The North Water star Colin Farrell has discussed the drama’s “brutal” seal-clubbing scene in the show’s first episode of the series, which is set during a whaling expedition in the 1850s.
Of course, no animals were actually harmed during filming, but the episode nevertheless offers an unflinching, blood-soaked depiction of seal-clubbing and whaling.
Farrell plays barbaric harpooner Henry Drax in The North Water, who demonstrates particular efficiency – and perhaps even some pleasure – in slaying the defenceless animals.
The scene was produced in consultation with a historian and makes for highly uncomfortable viewing, but Farrell argues that its inclusion offers an epitome of just how brutal this period of history was for most people.
“It was brutal,” he began at a press event. “Obviously, there was nothing there and the CGI was added in later, but just that time… it was such a dark time and it was such a violent time.
“There was so much sickness, there was so much death and that was represented everywhere; on the streets of Hull before we leave and then obviously this ship and all the souls on it become these kinds of vessels of madness and violence.”
For Farrell, the scene also represented an opportunity to expose the true darkness of his character, which he underwent a physical transformation to portray.
“For Drax, it was just another day at the office,” Farrell continued. “Seals were just another means by which he could explore his animalism. He wouldn’t give it much thought but there’s no doubt that he got a good feeling from being as capable as he was in that field of ruin.”
He added: “The whole thing was a very, very dark and very cruel and very brutal time, epitomised by the industry that is represented in this piece here.”
Jack O’Connell co-stars in The North Water as disgraced military surgeon Patrick Sumner, who is one of the fellow crew members on a fateful voyage of the whaling ship, Volunteer. To find out more about where The North Water was filmed, check out our location guide.