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The Killing - Details from Showrunner Veena Sud

Currently being filmed in Vancouver, The Killing has the potential to be one of the most talked-about and obsessively followed new television dramas of the 2011 season. It hails from AMC, home of the Emmy Award-winning Mad Men and Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead. It is inspired by the Danish TV sensation Forbrydelsen, Scandinavian writer Soren Sveistrup's International Drama Emmy-nominated thriller about the murder of a teenage girl, and how her untimely death threatens to tear apart an entire community.

The new version is written and conceived by Toronto-born Veena Sud, an alumnus of New York University's prestigious Graduate Film & Television program, a program that produced filmmaker Martin Scorsese, among others.

The Killing is being filmed right now in virtual secrecy in Vancouver, standing in for Seattle. Three of 13 episodes have already been filmed, but viewers won't see the finished result until The Killing's AMC debut on April 3.

This is how much faith the network is placing in The Killing: It has landed Mad Men's coveted Sunday-night time period. When The Killing's projected first season ends later this summer, it may lead directly into Mad Men's fifth season, though Mad Men's summer plans have yet to be confirmed.

The Killing revolves around three separate but distinctly personal stories: a young girl's murder, as seen through the eyes of her grieving family; the prime suspect, a city councillor mulling over a campaign for mayor; and the world-weary, female homicide detective who catches the case. The killer's identity won't be revealed until the season's end, if then. The Danish original caused a sensation in that country, after a second season aired in 2008.

The idea for a North American adaptation evolved after AMC programming president Joel Stillerman watched all 20 hours of Forbrydelsen, "in literally less time than it takes to fly to Copenhagen and back." What he saw was an eerie convergence of Mystic River, Prime Suspect and the dark, Scandinavian thrillers of crime novelists Henning Mankell and the late Stieg Larsson, whose The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is being adapted into a Hollywood film by The Social Network's director, David Fincher.

The updated version of The Killing features Mireille Enos, last seen in HBO's Big Love, as Sarah Linden, the single-minded but emotionally shaken detective who takes a personal interest in the case of a missing Seattle teenager. Billy Campbell plays ambitious, morally upright councillor Darren Richmond, and Joel Kinnaman plays Stephen Holder, a former drug squad officer reassigned to Seattle's homicide division.

The early clips available online at amctv.com show a Seattle shrouded in perpetual mist and grey sky, soaked in drizzle. There's a chilling, eerie beauty to the dampness, an effect not lost on The Killing's makers. In conversation with Postmedia News after The Killing's coming-out news conference, Sud said Vancouver was — and is — the only conceivable location for the series, with its uncanny visual similarity to Seattle, coupled with some of the continent's most experienced film crews.

"I have absolutely fallen in love with Vancouver," Sud said. "It has become the city of my dreams — quite literally. We initially chose the city for production reasons; I'd visited Vancouver and had a chance to see a lot of the city. It seemed the perfect place to tell a Seattle story. But something else happened, too. Part of the soul of Vancouver has seeped into the story.

"Vancouver and Seattle are very much like Copenhagen: close to the top of the world, incredibly beautiful, dark, brooding skies. It's the perfect match for the tone of the piece and the story we're telling. We're very lucky: We have an amazing, amazing crew, and a photographer and post-production people who help the look and make it dark and brooding, even when we're shooting on beautiful, sunny, green days.

"I'm Canadian. I was born in Toronto. I'm an American citizen, but returning to Vancouver has been like a homecoming for me. It's poetic."

Sud says she's still pinching herself that The Killing landed at AMC, "a network that's absolutely dedicated to slow-burn storytelling — slow-burn in the sense that every moment doesn't have to be prettified or easy to digest. (From) character to everything that every writer dreams of, I've been given the ability and opportunity to really, really tell this story in a way that's authentic and true."

Each episode will relate a single day in the life of the investigation, Sud said, "and the life of this family, and the life of a political campaign."

No one knew the eventual resolution of Forbrydelsen, not even the actors themselves.

Sud was cagey about whether viewers will learn The Killing's secret by the time the first 13 episodes are over.

"At this point, we're going to organically follow the story, and whether or not it gets solved at the end of the season is a mystery."

The Killing is set in a more violent societal milieu than Forbrydelsen, and that will mark one major stylistic difference between the two versions, Sud suggested.

"We live in a society that is incredibly violent, much more so than Denmark. Amber Alerts are the norm, it seems, so much so, that a missing child, a missing teenager in a major American city, never makes the news. So the biggest challenge is to make us, as Americans, care about this young girl over a long period of time. I don't know if it's a cultural sensibility per se, but there's a clear societal difference between America and Denmark.

"We're creating our own world. We are using the Danish series as a blueprint, but we're diverging, as well, and creating our own world — our own world of suspects and, potentially, our own solution and resolution to the mystery.

"I love the qualities of the Danish version, but we're blessed, too, with our own actors, like Mireille, who has come in with all her own strengths and qualities, creating a deeper backstory for our main character, for Sarah."

The Killing may be many things, but one thing it will not be, when it finally sees the light of day, is exploitative, Sud vows.

"The most important thing to me is not pornographize murder," Sud said. "I want to show the real cost . . . when a child is lost. What you see on the screen, in the clips that are already out there, is incredibly graphic, and heartbreaking.

"But we're not spending time looking at a dead child's body and just analyzing that. We're spending time with all the people who have lost her, the impact of this loss on her mother, on her siblings, on her father.

"Again, every episode is one day, about what happens every day in the moments and the hours after you've lost a child — what it's like to pick out a dress, what it's like to have to identify your daughter at the morgue, what it's like to make breakfast for her younger brothers the next morning. What do you tell them?

"When I was doing research for the pilot, I spent a lot of time with parents who had lost their children, expressly for the purpose of telling this story in a way that is authentic and respectful. Most television overlooks the victims. And what I kept hearing, over and over again, was not, 'Tell our story,' but, 'Tell our story in a truthful way.'

"If The Killing does one thing, I want it to be that."

Source: The Vancouver Sun