Social advocacy network Pivot enters new territory with Arctic Circle-thriller “Fortitude,” the channel’s first scripted drama and an ambitious, edge-of-your-couch viewing experience.
The biggest challenge for the potential critical darling is actually the modest size of the platform it can be consumed on, but series star Richard Dormer (“Game of Thrones”) told TheWrap that his new show “is just too good to disappear,” no matter what network puts it out.
“I don’t think any of us were worried about [being on] Pivot starting out,” he said. “Even if people don’t see it straight off when it comes out, they’ll catch up to it because of word-of-mouth.”
Plus, “I think Pivot is the perfect people for this,” Dormer added, trumpeting the channel as a proponent for environmental issues, which arise in the permafrost-laden landscape of the titular town.
The channel’s general manager, Kent Rees, not surprisingly agreed. He reiterated that the series is “a great example of what Pivot is all about — entertainment inspired by the real issues of our time.”
Set in the melting Arctic, the dark psychological drama tells the story of a brutal and shocking murder that shatters the peaceful atmosphere of the tiny, idyllic town of Fortitude. Above-average temperatures lead to a record ice melt that reveals secrets long hidden beneath the frozen landscape.
Dormer’s “deliberately obtuse” Sheriff Dan Andersson must confront the mysteries that arise.
The city’s lead cop squares off against Stanley Tucci‘s DCI Morton, as the two race to solve the aforementioned homicide — and more — in a town where crime previously did not exist. As Pivot’s logline ominously concludes of the duo: “As the search for the killer progresses, their list of suspects — and suspicions of each other — grows.”
Dormer admitted to having some questions about his mysterious character: “[Who] is this guy? Where is he from? Where does he go at night? Because we don’t see where he sleeps … he doesn’t seem to have a life.”
But, Dormer promised, “It is explained toward the end; whether he is a good sheriff or a bad sheriff — or a good man or a bad man.”
A lot of large and small decisions went into making “Fortitude” both ambiguous and digestible for American audiences; for example, Dormer, a native of Northern Ireland, told us that he deliberately played the character’s Norwegian accent with an American twang instead of a more “distant and cold” English one — a choice that is easy to miss, but a fortunate one for Stateside audiences given the international diversity of the talented cast.
The creative choice was as much to demonstrate Anderssen’s raised-by-MTV background as it was to gain U.S. audiences’ acceptance. Tucci’s casting also helps with American accessibility.
Dormer, who had a story arc on HBO’s “Game of Thrones” as invincible knight Beric Dondarrion, knows a thing or two about the variances between a huge project and a small, independent one, and he doesn’t want people to think the relative smallness of the Participant Media television channel is directly proportional to its newest offering.
“In scale, ‘Fortitude’ is just as big as ‘Game of Thrones,'” Dormer said. “It’s equally as epic — it’s just starting out.”
Viewers may get that feeling when tuning into the show, as the two shows have the same set designer, Gemma Jackson. While the town of Fortitude would be a mere blip on the sprawling map of George R.R. Martin‘s literary world, it comes off as a fairly sizable (frozen) pond.
So will a well-cast, beautifully shot series, one with great writing and strong mystery, work on a network that many outside of the trade industry haven’t heard of or else simply know as that little channel with the weird Joseph Gordon-Levitt show? Dormer has no doubt, yes; he just asks for time.
“I really don’t think ‘Fortitude’ is going to really start really kicking off in the public conscience until episode 6, when people really go, ‘Oh, my God, you’ve got to watch this,'” he said. “As soon as people really get into the swamp — the scary swamp that is ‘Fortitude’ — there’s no getting out of it. You need about six to seven episodes in to really go, ‘This is what it’s about.’
“I hope that it gets the viewers and it gets the critical acclaim because the writer, Simon Donald, has the most amazing second [season],” Dormer said. “It kind of builds on the first one, but it goes into another dimension of storytelling.”
The series also stars Michael Gambon, Christopher Eccleston, Sofie Gråbøl, Jessica Raine, Luke Treadaway, Nicholas Pinnock, Verónica Echegui and Johnny Harris. The project was co-produced with Sky Atlantic and filmed in Iceland and the United Kingdom.
“Fortitude” premieres in a two-hour Pivot event on January 29 at 10 p.m. ET.