Marie Bach Hansen catapulted on to the international arena with her brilliant performance as Signe Larsen in the hit TV show, The Legacy (Arvingerne); a Danish Family drama. Hansen joins us to reflect on her challenging role and the factors that contributed to the show’s phenomenal success.

The Legacy tells the tale of an eccentric but world renowned artist, Veronika Grønnegaard, whose alternative lifestyle has impacted upon her four adult children in different ways. When Veronika dies unexpectedly, the execution of her final will causes massive upheaval; the estate is inherited by Signe, the daughter she gave up for adoption but who never knew of her true parentage. As the character which the plot is centred around, Hansen’s convincing portrayal of Signe is crucial to the success of the drama. “I remember discussing Signe with the director and observing that she has both an innocent naivety but also a very strong force that helps her to grow”, Hansen says. “She has to slowly learn to stand on her own two feet and I felt that I could relate to both sides of her personality.” The Legacy presented Hansen with her first big break into screen acting and her own development evolved in tandem with that of Signe. “I’ve spent two years working on this character now, experimenting and learning from the other actors. I have grown as much as Signe has,” she reveals.

A proper all-star cast

The Legacy cast is composed of the cream of Scandinavian acting talent; Hansen is working alongside Kirsten Olesen, Carsten Bjørnlund, Mikkel Boe Følsgaard, Trine Dyrholm, Jesper Christensen, Lene Maria Christensen and Trond Epsen Seim. “Even though, on screen, it seems like there is a frosty atmosphere between the siblings we actually have a really good time,” Hansen laughs. “We have become something of an arts collective where we are all evolving together as actors and as our characters.” With a mix of established and emerging talent, it appears that everyone involved saw their different range of experience as a positive opportunity to learn from each other. “What’s great is that we can all benefit from each other’s experience,” she explains. “It’s not like I’m the Young girl learning from Trine Dyrholm or Mikkel Boe Følsgaard is learning from Jesper Christensen all of the time, and they receive nothing in return. We can all open each other’s eyes to new ways of approaching the work and I think we’ve all really benefited from the collaborative atmosphere.”

International success

In addition to being broadcasted in Denmark, The Legacy proved to be a incredible success worldwide and attracted a legion of supporters in the UK from its BBC broadcast. When the team was in production they never anticipated that the show would ultimately win five prestigious Danish Robert Awards and two Golden FIPA Awards and become such a global phenomenon.
“While you are in the middle of filming your focus is completely on the work and so it was only a few weeks before the premiere when we started discussing what the reception might be,” Hansen recalls. It was difficult to predict how successful the show would be in the wake of the traditional Danish crime and political dramas that audiences had grown accustomed to. “We were a little anxious that people would find our character driven story a bit slow and miss the action of a thriller,” she explains. “We had a feeling, however, that people would connect to the incredible story that Maya Ilsøe had written and would love the characters as much as we did.” Reviews for the programme have celebrated Ilsøe’s ability to personify universal themes so eloquently. “I believe that everyone, in any country, can find something to relate to in this story,” Hansen agrees. “Maya has done an incredible job to make this tale sincere and identifiable.”

The new season

The Legacy will return for a third season, but what future lies ahead for Signe and her siblings remains uncertain. “We don’t know anything yet but Maya and her team of writers are working on it presently,” Hansen explains. “It’s important that they are left to work out the plot and the meaning of making a third series in their own time. It’s crucial to Maya that the rationale of continuing this story should be very thorough and truthful so it will be exciting for everyone involved, as well as our audience, to learn what happens next.”

Life before The Legacy

Hansen received her theatre education at the Danish National School of Performing Arts and looks back upon her experience as being one of complete transformation. “I think it can be difficult to study an artistic discipline in school,” she says. “You go from being an amateur that loves what you do to becoming a professional that’s experienced, trained and informed. I think that journey can be difficult at times but those four years were essential for me to become a professional artist.” Hansen emerged straight from graduation with a position at the famous Mungo Park theatre ensemble just south of Copenhagen.
“I knew I had been selected while in my final year which was very comforting,”
she explains. “The real work only Begins after you finish school; you have to find stability after learning so many methods and playing so many different parts.
You have to figure out who you want to be and joining the ensemble gave me great confidence.” While filming The Legacy, Hansen returned regularly to her theatre company to perform in productions. “It was so funny to go back and forth between filming on set and standing on stage because it’s so different but also so alike,” she says. “It’s a really good exercise to switch between the two disciplines and I would love to keep doing both. When I do one thing for a long
time I start to miss the other.”

Future plans

Hansen returns to the stage this summer with Mungo Park to perform a selection of works. She will also star alongside Lars Mikkelsen this summer in a play entitled Tribadernes Nat, written by Swedish playwright Per Olov Enquist, concerning August Strindberg. “I will be playing a lesbian actress that has an affair with Strindberg’s wife,” she reveals. “I’m so looking forward to it!”
Hansen hopes to continue juggling stage and screen work while developing her craft further. “I’m always looking for new challenges and I hope to one day be experienced enough to play Medea or Antigone from the Greek tragedies because they seem such wild, powerful and impossible parts at the moment,” she explains. “I like when things seem too difficult because then it’s a challenge to solve the puzzle and I love that part of the process the most.” Having already accomplished so much in her short career, Hansen is grateful for the opportunities presented to her so far and is very excited about the future: “I’m so happy with the place I’m at right now and if it could continue like this it would be amazing. I’m so thankful and appreciate every minute of it.”

By Helen Cullen | Photos: Isak Hoffmeyer


The Legacy seasons one and two are available
as DVD box sets. Season three will be
aired in January, 2016.

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