Premiering tonight is the first of the 3-part mini-series KLONDIKE. In its first scripted series, Discovery Channel has struck gold. KLONDIKE tells the tale of two young men who travel to the remote tundra of the Yukon in the late 1800’s to seek their fortune. Despite great odds against them, they not only survived the brutal trek to the Klondike region, but they surprisingly thrived — for a time at least.
(1) LUSH LANDSCAPE – Every scene on screen is intoxicatingly beautiful. It is a feast for the eyes and each feels painstakingly chosen to maximize viewers’ appreciation of the raw beauty surrounding them. Yet even in the midst of such magnificent scenery, there are the elements to contend with. At the Television Critic’s Association 2014 Winter Press Tour, the cast and producers of KLONDIKE provided a candid look at the behind-the-scenes rigors of filming on location in the middle of winter in Calgary, which provided a lush and incredibly scene backdrop for the tale they wanted to tell. Executive producer Delores Gavin summed it up as, “56 days, 9,000 feet above seas level, above the cloud cover, temperatures that dropped to almost 30 below zero for 16 hours straight, and raging rapids — for our cast and crew, that was a day on the job.” Co-star Abbie Cornish added, “Something that really struck us very early on is that the environment that we were in really formed the environment that these characters would have been in. . . Richard [Madden] spent the whole day with real snow blowing on his face . . . It was hard to talk, and there was something very elemental, very challenging, and very dramatic about the landscape.” Star Richard Madden noted that for one of the scenes, “I did throw myself into the rapids. They were real rapids, and we were all kind of on speed boast trying to achieve something really difficult and mad. But it was brilliant. . . [but then] I got there and I was like, “oh, we’re not actually using this are we? This is really dangerous.’ And I just kind of convinced myself that it was a studio and we could just turn the rapids off if it got dangerous.” Then director Simon Cellan Jones described it as, “The story is so sort of brutal. . . [and as] one of the characters says, ‘You’ve got to go as far as you can go and then just keep going’ because it was so hard to get there.” Co-star Sam Shepard added, “the exterior [of] course is different, but I see it just as another piece of American madness.”
(2) ADDING A BIT OF MYSTERY – Writer and executive producer Paul Scheuring cited the source material as the book “Gold Diggers” by Charlotte Gray and brought to screen at Discovery by Ridley Scott’s production company. He explained that to give viewers a focal-point, he focused on the character of Bill Haskell, portrayed by Richard Madden. He further added, “One thing that keeps Bill Haskell in the Klondike is that he has some unfinished business in terms of the mystery of his murdered friend . . . It was my feeling early on that if our main characters’ only goal was to go up there and get rich, that was not something the audience would embrace and empathize with. . . This isn’t about gold. It’s about the kind of arc of their souls and can they find deliverance in this horrid place.”
(3) WOLVES – No story of survival in the remote region of the Yukon would be complete without a few wolves adding to the tale. While they may look scary enough on screen, the wolves used for filming were much more docile. As direct Simon Cellan Jones laughingly noted, “The most difficult scene was the one scene with wolves chasing Richard [Madden] because the wolves were sort of like big, fluffy pets who’d go and fetch your slippers for you. So it was very hard to make them aggressive.”
(4) PASSION – Every second of the 3-part series feels so painstakingly put together and cherished. This was a passion-project by all involved. As co-star Abbie Cornish explained, “Discovery’s attitude and excitement and passion for this project and their willingness to really dive in the deep end, bringing in Ridley Scott and David Zucker into the project — it’s classy, it’s sophisticated. And Simon [Cellan Jones] brought this edge to it that was just so raw and so real. When you put all of those elements together, you get something that’s really fresh and really new and exciting.”
(5) STRONG CAST – From Richard Madden of GAME OF THRONES to Tim Roth from LIE TO ME, to Sam Shepard and Abbie Cornish and all the other talented cast members, KLONDIKE shines. Every scene holds the viewers’ attention as they are never quite sure what each will do — all the characters have an unexpectedness to them and it will keep you guessing ’til the end on who is going to stand by each other to the bitter end. With gold, friendship and souls on the line, each will be tested and their true mettle revealed.
KLONDIKE is unequivocally a television master-piece. It offers heightened-drama with teasing moments of mystery, romance and levity. The story and scenery may draw you in, but it is the rich characters that will keep you coming back for parts 2 and 3 over the next few nights. It is a story that draws you in and which will leave you satisfied in the end.
Make time to watch the 3-part mini-series KLONDIKE tonight, tomorrow and the next night (January 20th – January 23rd) at 9:00 p.m. on Discovery Channel.
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