Alumnus serves as executive producer for HBO documentary
March 29, 2022
March 29, 2022
“Undercurrent” is a two-part series detailing the tragic murder of Swedish journalist Kim Wall. In August 2017, Danish entrepreneur Peter Madsen invited Wall onto his homemade submarine so she could conduct an interview. Eleven days later, her dismembered body washed up on the shores of Copenhagen Harbor.
A media spectacle ensued as details of sexual assault and graphic violence during Wall’s murder emerged. The award-winning journalist was 30 years old.
Halfway across the world in Santa Monica, California, when Rogers read that Madsen’s submarine sank, he assumed no one was aboard. He began discourse with Madsen in 2016 as part of a History Channel documentary on the new space race (Madsen was under contract for the project when the crime occurred).
Madsen’s work with rockets and underwater vessels was to be featured along with a man creating next-generation spacesuits and another specializing in rocket propulsion, said Rogers. He and Madsen Skyped weekly.
“Madsen was a known eccentric. He was painted as a poor man’s Elon Musk, as he didn’t have funding. He built the submarine with a group of volunteers. At the time, it was the largest homebuilt submarine in the world,” said Rogers.
Though he initially denied the homicide of Wall, Madsen admitted to dispensing her body after a supposed accident. He was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Despite the conviction, Madsen kept in touch with Rogers.
“We exchanged letters. The first letter was ten pages long, telling me that there was more to the story and that he wanted to share it with me. The letters turned into phone calls. I had to receive special permissions and fill out forms with the Danish prison systems as Madsen was only allowed to speak to people he knew previously,” said Rogers.
The result was 30 hours of recorded audio with Madsen, including his confession to Kim Wall’s murder.
Rogers, faced with a completely unexpected story, decided to continue research in this strange new vein. He teamed up with film producer Ethan Goldman, who began to search for a home for the project. Erin Lee Carr eventually joined on as director.
In late 2019, Madsen asked Rogers to attend his wedding to Russian artist Jenny Curpen, a woman he met online while incarcerated. The ceremony took place in a conference room at Madsen’s prison, said Rogers.
“I was invited, along with Madsen’s best friend and a couple of others. The celebration was about two hours long,” said Rogers. “[Prison staff] gave Madsen a knife to cut the cake he made himself. He was serving it to us.”
Rogers would visit Madsen one more time to obtain the signatures required for publishing the documentary. HBO had picked up the project.
“This time, I visited Madsen one-on-one in a room with no windows or cameras. He didn’t wear handcuffs and sipped on a glass of orange tang during our conversation,” said Rogers.
The rest of the facility mirrored this lax approach to security, with inmates roaming freely throughout the prison’s parameters, he said.
It took two years to develop “Undercurrent,” and Rogers reflected on what became an exceedingly dark journey to the truth.
“In Denmark, the media coverage was salacious. We had to think of the right ways to go down the path so Kim’s memory was not lost or tarnished. We didn’t want to celebrate Madsen,” he said. “The key piece was Carr, as she is a young, strong female director who worked a lot in the true-crime space. She’s given voice to many female stories and did it in a very positive way.”
A therapist was made accessible around the clock to support the documentary’s crew, said Rogers.
Rogers, a communications major, planned to study to become a sportscaster. But his time at the university inspired other interests.
“I wanted something more creative. I started running around with my friends on campus filming. We would stage battles that would end up with our actors jumping into rivers,” said Rogers.
Rogers landed an internship with actor Andy Dick after the latter’s band performed at Quinnipiac. Rogers and a few others attended weekly conference calls with the performer to discuss sketches for the Andy Dick Show.
“I found, and continue to find, that a lot of opportunities come from being eager,” said Rogers.
Rogers is now the SVP for development with Public House Pictures. The company will soon announce a trio of reality shows, and several more projects (including an alien documentary) are in development, he said.
“Undercurrent” is available on HBO and HBO Max.
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