Swedish Press Jul-Sep 2022 Vol 93-05

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July-September 2022 Vol 93:05 $9.95

Scandinavians in Hollywood

05 2022

Hottest Scandis on Screen | Sundin Returns | Swedish Hollywood Wives


Gunilla Persson: “God Made Me A Reality Star”

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unilla Persson, 63, made her television debut as a participant in the reality show Svenska New York-fruar (Swedish New York wives) in 2010. The show lasted only one season, but the producers were not ready to part with Gunilla, who was promptly offered a spot on reality hit Swedish Hollywood Wives, if she moved to Hollywood. “It was an easy decision and I’ve never regretted it,” says Gunilla who came to the US as a model in the 80s. Gunilla was born in Norrköping in 1958. In 1983, she participated in the modelling competition, “The Face of the 80’s”, in Swedish women’s magazine Damernas Värld. One of the judges was Eileen Ford, co-founder of

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Best-known for her ten seasons on the reality show Swedish Hollywood Wives, Gunilla Persson opens up about her rise to fame in this exclusive interview with Swedish Press. “Nothing is acting. Everything is real. There is nothing fake about me,” she says. By Kajsa Norman the world-renowned Ford Modelling Agency, who offered Gunilla a modelling contract. “I moved to New York City, but filmed commercials in LA and spent a lot of time here,” Gunilla recalls. So when the opportunity to move arose, Gunilla was excited. She left the Big Apple for Hollywood and soon became one of the most famous – and controversial – stars of the show. While filming Swedish Hollywood Wives, Gunilla also joined the Swedish celebrity reality series Realitystjärnorna på godset (Reality Stars at the Manor). In 2015, she got her own show called Gunilla tycker till (Gunilla States Her Opinion), followed by The Gunilla Show in 2017. She has also recorded a music video with rapper

Dogge Doggelito. Most recently, we’ve seen her as Stig’s sambo in food chain ICA’s new commercial. How would you describe yourself ? Who is Gunilla Persson? “I am a very loyal and positive person who dares to do things that most people don’t dare. And I’m not talking about climbing mountains or bloody downhill skiing, or physically dangerous things, but mentally I believe I am stronger than most people as I deal with life and death on a daily basis.” Gunilla is referring to her role as caretaker of her 96-year-old mother Iris who suffers from dementia and Alzheimer’s. “On her 85th birthday I took her out of the home she was at in Humle-


is looking for controversy, is that something that you and the other participants on the show consciously create? “No, our conflicts have grown naturally. It is not something we have rehearsed or scripted in any way. These are situations that arise, and I’ve been the best at improvising and turning them into something interesting.”

gården [Sweden] and where I don’t think she could have lasted more than another three months,” says Gunilla. Since then, Iris has lived with Gunilla and television audiences across Scandinavia have become acquainted with her throughout the show, as well as with Gunilla’s daughter Erika, now 19 years old. After a decade on the air, Swedish Hollywood Wives did its last season in 2019. Over the years, many women came and went, but Gunilla, along with fellow star Maria Montazami, remained throughout. What set the two of you apart? “Maria Montazami and I were the driving forces, the engines that propelled the show since we managed to get so much publicity and so many fans. I was queen of the press. It is important, for good and for bad, to stay connected to the audience.” What was the best part of the show for you? “Getting to show off my family! Erika and her talent, my mother. To be able to share with other people around Scandinavia how we live, think and are as people. That’s what reality TV is all about, to give of oneself and show the world who you are. I have so many funny video clips that will live on forever. Long after my death, people will say that I did legendary television.” Over the years, Gunilla has been involved in her fair share of heated discussions and fights on the show, some of which have turned physical. After one such incident, Gunilla accused one of her co-stars of attempted murder. The episode, available

Gunilla together with her mother and daughter. Photo: Private

on the YouTube channel “Gunilla Persson World” has garnered much attention and many views. How much of what we see on television is the real Gunilla and how much is acting? “Nothing is acting. Everything is real! There is nothing fake about me and absolutely nothing that is made up or twisted. I am who I am and who you see on TV is who I am.” You have been accused of provoking others on the show. What are your thoughts on that? “The audience isn’t interested in kafferep [Swedish fika tradition]. It’s no fun watching people eat cookies in peace and quiet. Life is controversy and I’m very good at standing up for myself and my opinions.” Since you know that the audience

You once studied journalism and started your career conducting celebrity interviews at Swedish Radio. How has that experience been of use since becoming a celebrity yourself ? “It has been great to have a background as a journalist. I know what journalists are after and I understand media. I’m also a good writer which has helped me a lot. I believe that God creates certain situations. He gives us different tasks in life, and he made me a reality star. I’ve always wanted to be famous.” What is your relationship to the other Hollywood wives like today? Do you still spend time together? “I stay in touch with Siv, Maria and my former nemesis Åsa, on social media. I have a good relationship with all Hollywood wives except Anna Anka because it’s impossible to be friends with her.” Do you have any new, exciting projects on the go? “Yes, but I’m not at liberty to discuss them. Let’s just say that I fly to Sweden on Sunday.” Fans of Gunilla Persson and Swedish Hollywood Wives are advised to stay tuned! Swedish Press | July-September 2022 | 15


When the Hollywood Dream Becomes a Nightmare The dream of a Hollywood breakthrough has attracted many Scandinavians to LA, but with the entertainment industry on pause during the pandemic, many lost their jobs and returned home to avoid bankruptcy, homelessness, or worse.

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ew people make it in Hollywood. Some gamble their savings on a dream that ends in a nightmare,” says Swedish Pastor Hans “Hasse” Bratt who has spent the past five years helping the Swedes who don’t make it. A former rock musician, Hasse was 30 years old and in rehab back in Sweden when he found God. He became a pastor and began working with addicts and the homeless in the rougher parts of Stockholm. Through the Christian community, he met his wife Viveca, a therapist and parish educator. The couple travelled regularly to LA to visit friends and fell in love with the city, so when a position at the local Church of Sweden came up, they knew it was meant to be. “We were off to a great start, with lots of community-building activities during our first years,” says Hasse. But then the pandemic hit. “People started to feel awful. They ended up on the street. We had to help many Swedes return home to Sweden. Others couldn’t attend the funerals of loved ones because of travel restrictions. There were suicides and all sorts of terrible consequences brought on by the pandemic,” he says. Swedish Press | July-September 2022 | 16

By Kajsa Norman The time the couple spent offering spiritual relief to the suffering increased 500 percent. But it didn’t end there. “In Sweden there are government agencies that can help with financial aid and housing. Here, everything ended up on our shoulders,” says Viveca. “It’s not easy providing spiritual guidance to someone who is about to become homeless. For that to happen in Sweden, things Hasse and Viveca in Los Angeles. Photo: Private have gone very far, but here people are much more exposed big breakthrough in the movie, music and it literally happened overnight. or entertainment industry. And not I had to find solutions to all sorts of necessarily in front of the camera. Just problems – act like a mother, coach watch the credits roll by at the end of and spiritual counselor all in one.” any movie and you’re reminded of how “Many people here live hand to many people are involved – make-up mouth, with no savings or buffer,” artists, electricians, light and sound adds Hasse. “They’re waiting for their specialists – it came crashing down for


Hasse together with a Swedish crowd at the church in Los Angeles. Photo: Private

all of them.” Many parents in Sweden with children in Hollywood turned to Hasse and Viveca to help bring their kids back home. The couple had to try to help people escape everything from homelessness to sex trafficking and abuse, while at the same time devoting time to the many Swedes who were simply isolated and lonely. For those who had reached some level of fame it was especially comforting to know that Hans and Viveca are sworn to professional secrecy. “We never mention names and don’t share anything they tell us,” says Hasse. As essential workers, Hasse and Viveca were allowed to move freely even at the height of the pandemic, so they launched something they call “soul talks”, driving around to meet with members of the Swedish congregation in their homes. “Geographically, LA is as big as Skåne so we’re talking about significant distances,” says Hasse. “We would bring a bag of Swedish cinnamon buns and have existential conversations about how people were feeling on their doorsteps.” At a time when most filming in

Hollywood had ceased, the couple started filming their encounters and conversations, publishing them on their social media channels under the hashtag #soultalks. “We were complete amateurs, but this kind of live storytelling can be really powerful,” says Hasse. Sure enough, Swedish media picked up the story and soon their “virtual” congregation grew tenfold. Now, Hasse and Viveca's five-yeartenure is coming to an end. And while they are excited to return to Sweden to see their five children and nine grandchildren, they will miss Los Angeles. “The church plays an important role here. Hollywood produces surface, but beneath the surface people are on a genuine quest for meaning,” says Hasse, who believes that Hollywood’s reputation as a superficial place is undeserved. “The cut-throat competitiveness of Hollywood exacerbates the need for something solid to hold on to. Beneath the surface there is often incredible depth. Many struggle hard to achieve their dreams and they help each other out when times are tough. After five years here, I would say that Sweden is more superficial.” Swedish Press | July-September 2022 | 17


H E M M A HO S

The Swedish Crayfish Party – A Royal Affair

[Treats]

One of the highlights of summer is the traditional kräftskiva (crayfish party) – an annual seafood feast with lots of food, drinks, and singing. Whether you’d like to host or attend this Swedish cultural tradition, here’s what you need to know.

By Kajsa Norman

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he name kräftskiva was coined in the 1930s and is believed to derive from the 19th century bourgeois crayfish ritual kräftsupa – involving crayfish and alcoholic drinks. The practice, however, dates all the way back to the 1500s, when kräftskivor became popular with the royals. In the 17th century, the tradition of eating crayfish spread to the middle classes. To avoid over-fishing, Sweden introduced restrictions on river crayfishing in the early 1900s, and the season was then limited to a couple of months. Crayfish thus became an exclusive and much desired delicacy. Eventually, importation of crayfish from other countries led to lower prices and eating crayfish became popular with people of all classes. The kräftskiva as we know it today, has been celebrated since the 1960s. The crayfish party season starts at the beginning of August and usually lasts well into September. Traditionally, it began on the first Wednesday of August, reflecting the historic ban on crayfish fishing between November and August 7. Nowadays, imported crayfish are on sale year-round and no specific date is set, but most people still stick to August or September.

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A Swedish Crayfish party with silly hats and matching bibs, crayfish lanterns and napkins is a must. Photo: Anna Hållams/imagebank.sweden.se

Crayfish and How to Get Them Crayfish resemble miniature lobster and have a similar taste. Swedish crayfish are particularly popular. Freshwater varieties (signalkräfta and flodkräfta) thrive in lakes and rivers across Sweden, while longerbodied, saltwater langoustine (havskräfta) are caught on the west coast. Crayfish are nocturnal creatures, best fished at night using wire traps baited with rotten or raw fish. Boiled alive in water, salt and sugar, with plenty of dill, the crayfish turns from black to red when ready. In Sweden, a fishing licence is required to catch crayfish, and many restrictions are in place limiting when and where they can be caught. Catching signalkräfta in lake Vättern, for example, is only allowed on three weekends a year. That said, Swedish crayfish are also available in supermarkets and at fishmongers. Easier to get a hold of – and

less expensive – are the imported crayfish from China, Turkey, and the US. These are typically available at IKEA stores across the world as an option for those wishing to stage a crayfish party outside of Sweden. IKEA also sells the party kit décor, comprised of matching paper hats, bibs, streamers, tablecloth, and napkins, that typically accompanies the feast. A Swedish crayfish party can be a small family gathering or a large party of friends drinking until the early morning hours. It’s commonly arranged as a “knytkalas”, like a potlach, with each guest bringing a sidedish such as a salad, a pie or freshly baked bread. How to Eat the Crayfish Crayfish is eaten cold, with your fingers. Sucking noisily to extract the salty, dill-soaked juices from the underbelly is perfectly acceptable


and expected behavior. Wring off the tail and dig out the best part of the crayfish meat using a crayfish knife, then lift the backplate to reveal the delicious “crayfish butter” – a yellowish, butter-like paste found behind the head. Twist each of the claws clockwise at the base of the arms so they break off, before sucking the juices out from them and removing the small pieces of meat inside. Make sure you have napkins and a finger bowl of lemonwater at hand. Many people wear a bib as kräftskivor can be quite messy. The Accoutrements In addition to crayfish, popular side dishes include creamed chanterelle on toast and freshly baked bread with butter and slices of Västerbotten cheese (or another flavorful cheese). Västerbottenpaj (cheese pie/quiche) is another crayfish party highlight. For those expecting vegetarian or vegan guests, possible substitutes include artichoke (which is eaten in a similar way as a crayfish), tofu in brine and tomato quiche. For drinks, serve beer or wine, and snaps (flavoured shots of aquavit) to accompany the traditional Swedish drinking songs. As far as decorations go, tables are typically adorned with crayfishthemed décor. Crayfish are usually eaten outdoors with colorful paper lanterns (often depicting a smiling moon) hung round the table. Crayfish Party Etiquette All participants are expected to wear silly paper hats, and are recommended to wear matching bibs. As online publication The Local fittingly described it:

Crayfish, beer and Västerbottenpaj. Photo: Björn Tesch/imagebank.sweden.se

“[These] strange cone-shaped hats […] are often decorated with amusing (or depending on your perspective, sadistic) depictions of the very animal you are eating. Think you’re too cool to put on some rubbish-looking cardboard

hats? You may as well not bother turning up in the first place. Whether it’s because they’re conformists at heart, or because they actually know how to let go and have a good time once in a while, the Swedes around you will all have something on their heads, and so should you.” When a toast is proposed everyone is expected to raise their glass in response and look one another in the eye. Once you’ve made eye contact with everyone around the table – starting with the host or person proposing the toast – you take your sip, make eye contact again, then lower your glass. And don’t forget, you’ll be expected to sing along to Helan Går, the most popular kräftskiva song. To help you out, here are the lyrics below, including a phonetic version of the Swedish text, which will sound so similar to the Swedish original that you should be able to pass for a local:

Snapsvisa Phonetic version in English:

Swedish version:

Hell and gore Chunk hop Father Allan Allan Lay Hell and gore Chunk hop Father Allan Lay For handsome in the hell and tar Hun hell er in the half and four

Helan går Sjung hopp faderallan lallan lej Helan går Sjung hopp faderallan lej För den som inte helan tar Han inte heller halvan får

Hell and gooore... [Pause while drinking bottoms up] Chunk hop Father Allan Lay

Helan gååår... [Paus] Sjung hopp faderallan lej

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