Colin Farrell and Jack O'Connell team up for macabre period drama The North Water, which takes viewers on a calamitous whaling voyage in the bleak 1850s.


The story is told largely from the perspective of disgraced military surgeon Patrick Sumner (O'Connell), who joins the crew of The Volunteer out of desperation but quickly finds himself a target of disturbing harpooner Henry Drax (Farrell).

Writer-director Andrew Haigh is behind the hotly anticipated series, which is based on Ian McGuire's novel of the same name and remarkably shot on location in the Arctic.

Farrell has discussed the "life-changing" experience of filming The North Water in such a relentless environment, while he also opened up about the physical transformation he underwent to portray the unhinged and remorseless Drax.

If you want to get an idea of what the show has in store, check out our The North Water review, which praises a stellar cast of actors but warns this story is not for the faint hearted.

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Here's everything you need to know about The North Water, when it's arriving on BBC Two and who stars in the period drama.

When is The North Water's release date?

CONFIRMED: The North Water premieres on BBC Two at 9:30pm on Friday 10th September.

The series consists of five episodes in total, each one clocking in at just under 60 minutes in length, with the dramatic finale currently scheduled for Friday 8th October.

Viewers in the UK have had to wait a long time for the hotly anticipated drama, which aired in the United States over the summer, starting from Thursday 15th July on streaming service AMC+.

Production on The North Water began back in November 2019, with scenes being filmed on location in the Arctic and in studios in Budapest. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, all shoots were paused in March 2020.

The North Water plot

Based on Ian McGuire's 2016 novel of the same name, the series depicts the calamitous voyage of a whaling vessel called The Volunteer in 1859.

The ship heads to the Arctic on what seems like a routine expedition, but little do the crew know that Captain Arthur Brownlee (Stephen Graham) is hiding an ulterior motive for the trip.

Among the men aboard are disgraced military surgeon Patrick Sumner (O'Connell), serving as The Volunteer's resident medic, and barbaric harpooner Henry Drax (Colin Farrell), who shouldn't be trusted under any circumstances.

Sumner has joined the trip to get away from his traumatic military past, but soon finds himself coming to blows against the cold and ruthless Drax, who appears more animal than human.

"Confrontation between the two men erupts, taking them on a journey far from solid ground and way beyond the safe moorings of civilisation," teases the BBC synopsis.

The North Water cast

Colin Farrell (Fantastic Beasts) and Jack O'Connell (Money Monster) lead The North Water cast, taking the key roles of Henry Drax and Patrick Sumner respectively.

The crew of The Volunteer includes some other familiar faces, with Line of Duty's Stephen Graham playing Captain Arthur Brownlee, while Sam Spruell (Liar) plays his right-hand man, Michael Cavendish.

Graham said: “Filming on the ship was an incredible experience and one that I will never forget. To be so privileged to see such beautiful animals like polar bears in their natural habitat – albeit an ever changing one, sadly – was truly remarkable."

The supporting cast includes Roland Møller (Atomic Blond), Philip Hill-Pearson (The Bay), Tom Courtenay (King of Thieves), Peter Mullan (Top of the Lake) and Kieran Urquhart (Vera).

Is The North Water based on a true story?

No, The North Water is not based on a true story, but rather an adaptation of Ian McGuire's novel of the same name, which was first published back in 2016.

McGuire's story is entirely fictional, but the writer did carry out exhaustive research into the whaling practices of the time and life aboard these extreme expeditions.

Therefore, the depiction of the gruesome work and the grim period in history is largely accurate – and was praised as such by critics – but neither Sumner nor Drax were real people.

The North Water trailer

A full-length trailer for The North Water was released at the beginning of July, teasing the freezing Arctic setting and Jack O'Connell's performance as Patrick Sumner.

The BBC released its own shorter teaser the following month, as it began promoting the show's imminent UK premiere, promising to take viewers on "a voyage to the edge of reason".


The North Water will air on BBC Two from 10th September. While you’re waiting, take a look at our other Drama coverage, or find out what else is on with our TV Guide.