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Wrap up warm: Fortitude brings a winter chill to the capital

Date posted: 28.01.2015

It's late January and the beer gardens and sun-filled parks of summer have faded into the mists of a long-forgotten memory. But don't fight the chill - wrap up warm and prepare to brave the sub-zero temperatures of Fortitude, a new 12-part drama coming to Sky Atlantic. Packed full of familiar faces, British series Fortitude looks set for success when it premieres on UK and US television tomorrow.

In cold blood

The series takes its name from the fictional Arctic town in which it is set; serene and idyllic, this isolated settlement seems little more than a patchwork of houses and glacial sheets of ice. But Fortitude's precious peace is shattered when a grisly murder takes place - the first violent crime the town has ever known.

Hot on its heels is investigator DCI Morton (Stanley Tucci), who is drafted in to help the local head of police (Richard Dormer) crack the case. Meanwhile, the town's governor (Sofie Gråbøl) finds she has her work cut out to uphold Fortitude's spotless reputation. Also thrown into the mêlée are British scientist Professor Stoddart (Christopher Eccleston) and wildlife photographer Henry Tyson (Michael Gambon), who only has weeks to live.

Bringing the Arctic to the capital

The Arctic Circle does not make for the most accommodating of shooting locations, so the production opted for Iceland for the show's icy exterior shots. Audiences might be surprised, however, to learn that the show's interior scenes were filmed right here in the capital.

"We had a strong desire to base the shoot in London," line producer Charles Hubbard explains. "It allowed us easier access to Iceland, where we were shooting." The capital's world-class facilities and crew, along with the UK tax relief for high-end television drama, make London a perfect fit for a production of this scale.

From fruit depot to snowy hamlet

Facilitated by Film London, the production made contact with commercial property consultancy Fidens who helped them to secure an alternative studio space in a warehouse in Hayes. London has a vast array of alternative filming spaces, which can often provide a cheaper and more flexible alternative to standard studios.

"We spent three months and £500,000 converting a warehouse in Hayes into two stages with a soundproof wall, which combined to make 40,000 sq ft of sound stages," Charles Hubbard continues. This warehouse went on to hold the sets for Fortitude's houses, civic centre and police station.

Fidens' Jonny Levy gave us some background information on the space. "It's a secure site with an attached industrial yard, so the production team built a skin on the roof and soundproofed the walls. In its former life it was a distribution warehouse for exotic fruits and specialist vegetables."

But that's just the tip of the iceberg...

While most of the interior scenes were shot in the Hayes warehouse, the crew also took advantage of London's diverse variety of locations to recreate a range of interiors. For this, they required the kind of modern, contemporary architecture that could easily be adapted to match the exteriors of both the parochial town of Fortitude and the more imposing buildings of the mainland.

"We were looking for something 'un-English'," location manager Amanda Stevens explains. "Somewhere that didn't look like it was in London." The crew constructed an Arctic clinic in Swakeleys in Uxbridge and based the Mayor of Fortitude's house in a 1950s home in Bromley.

"It's never stated where the mainland is supposed to be - it could be Sweden, Norway or Denmark. We wanted those locations to have the grandeur and modernity of a capital city, so we used the Moran Hotel in Chiswick and Hackney Town Hall."

"Fortitude, the town, is very bare and unsophisticated; it's more backwater."

Watch this sleepy town get woken up when Fortitude premieres tomorrow night, 9pm on Sky Atlantic.

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