Groundbreaking UK drama Fortitude to premiere this week

Major new high-end television drama Fortitude (Tiger Aspect/Sky Atlantic/Pivot) will make history tomorrow at 9pm GMT, when it will premiere as the first programme to be broadcast simultaneously throughout Europe by Sky. The UK-shot thriller will also debut in the US on the same day on network Pivot.

Fortitude follows the investigation of a murder in a seemingly idyllic Arctic community, and boasts a stellar cast including Stanley Tucci and Sofie Gråbøl, already well known to high-end television audiences through her starring role in The Killing (DR).

British on both sides of the camera

It’s not just international stars bringing name recognition to this prestigious new programme, the show is also brought to life by UK talent. Alongside Tucci and Gråbøl, the series stars a host of the UK’s most renowned actors, including Sir Michael Gambon, perhaps best known to audiences for his role as Professor Dumbledore in Warner Bros.’ Harry Potter franchise, Christopher Eccleston and Jessica Raine, who previously starred in Call the Midwife (Neal Street Productions) and can be currently seen in acclaimed UK-made drama Wolf Hall (Playground Entertainment/Company Pictures).

Behind the camera, Fortitude has an almost entirely UK crew, including:

• Directors Sam Miller, Hettie MacDonald and Nick Hurran
• Writer Simon McDonald
• Production Designer Gemma Jackson
• Executive Producer Frith Tiplady

As Head of Drama Production at one of the UK’s most respected television companies, Tiger Aspect, Executive Producer Tiplady is no stranger to major television productions, with previous credits including Peaky Blinders (Caryn Mandabach Productions/Tiger Aspect) and Ripper Street (Tiger Aspect/BBC).

Making the Arctic in the UK

Despite the production’s Arctic setting, Fortitude made extensive use of UK facilities and locations. The production was based in a converted warehouse in West London, which provided the production with 38,000 sq. ft of stage space a stone’s throw from the centre of the city.

Fortitude is not the only major television show to take advantage of the wealth of alternative stage space available in the UK. Last year, Outlander (Starz/Sony Pictures Television/Left Bank) shot at Wardpark Studios, an alternative stage space in Cumbernauld, Scotland and 24: Live Another Day (Twentieth Century Fox Television) based itself at West London’s Gillette Building. Additionally, major Starz/BBC Worldwide production Da Vinci’s Demons utilised the 225,000 sq. ft of stage space offered by Swansea Gate Business Park in South Wales.

Beyond studio space, Fortitude used a host of locations throughout London to double as Arctic interiors, including Hackney Town Hall, Chiswick’s Moran Hotel and Bromley’s Waterside House, as well as shooting further afield, including Oxfordshire’s Heyford Park.

Fortitude also shot in Iceland, which doubled for the eponymous fictional Arctic town, highlighting the ease with which productions can co-produce between the UK and other territories whilst still accessing the UK’s generous tax reliefs. Previous productions which have shot in both the UK and Iceland include Alien prequel Prometheus (Twentieth Century Fox), which based its UK shoot at Pinewood Studios, along with HBO’s Game of Thrones, which is based at Belfast’s Titanic Studios.

A golden age for television

Fortitude is just one of several UK made high-end television dramas gathering attention in 2015, with last week’s premiere of Wolf Hall gaining the highest ratings for a BBC Two drama in a decade. The series will be followed by major Lionsgate TV production The Royals, which will premiere in March 2015. The drama, which focuses on a fictional British royal family, has already been renewed by US network Starz for a second series, due to shoot later this year.