heat visits the set of bonkers arctic drama Fortitude
We chilled with the cast on the set of the Arctic drama
It’s a cold and miserable March day and heat is on a visit to Fortitude. Not the actual tiny Arctic town the show is set in, you understand, as that’s way too cold (more on that later). We’re at the interior sets, which are in Bristol. When the show started in 2015, Fortitude, with its grand total of 713 inhabitants and four police officers, was meant to be the safest place on Earth. But that all changed when the town had its first murder and, over the course of two series, we’ve had plenty of death, not to mention parasitic wasps, shamans, cannibalism and, of course, the Sheriff himself responsible for a one-man crimewave. With its breathtaking scenery and seriously out-there plots, Fortitude offers a brilliant twist on Scandi-noir, but with more than a touch of an Arctic Western about it, and there are seemingly no boundaries that creator Simon Donald won’t cross. This is, after all, the show that killed off Christopher Eccleston after one episode, followed by acting royalty Stanley Tucci, Michael Gambon and Sofie Gråbøl over subsequent weeks.
The sheriff's in Town
After a quick tour of the costume room (where we spot the giant rabbit head that features in episode one), we settle down to meet Richard Dormer, who plays lead character Sheriff Dan Anderssen – also known to Game Of Thrones fans as Beric. It’s hard not to stare when he strides into the room, sporting what is undoubtedly the most magnificent beard on TV. Which, facial-hair factfans, “takes two weeks to grow – you’ve got to get the tusks. But I have to keep it for Game Of Thrones, so I can’t shave it off”, explains Richard. So, where is Dan’s head at the start of the new series, seeing as he was pretty demented in the last season? “He’s a new human being. Or maybe not human. He’s a demon,” says Rich. “As well as being addicted to every substance on the planet, he’s also addicted to muscimol juice, which is made of reindeers’ pee – they’ve eaten funghi – and it gives you visions of the afterlife. So now, Dan has one foot in this world and one in the afterworld, so he can communicate with the people he’s killed.”
hasta la vista, fortitude
So far, so Fortitude bonkers. But it’s not just the script that is unusual – filming in the Arctic is a hugely challenging, and very dangerous, undertaking. The crew spent three weeks on location for the outdoor scenes, often filming in brain-freezing temperatures of -35˚C (thank goodness we’re in Bristol), and not only did they have to wear five layers of clothes, they were constantly protected by armed guards to keep them safe from marauding polar bears. “The landscape is brutal – it will kill you in 15 minutes if you’re not wearing the right clothes. It gave everything an extra edge,” says Dormer.
Speaking of the right clothes, we’ve heard there’s a scene coming up this season where Hollywood star Dennis Quaid, who plays widower Michael, is topless in the snow. What’s it like working with him? Dormer’s face breaks into a grin. “Dennis is a dude,” he says. “On location, we were like two big kids racing each other on skidoos at 90 miles an hour. He’s a great character. Ach, he’s Dennis Quaid.”
So, with this season being the end of the line for Fortitude and described by writer Simon Donald as “very emotional”, how does Dormer feel? “It is very emotional,” he says, wiping a genuine tear from his eye. “Dan is definitely without doubt the best part I’ve ever played. I’m going to miss him. I’m really sad it’s coming to an end.” Us, too. n
Who called the cops? Richard Dormer and Dennis Quaid: #lads
A rampant rabbit