Set in the late 1890s, Klondike follows two travellers (played by Richard Madden and Augustus Prew) who make the journey to the Yukon, Canada. Produced by Ridley Scott, Discovery Channel’s drama debut also stars Tim Roth (as The Count) and Sam Shepard (as Father Judge).
“It’s the study of human beings and it was a physically and mentally difficult challenge,” explains Madden ahead of the UK premiere. “Something happens when you put human beings in a really high stakes situation.” In 1986, gold was discovered in north west Canada’s vast untamed region, the news travelled and 100,000 people descended on the area to seek their fortune by digging metal out of the ground. “There was no law, no medical services, there was nothing,” explains Madden, “if you didn’t pull these rocks out of the ground, then you would die.”
In the series, Madden plays Bill Haskell, a university educated man, with a sense of adventure. He decides to spend what money he has on travelling to the Yukon to mine for gold and make his fortune. “Faced with everything he comes across, it’s the decisions he makes along the way that really interested me,” says Madden, “at many points he’s at rock bottom, and it’s what he does in those situations that define him. It’s what we do and how we act that defines us.”
Would Madden be tough enough to survive in the Klondike Gold Rush? “I would have gone for it because life’s too short and that’s an exciting experience,” he says, “it would have been a thrill,” he continues, however, he’s not sure he would have made it out alive. “I just don’t know if I would have had it in me to survive it.”
The drama tries to portray the struggles and harsh conditions these brave men endured during their journey and does so against stunning panoramas and the Rocky Mountains. During filming, Madden did all sorts of dangerous stunts, at one point the crew shovelled cold snow at him. Nowadays, visitors to this affluent part of the world will experience something quite different. Madden remembers being at the top of Fortress Mountain in Canadian Rockies at about 5am when the sun was coming up. “That’s when I looked around and looked over the clouds and realised I was just stepping on the top edges of the clouds,” he says, “it was pretty magical and I thought, oh this is my office! It was really quite good.”
Surprisingly, Madden’s not a fan of Westerns, “I actually hate westerns to be honest… but I enjoy being part of that culture,” he says. “That’s part of the travelling [ideology], and not being afraid to go after something new.” And despite being in Canadian cowboy land, Madden didn’t adopt the look off set. “We’d get a day off and drive six hours to go to some crazy rodeo in a weird little town. We very much looked like city kids because we’d be the only people not wearing cowboy hats and denim chaps,” he said, “I didn’t try rodeo, but I went dog sledding a lot. It was a great experience, traveling through the frozen woods at quite a pace.”
Watch Klondike this week at 9pm, March 27 on Discovery Channel
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