Whether she’s doing movies like Mean Girls and Baby Mama or TV gigs like Saturday Night Live, Parks & Recreation and the Golden Globe Awards, Amy Poehler is reliably hilarious. This week she takes her impeccable comic timing to Scandinavia in a behind-the-scenes role—plus cameos—in Welcome to Sweden (Thursdays, 9/8c), an NBC sitcom starring her brother Greg. Turning Greg’s own fish-out-of-water tale into comedic fodder, the series tracks an American accountant dealing with life, customs and his new in-laws in the land of ABBA, IKEA and Absolut. Poehler, in a role she was literally born to play—Greg’s sister—reveals how the series came to be.
Where did the idea for Welcome to Sweden come from?
The story is based on Greg’s own story. He met his girlfriend, now wife, and moved to Sweden because of love. It’s about love kind of taking you somewhere else and you having to adjust, not only to the idea of a new relationship, but a new country. Our goal always was to celebrate what makes Sweden so excellent and also what makes it so weird. It was the first time I had worked in a production that was international and certainly the first time Greg and I had worked on something together on such a large scale. Greg has created such a great story and such funny real scripts, and I’m not surprised by that, but I’m glad I got to witness it.
Did you two always get along?
We’ve been very close always. We lived together in New York City. We’re three years apart. I’m excited not only because of this project being seen by everyone, but also I get to spend more time with my brother who now lives very far away.
“I only know three words of Swedish: Hello, goodbye, and what?”
What did you think when you heard he was moving to Sweden?
I thought, “Oh my God, my mother is going to lose her mind.” And she did. But now my parents couldn’t be more excited that their kid is experiencing all these different things, and Sweden’s become a second home to them. They’ve become so close with their grandchildren.
Do you have any Swedish heritage?
No, we’re mutts, mostly English and Irish. But once I was in Sweden and someone mistook me for a Swede. I only know three words of Swedish: Hello, goodbye, and what? But I love the language and I think the accent is beautiful. I’m looking forward to learning more.
You brought in some cool guest stars, like Will Ferrell.
Will’s wife is Swedish and he was in Sweden when we were shooting. We wrote him into a cameo. His Swedish is very good. We got some American actors to come to Sweden; some knew Swedish and had Swedish connections. Aubrey Plaza speaks a little Swedish in life and on the show. I don’t think Gene Simmons does. Patrick Duffy plays Greg’s American dad in the series. Dallas was a huge show in Sweden.
What’s your next movie?
Inside Out. It’s a Pixar movie and just beyond anything I’ve ever worked on. I’m not allowed to say much, but I can’t wait for people to see it. It comes out next June.