Exclusive: Danish writer/diretor Anders Rønnow Klarlund  (Strings) and co-writer Jacob Weinreich are the creators of the upcoming series The Death of a Mermaid.

Klarlund and Weinreich who have been writing novels together for more than a decade under the pseudonym A.J. Kazinski, will adapt the six-part series from their own eponymous crime novel, co-written with Thomas Rydahl. Published last September, the book has received strong reviews and was sold to more than 14 territories. 

The Death of a Mermaid is a reinterpretation of the iconic The Little Mermaid in which the young author H.C. Andersen has to become a detective to defend the innocent and tell his tales to children. The story is set 1834 in Copenhagen, a city plagued with poverty, crime and political turmoil.

When the young penniless writer H.C. Andersen (29) is suddenly accused of a bestial murder, he must try to solve the mystery to avoid a death sentence. With the help from Molly, a prostitute and a little girl, their investigations take them into the Copenhagen underworld and later to the Royal Family. The Death of a Mermaid is also a tale of a man who wants to change sex, and commits murders in the name of love. 

Seasoned Mastiff producer Mia Marie Borup (Couple Trouble, Sjit Happens) explained to nordicfilmandtvnews.com why she was actually an early instigator of The Death of a Mermaid. “As we are seriously lacking great TV writers in Denmark, two and a half years ago, I got in touch with Jacob [Weinreich] whom I know from film school, and asked if he and Anders [Rønnow Klarlund] would consider getting into TV drama. They said: 'do you have some genres in mind? I said anything will do as the demand is huge, but I don’t want anything historical…A month later they came back and said: we have the opposite to what you’ve asked for, but it’s a great idea!' And indeed, at Mastiff we knew immediately it was unique."

Borup says that although the authors first wrote the story as a novel, the fact that they had a TV series in mind from the very outset, translated into a “very visual narrative style, with great dialogue.”

She continues: “With their TV adaptation, they want to tell the story in a cool and exciting way. It will be fast-paced and tough, but also extremely touching and magical, very modern and relevant to present times, with themes about gender, sexuality, fame and identity. And then we’ll have the biggest Danish ‘brand’ ever: H.C. Andersen in a whole new light.”

Borup will be looking for a director over the next few months, while raising the financing. “So far Viaplay has co-financed the development, and interest from a wide range of potential co-producers and platforms is huge,” says the producer, who estimates the budget to be well above the average Nordic TV dramas. 

According to Borup, Klarlund and Weinreich are planning to turn other H.C. Andersen famous fairy-tales into crime novels and screenplays, using the same premise: ‘behind every fairy-tale, there is a nightmare’.

The producer will attend the upcoming Content London-International Drama Summit with the project, which will be pitched at C21 Drama Series Pitch alongside four other Nordic TV series (to be discussed at a later date). 

Banijay-owned Mastiff Denmark has two other scripted dramas on its  line-up:

  • Couple Trouble (Hånd i hånd) season 2 which just wrapped shooting. The first season of the romantic series performed strongly on Viaplay/TV3 and was sold by Banijay Rights to Sundance Now in the US. Season 2 will premiere in February 2020.  
  • Straight Forward, a crime drama produced with Screentime New Zealand, which premiered last April on Viaplay. A second season is in development.