A major new Netflix drama from the director of The Queen’s Gambit is to be set and filmed in Edinburgh, the streaming giant has announced.
Department Q is based on a best-selling series of crime novels by Danish author Jussi Adler-Olsen and centres on guilt-wracked Copenhagen detective Carl Mørck, demoted to a cold case unit after a botched raid in which his partner is paralysed and another police officer killed.
Scott Frank, whose adaptation of The Queen’s Gambit proved a smash hit for Netflix in 2020, will direct. The script is by Chandni Lakhani, who worked on The Dublin Murders and BBC Scotland hit Vigil.
The eight-part series will be produced by Left Bank Pictures, London-based makers of The Crown, Outlander and the English-language remake of Wallander, but with the action switched to the Scottish capital.
“The fact that I have been a fan of Jussi’s novels for a dozen years now combined with my long-standing obsession with old school British procedurals like Cracker and Prime Suspect, made this one irresistible,” said Mr Frank. “There are ten novels in all, each one is a terrific mystery with great potential for a great season of television. And Carl Mørck is one of those classic detective antiheroes, funny and dark at the same time, that I can never get enough of. I think audiences will feel the same way.”
After beginning his literary career with an encyclopaedia of comics, Mr Adler-Olsen wrote two books about Groucho Marx and a handful of political thrillers before embarking on the Department Q novels. The series began in 2011 with The Woman In the Cage, published in the UK as Mercy and in the US as The Keeper Of Lost Causes. Their success has seen Mr Adler-Olsen become one of Denmark’s best-known authors and brought him comparisons to Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Stieg Larson.
Long-time fan Mr Frank first acquired the US TV rights for the novels as long ago as 2014 and initially planned to set the series in Boston, so the news that the production will come to Scotland is a further boon to the country’s already burgeoning screen sector.
An independent report commissioned by Screen Scotland, published in 2022 and billed as “the first true benchmark” of industry worth, found that in the year covered, the screen sector in Scotland contributed £567.6 million to the economy and provided the equivalent of 10,280 full-time jobs. Among the high-profile productions made in Scotland recently are Amazon’s The Rig, and two Neil Gaiman adaptations, Good Omens and the upcoming Anansi Boys. All were shot at the First Stage Studio in Leith, Edinburgh.
However Scotland’s gain is Denmark’s loss and news of the location switch has been met with dismay in the home of Scandi Noir.
“Wee jauntie for Jussi,” ran the headline in English language news outlet The Copenhagen Post when the Netflix announcement was made. Noting “a twist most thriller writers would be proud of” the paper added: “Many will be asking why Edinburgh is being preferred to Copenhagen for the proposed Jussi Adler-Olsen small screen adaptation.”
One reason may be Mr Adler-Olsen’s noted dislike of the five Danish film adaptations of his novels already completed, which began with 2013’s The Keeper Of Lost Causes. The films were broadcast by BBC Four in its well-established Saturday night Scandi Noir slot in 2018 and 2019.
With 10 seasons of Department Q planned, the production is a major commitment for its lead actors. There is no word yet on casting, with Netflix saying only that is “very early days”. However discussions have been ongoing for some time between Mr Frank and Mr Adler-Olsen, who has spoken in the past about the difficulty of finding the right actor to play Carl Mørck.
In its programming announcement Netflix also revealed that its spend in the UK has totalled £4.8 billion since 2020, an average of £1.6 billion a year. Among the other new UK-based shows the company announced is Black Doves, a mystery drama set in the London underworld, written by Giri/Haji creator Joe Barton and starring Keira Knightley.
John McVay, chief executive officer of screen sector trade body Pact which represents and supports independent production companies, said the new Netflix shows were “a real sign of confidence in the UK’s screen industries, reflecting our tradition of creative excellence, highly skilled crews and state of the art facilities. All of these things come together to make this country one of the best places in the world for production.”