Writer re­veals how ideas for his hit show started in li­brary

Sunday Mail (UK) - - The Judge - Den­nis Quaid

first time, with Ice­land hav­ing pre­vi­ously stood in.

Longyear­byen is a unique com­mu­nity where ev­ery res­i­dent has to be self-suf­fi­cient, with no wel­fare sys­tem to back them up, and no­body is allowed to die or give birth.

De­pict­ing such an ex­cep­tional com­mu­nity as be­ing mad, bad and dan­ger­ous to live in has pro­voked a mixed re­ac­tion from some.

He said: “The first time I was there, we set up meet­ings with the chief of po­lice, sci­en­tists, doc­tors in the hos­pi­tal, some min­ers and lots of peo­ple in the pub and just picked their brains and asked them ques­tions.

“We had no idea our­selves at that point that the story would in­clude par­a­sit­i­cal pre­his­tor­i­cal wasps driv­ing peo­ple to de­mented, mur­der­ous be­hav­iour.

“They were happy to tell us stuff and some key things went into the story – that you are not allowed to be born there and not allowed to die there. It’s such a stark dec­la­ra­tion of oth­er­ness about a place.

“Preg­nant women have to leave some­thing like six months be­fore to give birth on the main­land be­cause they don’t have fa­cil­i­ties for na­tal care. That’s be­come the rule of this place and it sets apart so much.

“There’s no un­em­ploy­ment be­cause there’s no safety net and they don’t want one.

“We had peo­ple who were right into it and loved the idea that we were back. But there was a small splin­ter, mainly the lo­cal news­pa­per ed­i­tor, who took against us.

“He had talked to us quite a lot. Then he saw the first sea­son and he seemed to think we were rub­bish­ing these peo­ple be­cause it was a hor­ror story. He didn’t like that so he re­viewed the show ev­ery week in the lo­cal

“Ev­ery­one else was mum­mi­fied in huge coats and bal­a­clavas. And Den­nis was top­less. He’s in his 60s and he’s more ripped than his stunt­man. He’s very funny, a re­ally good ac­tor and he was to­tally com­mit­ted.”

Former ac­tor Si­mon, who ap­peared in shows in­clud­ing Tag­gart and Rab C Nes­bitt, was roped in for a cameo role playing a camp man­ager but he had al­ready con­trib­uted to co-star Quaid’s look for his char­ac­ter.

He said: “The first day we were on set, I had this not very suc­cess­ful hair­cut from a bar­ber. It was too short round the sides and sticky up all over the head.

“Then I heard Den­nis talk­ing to the hair and make-up team, say­ing, ‘Can I get my hair done like the writer guy?’ He’s playing a crab fish­er­man and didn’t want some­thing too suc­cess­ful, too pam­pered, so he de­cided this rub­bish hair­cut I got was per­fect.”

The cur­rent four- part se­ries of For­ti­tude will be the last. Si­mon added: “It’s been five-and-a-half years from the first pitch, then go­ing out to the Arc­tic where the whole idea ges­tated and from then what a colos­sal ad­ven­ture putting to­gether a show like this. And 27 TV hours later, it’s all com­ing to a dra­matic con­clu­sion. It’s been such a life-chang­ing en­deav­our.”

WILDMAN TROU­BLE AHEAD The fic­tional town of For­ti­tude in the ac­claimed drama, set in Longyear­byen

FOND MEM­O­RIES Si­mon says the staff at Wishaw li­brary helped de­velop his imag­i­na­tion

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