Art imitates life in “Welcome to Sweden,” a new NBC sitcom premiering Thursday, July 10. Its creator and star, Greg Poehler (kid brother to Amy), saw the show as a valentine to his adopted home country, where he lives nowadays with his family.
Like Poehler himself, the show’s main character, celebrity accountant Bruce Evans, meets and falls in love with Swedish beauty Emma Wiik (Josephine Bornebusch, also one of the sitcom’s writers) while working in New York. When Emma decides to return to her native Stockholm to accept a major banking job, Bruce impetuously decides to chuck his career in America and make a fresh start in Sweden.
What follows is an engaging fish-out-of-water romantic comedy, as Bruce tries to adjust to the cultural, culinary and linguistic challenges his new life presents.
“There are both American and Swedish writers on the show, and when we were writing the show we always were thinking of selling it in both (Sweden and America),” Poehler explains to Zap2it, “so whenever there was a joke that too American or too Swedish, we just got rid of it. The goal was to find the universality in the humor, to find things that everyone could relate to. … In order for the show to work, we needed to make Bruce and Emma almost the straight man and woman with the craziness around them.”
Apart from Poehler and guest cameos from sister Amy Poehler, Aubrey Plaza, Patrick Duffy, Will Ferrell and Gene Simmons, among others, “Welcome to Sweden” features an almost completely Swedish cast headed by Lena Olin (“Alias”) as Emma’s acerbic mother. Since Bruce proves fairly hopeless at learning Swedish, however, the other characters usually speak English around him, although a few brief scenes are performed in Swedish with English subtitles, usually for comic effect.
Born: Oct. 11, 1974, in Burlington, Mass.
Family ties: Married to wife, Charlotta Poehler, with whom he moved to Sweden in 2006. They live near Stockholm with their three children.
Education: Fordham University School of Law; Boston College, Burlington High School, Stockholm University.
Career trajectory: Worked as a lawyer in both New York and Sweden until a friend literally pushed him onstage at a comedy club a couple of years ago. Since then, he has found success as a stand-up comic in both Sweden and the United States.
Poehler region: The name of Greg and Amy Poehler’s production company, Syskon, means “sibling” in Swedish.