BBC Blog - October 20, 2015

Stellan discusses "River"

What first attracted me to "River" was the poetry - the warmth and love of human beings that runs through the script. Even though thereís a lot of sadness, that humanity makes it bearable.

But on another level, what really interested me was the way the male characters are written. Male characters that are created by women can be badly written. And female characters are usually very badly written by men. Because when you write about the other sex, you usually go back to some sexual fantasy about them, not who they really are.

But Abi Morganís writing is about a human being, it doesnít matter if they have a penis or not. Male characters are usually written with a sort of contained emotional life, while actresses always get the opportunity to tell all their feelings all the time. So for the first time in my career I got the opportunity to be as an actress is, and show everything. And I really enjoyed that.

I am a father of eight, but I could empathise with my character, John Riverís solitude without having my children taken away from me [laughs]. Whether we are police officers or bakers; men, or women; fathers and mothers or lonely people, we have a lot of things in common as human beings. How we handle our feelings varies, but the base feelings, as grown-ups, are exactly like they are in a three-year-old.

Throughout the series, River has one regret. That is that he never managed to summon the courage to show Jackie Stevenson how much he loved her. He misses her so much, and the entire series is coloured by his loss and bereavement.

Iíve never quite understood love. Thatís why you should never interfere in peopleís love lives or divorces. Stevie is of course a very attractive person and I understand why River loves her. I love Stevie. So why shouldnít he?

Why is Stevie drawn to him? She sees something in River that moves her. She thinks heís hopeless, like most women think men are, but at the same time she sees his humanism, his vulnerability, his compassion, and I think she appreciates that. They come from difficult backgrounds, both of them, and they handle these things differently.

In general you could say itís with Stevie that River is most relaxed. Itís with Stevie he is at his best. And everything else in his life is a struggle. But Ė like me Ė he doesnít sing karaoke. Or dance. But she makes him do it and she forces him to go outside of the shell that ties him down. And that is something great about when we meet someone who makes us become richer than we normally are. Itís fantastic.

But those singing and dancing scenes? I did not enjoy them. I was really embarrassed. But this profession is constant humiliation [laughs]. My entire organism revolts at the thought of doing karaoke. I canít do it. And Iím a bad singer.