"Fortitude" is a rare combination of British talent and Icelandic vistas. Visually impressive and dramatically strong, it's an impressive show for the emerging channel called Pivot. Here's the story I sent to papers:
By MIKE HUGHES
PASADENA, Cal. --
Dramas are supposed to sweep us away to other places and other moods.
Still, few have
taken actors – or viewers – as far as “Fortitude,” the
ambitious new cable show:
-- Actors were swept
to Iceland -- “beautiful country, beautiful people,” Luke
-- And viewers will
be taken to an Arctic village called Fortitude, where the thawing ice
holds secrets. “We needed to find a place where hidden things could
emerge,” said Simon Donald, the show's creator.
Yes, this is a
fictional town; still, it's modeled after a real one. Midway between
Norway and the North Pole is Longyearbyen, with fewer people (2,040)
than polar bears, fewer cars than snowmobiles.
Its coal mines are
almost gone, Donald said. “The industry that sustained this place
for 100 years is fading. They need to find some way to make the place
viable. Tourism and scientific research” help.
Longyearbyen has a hotel, library, movie theater, sports hall,
school, mini-college and research station. The make-believe Fortitude
is similar, letting opposite worlds collide – rugged miners vs.
abstract scientists, tourist development vs. environment.
Employment is full,
crime is scarce and no one is sure if the sheriff is skilled. “He's
definitely a good cop,” said Richard Dormer, who plays him.
“Whether or not he's a good person is another question.”
Now, for the first
time, it has a big crime – so big that a British police detective
is sent to help. He's played by Stanley Tucci, an Oscar-nominee and
two-time Emmy-winner; a nature photographer is played by Sir Michael
Gambon, a four-time winner of the British equivalent of an Emmy.
Still, they're in
support. The core of the show is actors viewers aren't familiar with:
-- Dormer as the
sheriff – a classic role for an Irishman who grew up on “Kojak”
and “Hill Street Blues” and such. “I grew up idolizing
America,” he said.
-- Treadaway as
Vincent Rattrey, a scientist. In a town full of outsiders, he's the
latest newcomer. He's uncomfortable – the notion of a both-sexes
nude sauna is beyond him – and, by the end of the opener, in
trouble. “I'm taken in handcuffs to the police station,”
-- Veronica Echegui
as Elena Ledesma. At the hotel, she's a barmaid, waitress and
receptionist; she brings a foggy past and starts a sexual affair that
spurs tragedy. In short, Echegui said, she plays a consummate
outsider. “The fact that I'm Spanish helped.”
This was a huge
transformation – from growing up in sunny Madrid to filming in
Iceland. That's fine with her, Echegui insists. “I didn't like
being in a place as noisy as Madrid.”
She wanted some
other life and (against her parents' wishes) auditioned for Spain's
Royal School for Dramatic Arts. Only 30 people out of 3,000
auditioners get in, she said; “I thought there was no chance, so I
was not nervous at all.” She got in and launched a busy career.
and Treadaway were Irishmen who landed spots in drama academies. Busy
careers have followed; Treadaway is one of the only people to have
played a conjoined twin with his own twin.
These actors reached
Iceland, communing with locals -- “incredibly open and generous,”
Dormer said – and with other actors. “I was able to hear Michael
Gambon tell about his audition with (Sir Laurence) Olivier,”
Treadaway said. “He must have told the story 2,000 times, but it's
And then they were
outside, portraying Arctic people. “It was quite remote and got
extremely cold,” said director Sam Miller. “And then, bizarrely,
for a couple of weeks we had no snow.”
So they had to
import it; they brought ice to Iceland. Make-believe can be odd
10 p.m. ET Thursdays, Pivot, repeating at 1 a.m.
-- Two-hour opener
is Jan. 29, with “Slumdog Millionaire” as its lead-in, at 7:30
-- Opener reruns at
10 p.m. Friday (preceded by “Glory” at 7), 10 p.m. Super Bowl
Sunday (preceded by “Winter's Bone” at 7:30), 11 p.m. Tuesday
(preceded by a “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” marathon).
-- Pivot reaches 47
million homes by satellite and digital cable. It leans toward movies,
documentaries, foreign shows and such reruns as “Buffy,”
“Farscape,” “Friday Night Lights” and “Veronica Mars.”