“It’s not only the cold that kills” is the sinister tagline of new Sky Atlantic drama Fortitude. And so twisty and clever is the plot that even the privileged few who have seen the first episode of the Arctic-set drama are none the wiser about who, or what, is doing the killing.
Named after the isolated, close-knit Arctic community where it is set, Fortitude revolves around a horrific crime and the secrets each of its residents are hiding.
It also boasts a stellar cast, including Michael Gambon, Sofie Gråbøl, Christopher Eccleston, Jessica Raine and Stanley Tucci, who gathered at the London launch of the Sky Atlantic series.
For Gambon – whose character Henry Tyson is battling illness, alcoholism and the demons of his past – the sense of unpredictability was real. “We weren’t given the full story,” he told the audience, “and it leaves you wondering. It’s a unique thing.”
The Killing’s Sophie Grabol, whose character is a tough, ambitious governor, agreed. “We had a lot of discussions among the actors while filming. It’s so complex that even we the actors had to explain to each other.
“All I can say is that what it seems to be, changes…”
The script, written by Simon Donald (Low Winter Sun), might have been a challenge to work with, but even trickier was the filming process. Executive producers Patrick Spence (Marvellous) and Donald spent several weeks in Arctic communities in order to convincingly create the fictional town of Fortitude. They chose Iceland for its beautiful, savage landscape and freezing conditions. Except that when the cast and crew arrived, there was no snow.
“For the first time, since records began, on the east coast of Iceland there was no snow on the ground,” said Spence, “so we became the world’s largest buyer of fake snow and recreated the Arctic circle, for the most part, in green fields and grey streets. It’s quite an achievement.”
“It was practically balmy,” added US star Tucci, who plays DCI Morton, a detective flown over from London to help with the murder investigation.
But the snow, however fake, looked real and harsh enough to make me reach for a jumper – then again, it isn’t just the cold in Fortitude that will send a shiver down your spine.
Kasia is a TV, film and arts journalist who writes news, feautures and comment. She spends a lot of time feeling nostalgic about 90s American films and working her way back through the Desert Island Discs archive.