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In praise of - sidse babett KNUDSEN.

THE name didn't mean much to me until recently, when I got hooked on Borgen, the enthralling Danish political drama.

As the series opens, it's election time. Sidse plays Birgitte Nyborg, the leader of Denmark's Moderate Party who, before long, is propelled into the Prime Minister's office as head of a coalition government.

The series reminds you of The West Wing, even if it is set in a much smaller country (Denmark population: 5.5 million; USA: 314 million). But the outlines are roughly the same: a succession of political crises and situations, interwoven with more personal matters. Nyborg may be a neophyte when it comes to the kind of job that puts you in charge of a country, but she is no pushover. Before our eyes, she finds her feet, grows into the job, grows in confidence, and keeps her colleagues in line – and, just as importantly, tries to ensure she has enough time for her husband and two children.

Sidse's nuanced performance makes Nyborg utterly believeable. At times we see little flickers of the eyes that register inner uncertainty; at others, there's a steelier hue to them as Nyborg deals briskly with recalcitrant colleagues. Sidse is equally decisive off the set, saying recently: "[Borgen's] three male writers wanted her always to be reproaching herself, feeling guilty, being soppy in her private life- and I didn't like that. She was always crying, and you wouldn't believe her to be a prime minister if she did that. The character's not a hairdresser- to get that far in politics you have to be, you know, she's a female politician."

Well put. The season one boxset is in the shops, season two wraps up on BBC 4 on Saturday night. If you haven't watched Borgen yet, now's the time.

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