He isn’t aware of how American he is coming across. I think that’s the main difference. But otherwise I think we are pretty similar. I like that guy, I am rooting for him.”
Characteristic for the show are the cameos that appear in each episode. In season one we have seen appearances by Will Ferrell, Gene Simmons, Patrick Duffy, Malin Åkerman, Aubrey Plaza as well as Poehler’s comedian sister Amy. No to forget the award-winning Swedish actress Lena Olin, who stars as Emma’s mother.
“Cameos were always part of my plan, I was planning on using my sister’s connections and then when she realized she was going to have to call in favours she thought she might as well produce the show.”
There are some other well known Swedish faces too, like author Björn Ranelid and one legendary ABBA band member, who is mocked pretty badly by Bruce after declining his services as an accountant.
“Björn Ulvaeus – once we found out we had him I had to write the those scenes and I did write a couple of unflattering portrayals of him, as a guy obsessed with wearing his own ABBA costume. My character and Aubrey were kind of making fun of ABBA – but he was great, he was really into it and we got to film at the ABBA museum,” said Poehler.
Poehler was very clear from the beginning of what he wanted the show to be. Once he had finished the script, he managed to get a meeting with Swedish director Felix Herngren, who loved both the script and the concept. Once Herngren was onboard, TV4 was quick to get the ball rolling. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Now, the future looks bright for Poehler, who is currently writing season two of the series, as well as producing a reality show about Americans moving abroad, a series to help kids learn English, AND writing a movie about a Swedish actress who relocates to the US.
“Other than that I have nothing going on,” Poehler told YLC.