Dennis Quaid Talks Fortitude

In Features by Paula Hammond - Features Editor

What convinced you to join Fortitude for season two?
Season one. It was a very easy yes to begin with. I wanted to be a part of this cast and a part of this world. It’s the kind of show that I like to watch.

What aspect of the story grabbed you?
It’s a great mystery, and also it utilises several genres – or you think it’s going to – in a way. It’s a slow burn in terms of what will be revealed – sometimes the audience knows before the characters. You get involved with the characters, and where their interior stories are going.

Tell us a little about your character, Michael.
He’s a fisherman by trade. I guess he’s an ex-pat from the US. He’s been here for quite a long time, enough time to marry a girl and have kids. His wife is going through health problems which is life changing for everyone and it is his mission to save the love of his life.

Was it that family aspect of the character which drew you to him?
Yeah, it’s a huge part of it. And also, he’s a man whose entire identity has been shattered, he has to rebuild and hold on to those things which are most dear to him. There’s an art to the character, he has great challenges. And then really it’s the rest of the cast because it’s truly an ensemble piece. Everyone puts their ego aside and really works together. Reminds me of when I first started out to tell you the truth. Keeps fire in your belly.

You play a central role in this season. What was it like working with that cast in that location?
Everybody was already settled into their characters by the time I got there, and everyone was so welcoming. And working with Sofie [Gråbøl] was just extraordinary. She is such a great actress, so subtle. Working with an international cast like this was a unique thing for me as well.

The location must have been a challenge, just the temperature and the environment…
Well, I guess. But for some reason I just love Iceland. In fact, I’m playing a fisherman, so I worked it so I could go out on the Arctic Sea for research. How many times do you have a chance to do that? It was just glorious. And when it came time to shoot, of course, we’re out there on the Arctic Sea and I’m piloting the boat, the entire crew was on there, and I think I was the only one who didn’t get seasick, which may speak to my piloting skills. Just getting to work could be daunting. We had to take what they call a Super Jeep every day, and it was a wild ride.

Of course, you have had some prior experience shooting in the Arctic.
I’d been there in the 80s for Enemy Mine: we shot six weeks there, then they shut it down and fired the director. Then we moved to Munich and shot it indoors.

… And you lived through a second Ice Age in The Day After Tomorrow.
Well we shot that indoors as well! It was 3° below outside of Montreal, snow piled high, but we shot it indoors.

So did you feel prepared for a frozen shoot?
Yeah, I just love the outdoors to begin with. I love being in locations like that. It’s just one of the most fascinating, exotic places. I say that Iceland is like Hawaii in the Arctic.

You’ve had a long and storied career. How does the experience of filming Fortitude rank among your highlights?
Well certainly I feel like it’s the best thing I’ve done on television so far. It’s the most memorable and I had a really great time. I’m so proud to be a part of it.

The journey from film to television with what is happening with TV storytelling today must be pretty interesting?
It used to be quite a wide gap for actors who were doing film. They didn’t really want to do television because of the care and quality of the writing and production. But these days, starting about five years ago, that’s all changed, and the writers started coming to television, and the actors have followed suit. It’s the new independent film, only hopefully following a 50-hour format over five seasons. It gives them a great chance to unfold a character and do some very interesting work.

The events of the new season may dictate this, but given the opportunity would you be open for another season of Fortitude?
I’d be willing to start next week in fact. Sky is really positioned very well, because one of the attractions of coming to do Fortitude was, as well as the great story and great script, to be in another market. It’s becoming more international in the States – not as much as it has been over here in Europe – but you have shows which are subtitled and yet a lot of people are watching these days.

Are you someone that binge watches?
Yeah, once I get on a show I like to watch it all the way through and ignore anything else that’s going on.

Do you have any favourite box set series?
Breaking Bad – that show really kicked it off for everybody. I ended up going back and watching The Sopranos again, and then there are Mad Men and Narcos. It’s a commitment to binge watch – but by doing it people get involved emotionally. It’s like a seduction. You get people involved, and then they’re with you.