Guy Clark, proud participant in the 2011 season's most popular Swedish reality show reminisces on his new Swedish identity.
In April 2011 I was cast in a new Swedish television series called "Allt för Sverige" (All For Sweden). But never in my wildest dreams did I imagine where this odd and wonderful journey would take me.
In the show 10 Americans of Swedish descent return to the land of their ancestors to discover their roots. Basically it was a combination of the American shows “Who Do You Think You Are” and a mild version of “Survivor” plus a bit of “The Apprentice” all rolled into one. Although I was asked to apply for the show by a friend of the casting director, I never had the time to ask many questions about what I was getting involved in or even think about what this whole show was about. In fact, I was working right up until I boarded the plane at Newark Airport. Introduction to Guy: Guy Clark, 'Allt för Sverige'
Going to Sweden to discover my past
All I cared about was that I was going to Sweden to discover my past.
Since I rarely have watched reality shows at home, I was a bit naive about the content possibilities for this show. We traveled from Torekov in the far southwest to the Arctic Circle in the north, with many stops along the way. Weekly, we competed against each other in challenges that were related to Swedish culture in order to win the prize of meeting our Swedish relatives. Sadly, every game or contest created a loser that was eliminated from the show. As we traveled about discovering Sweden, the cast became smaller and tighter and we all bonded in a way I had not anticipated. A year later, many of us are still very attached and are in constant contact with one another.
None of my journey on "Allt för Sverige" was typical, but that is partly because I was not really the typical cast member. Every day, whether it was raining for a shooting contest, or we were running around Stockholm on a treasure hunt, I dressed in my perfectly pressed shirts and silk bow ties like I normally do at home. The others were dressed for warfare, or hiking or the weather, but not me. So, perhaps I just stood out a bit more than the others, I am not sure, but it seems to work for me. The Swedish viewing audience loved my colorful and wacky ways, and they tuned in with unprecedented numbers. The new show was a big hit.
If you have not seen the show, I don’t want to totally spoil it for you (you can still see the eight, hour-long episodes that are in 98 percent English on www.youtube.com
). But I will tell you that it came down to two of us at the dramatic ending with only seconds to spare! In Sweden, it seems like bad form to be too competitive, and second or third place is often viewed as better than first. Well, that worked out fine for me as I was the second place winner. And winner I am!
When the show aired in November I returned to Sweden on my own for ten days to help a bit with the promotion of the show. I went on national radio, appeared on the talk show "Go’kvall," and was featured in two newspaper articles. Everywhere I went in Stockholm people stopped me to say how they loved the show, or that they loved me and my colorful bow ties, etc. Suddenly I was a celebrity in a foreign country, with a recognizable and approachable face that people seemed to relate to somehow. This was not what I had expected. After all, I just wanted to meet my family, and finally I did.
During that PR tour, my cousin Magnus Fritzell, his wife and two boys drove the six hours from Torekov to Stockholm to stay in my hotel and get to know me. We bonded instantly and all became the family and friends that I had so hoped and longed for. I also met another distant cousin, Matilda Backlund, who seemed to be a delightful Swedish “carbon copy” of my own niece Ashley here at home.
So finally I met my relatives!
This is not where my journey ended, however—it's where it began. Sweden seemed to be everywhere I turned when I got back to America. The show was a success, and I gained thousands of Facebook fans and friends, and joined the new “Pal Romare Family” page on Facebook that connected me to hundreds of relatives around the globe. Now THIS is what I had hoped for: family, and lots of it! Through my newly found family I devised a plan to bring eleven of my family members back to Torekov during Midsommer to have them experience the magic that I had felt during my trip to Sweden, and hopefully get to see some relatives along the way.
On June 18, 2012, my 88-year-old mother, my life partner, my two sisters and their families, and I arrived back at the Sjöbyggaregården Bed and Breakfast in Torekov where the show had filmed Episode One. It was a wonderful homecoming, and I am still smiling now, thinking of all the beautiful memories. We had a picnic that first night, where 42 “new” relatives arrived to meet and bond with the twelve of us Americans. Instantly we were a family. In fact we were now a big Swedish family: strong, proud and joyous in our discovery of each other. We toured our ancestral homes, ate in the family restaurants, took boat rides together, ate, laughed, cried, danced and became one. For Midsommar, 115 of us gathered for cocktails, pictures and a seated dinner dance at a family member’s banquet hall! It was a perfectly wonderful evening for a celebration of life, a reunion of shared spirits and a family gathering that was 120 years overdue. Of course the local media was there, too, to capture the event for all to see.
So now I feel complete, not only as a Swedish American, but as a person. I now know more about my family from doing a reality show, than I did in the 50 years of living it took to get me there. Saying “thank you” to the universe hardly seems to say enough, and neither does “tack så mycket,” but for now, it will have to do … as my life journey continues.
We worked with Guy Clark to allow our friend and “born again” Swedish American to find Swedish-ness in his hometown, New York. You find an introduction to the series and Guy here: True Swedish at nordstejrnan.com
We also wanted to introduce some of the institutions and personalities of the ever-changing Big Apple to a wider audience. Hanna Aqvilin filmed his discoveries, his encounters and experiences and the final result will be continuously published on Internet. Guy’s meetings with Swedish culture, fashion, traditions and people will start running online at nordstjernan.com, through vimeo.com and youtube.com on Sept. 15. You’ll enjoy watching while Guy learns to cook with Aquavit executive chef Markus Jernmark, play the piano with Magnus Mårtensson, and visit stores, artists and fairy godmothers along with the institutions of Sweden and Scandinavia in New York City.