Greg Poehler Talks ‘Welcome to Sweden,’ and Turning the Poehlers Into the New Kardashians
As of right now, there is only one American television star named Poehler: Amy. But that all changes tonight when her younger brother Greg Poehler’s new show, Welcome to Sweden premieres on NBC. The semi-autobiographical show stars Poehler (the younger) as an American man who moves to Sweden for love. The show was already a hit in Sweden and this summer it’s coming to American audiences. Greg not only stars in the show, but wrote and produced it as well. Over a lunch of Swedish meatballs and cod, Greg Poehler talked about the show, how he got his famous sister involved and the effect fame has had on his real life Swedish family.
On where the idea for Welcome to Sweden came from: “It was definitely nobody’s idea but my own. I was in an attic in Stockholm on a snowy day two and a half years ago, typing on an old Dell computer, wondering if anyone would ever read it. An idea was always in my head when I first visited Sweden and certainly when I moved there. It was like a five-hour session when I told my wife I was going to go upstairs and crank something out and it was episode one. I had a 10-episode arc where I wrote what I wanted the show to be, and said that it was going to be a show we could sell to Sweden and the U.S., and have a bunch of cameos, and I would play the lead role.”
On how he got his sister Amy Poehler, who produces the show, involved: “I sent the script to Amy, I just wanted to see if it was formatted correctly because I had googled how to write a script before I started, which is so sad to admit. If you google “how to write a script,” the How I Met Your Mother script comes up first and I used that as my template, just structurally. And I just wanted to know if it looked like scripts she had seen. I had no expectation at all, I certainly wasn’t asking her to be involved, so it wasn’t about that at all. I was really surprised, she called me up a few days after and said that she had read the script and really liked it and wanted to be involved. I think part of the reason why is, like I said, in the synopsis I put, “and we’ll have a bunch of American cameos,” so I think she realized that she’s going to have to be making phone calls to her friends anyway so she might as well get paid for it.”
On the diffuculty of writing a comedy about the clash of two cultures: “What I learned in this process is that anytime you get into stereotypes, the person from the country that you’re stereotyping gets slightly offended so things that I found really funny about Swedes, sometimes [the show's Swedish writers] would be like, “That’s just…” When we originally had the discussion about what my character should be, they were like, “Can’t he just love guns, like can’t that be one of his things, that he’s just a super gun lover and very religious” and of course, as an American, I recoil a bit when I hear that.”
On how his sudden success has affected his family: “My kids don’t care at all, they couldn’t give a shit. In fact, I worked on the show writing, producing, acting, whatever for a year and half before it aired in Sweden and then the morning that it was airing I said to my 6-year-old son, I was like, “You know tonight’s the night my show comes on” and he’s like, “What show?” And that was one of those moments where I was like, Oh my god this is so humbling. Like, “My show that I’ve been working on all day long for the past year and a half.” “Oh, alright.” I think that’s good, I think it’s better to be humbled by your family. I think it maybe will be larger for them as they get older. Sweden is such a small country and celebrity in Sweden is weird because it’s so small, it’s like being the mayor of a tiny, tiny, tiny town.”
On whether or not we can expect to see a third Poehler on television anytime soon: “Well we want to be the new Baldwins. Or Kardashians. I’m not sure, somewhere in between the Baldwin and the Kardashian dynamic. [Laughs]”