Discovery Channel’s first scripted series, “Klondike,” didn’t pull any punches when it came to bringing to life the Yukon gold rush. Sending star Richard Madden into real raging river rapids, creating an actual avalanche and shooting 9,000 feet above sea level, the struggles that these explorers dealt with in the context of the show were also ones the actors experienced in real life.
“We could do it quite realistically and dress exactly how they would have done, which was really miserable a lot of the time because it was quite freezing,” Madden admits during “Klondike’s” Television Critics Association 2014 Winter Press Tour panel.
Costar Abbie Cornish adds, “The environment that we were in really informed the environment that these characters would have been in in the time.”
“Klondike” was made in Calgary, Canada and shot on location at places like Alberton River. The entire production took 56 days to make, including the show’s one chance at shooting an avalanche scene.
“If we got that wrong, we blew the whole movie,” director Simon Cellan Jones admits. “We lost quite a few cameras that day, I have to say.”
The cast of “Klondike” also includes Sam Shepard (who replaced Chris Cooper after the actor suffered a minor heart attack), Johnny Simmons and Tim Roth. Roth, who plays the villain the Count, admits of getting into character for his role, “You just muck about.”
He continues, “I found him to be incredibly offensive, but also quite funny. The humor aspect, even if it’s just for my own entertainment, is what keeps me going.”
Of the decision to make “Klondike” Discovery’s first scripted series, Discovery’s Dolores Gavin says that it was one of the original ideas the network thought of to bring to life. Though “Klondike” won’t have a sequel, its success will determine future scripted series.
“I’m just amazed that this story hasn’t been told before properly,” Jones says. “I think that it was a story just ripe for plucking.”
After Madden’s gory end on “Game of Thrones” and his troubles on “Klondike,” the actor was happy to move on to Disney’s “Cinderella.”
“I was bored of being miserable,” he quips. “‘Game of Thrones’ was a really intense, horrible time — on screen.”
“Klondike” premieres on Jan. 20 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Discovery.