ABOVE: LUKE TREADAWAY IN NEW YORK, MARCH 2015. PHOTOS: RAFAEL STAHELIN. STYLING: JULIE RAGOLIA. GROOMING: WESLEY O’MEARA FOR BRYDGES MACKINNEY. PHOTO ASSISTANT: DEAN PODMORE. STYLING ASSISTANT: HANNAH LACAVA. POST PRODUCTION: BLANK.
“I feel like I’m about to move somewhere. I don’t know why or where to,” says British actor Luke Treadaway cryptically. “I’d quite like to be given a play to do in New York for a few months or film in L.A. I’d like to have different chapters in my life of living in different places,” he continues. “A few years ago, I might have said that I never wanted to move out of London, but the more I travel…”
Treadaway is in New York for a few days promoting his new television series, Fortitude, produced in collaboration with Pivot in the U.S. and Sky Atlantic in the U.K. Set in the fictional Fortitude, a small mass of land in the Norweigan Arctic Circle, the show is a deliberately dark murder mystery with a hint of, if not the supernatural, the horrific extremes that nature can attain. Only a few hundred people reside in Fortitude—recent immigrants from England, Ireland, Spain, Scandinavia, and Russia—and each has his or her own reason for sequestering themselves at the end of the earth.
The show’s cast reflects the town’s disparate population, with American actor Stanley Tucci, Irish actor Richard Dormer, Danish actor Sofie Gråbøl, and Brits Michael Gambon and Sienna Guillory filling out the impressive ensemble. Treadaway plays Vincent Rattrey, a young British scientist who arrives in Fortitude to work on a project with a Professor Charlie Stoddart (Christopher Eccleston). Unfortunately for Vincent, soon after he arrives, Stoddart is brutally beaten to death with, among other things, a potato peeler. Vincent finds the body and is promptly arrested. Tonight, the show’s ninth episode will premiere in the U.S., and the most likely suspect in Stoddart’s murder remains a child with a motive tied to pollutants and polar bears.
Fortitude is the latest in a string of promising projects for Treadaway, who made his acting debut a decade ago in the indie film Brothers of the Head alongside his fraternal twin Harry (it was both brothers’ first professional audition) and has spent the majority of his career on stage in London (in War Horse, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time). In December, the 30-year-old actor appeared as a British POW in Angelina Jolie’s World War II epic Unbroken. In regards to Fortitude‘s renewal for a second season, Treadaway is “feeling positive.”
HOMETOWN: Rural Devon, England
ALMA MATER: London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art
GROWING UP… We didn’t have cable or anything like that. There were four channels, and then we had the Friday night, rent-a-video-for-the-weekend. What did we have on VHS I watched far too many times—I think I watched Dances with Wolves 10 or 20 times. Just random things like an NBA anthology video about a season of the Chicago Bulls, I’d watch again and again and again.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK: I first came to New York about five years ago and I remember the feeling of just vibrating with, “My god, I’m in New York! Wow!” That’s brilliant, and I still feel excited coming here, but I feel more like I’m able to be myself day-to-day, minute-to-minute, as opposed to having a sore neck from looking up at the buildings. As you get more used to places, you can enjoy them in a different way.
CHOOSING PROJECTS: [If I’m unsure about a project,] I often send it to my mum. She reads a lot. She’s been around. She knows. At the end of the day, you can get as many opinions as you want, but it’s going to be you that’s doing it, and you’ve got to really want to do it and really think that it’s a story that a) You’re going to want to watch, and b) you’d feel happy about telling your mates to watch. If you don’t think you’re going to happily get them to see it, then you have no right to do it, really. And it should teach people something about the world and have some sort of thing other than just being entertainment.
CREATING CHARACTERS: [When I signed on for Fortitude,] I’d only read the first episode so it was sort of going from one to the other: “Will I learn a little bit more about my character in Episode Two? Not necessarily.” But you have to be flexible. I think it’s the same with any long running TV shows, you’re only given a certain amount of information—it’s very different to doing a play or a film when you’ve got the whole beginning and end. It keeps you free to explore different sides of the character. There are a lot of filmmakers who won’t tell the actors what’s going to happen until the day of—or the day before—[shooting], or give them the dialogue the day before. Even when there’s a scene happening, they might not get told that something is about to happen in that scene. It’s taking it to a different level because it’s capturing that first-ever knowledge of that situation. But there’s no other choice, really. You’ve just got to deal with it.
THE SCIENCE BEHIND FORTITUDE: Natalie Yelburton, Sienna [Guillory]’s character, is studying cases of spontaneous aborts and hermaphroditism in reindeer. [My character] has gone there to study apex predators—polar bears—so slightly upgrading from badgers in the U.K. He’s studying the effects of perfluorinated compounds, the chemicals and plastics that humans release into the water system that then work there way through bio-magnification into the apex predators. I still remember this! It’s amazing. It’s quite scary and it’s true—they’re seeing instances of cannibalism in polar bears and that’s partly to do with all the ice melting and the climate change and being starving and not being able to use the ice to get to their hunting grounds, but also there are weird things happening with their brains because they are exposed to so many of these chemicals. It’s all art imitating life, really. It’s interesting to read about, but also really sad that we—the big corporations of the world—are saying our profits are worth more than environmental health. I think that’s terribly wrong and we need to stand up to it. A lot of the science in this show is actually pegged on real research. There are elements to the show which are imaginative as well, but a lot of the science in it is very much true.
IF I COULD PLAY ANY OTHER CHARACTER ON FORTITUDE… I would be Nick’s [Nicholas Pinnock] character because he’s a helicopter pilot and he’s been driving boats around and skidoos. I’ve spent far too much time in the lab. I’ve asked them specifically, in Season Two, if I could go onto the glacier and do something on a snowmobile—getting to go on a skidoo, that’s all I want to do!
MOVIES EVERY ACTOR SHOULD SEE: Chinatown, 100 percent. Dancer in the Dark, that’s an amazing film. Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, On the Waterfront. There are some great new films as well: Birdman. The Theory of Everything—that made me cry. I was in bits.
SEASON ONE OF FORTITUDE IS CURRENTLY AIRING EVERY THURSDAY ON PIVOT.