Well, there certainly wasn't anything "Arctic" about the air in Manitoba this past week.
But the hot, muggy conditions that are bringing August to a close in this region didn't stop the cast and crew of CBC's coolest -- literally -- drama, Arctic Air, from shooting scenes for the first two episodes of their third season in some rather steamy locales just a short drive from Winnipeg.
"It's a bit unexpected, and it has slowed us down," said executive producer Gary Harvey, who is also the director of the first two episodes of the upcoming season, which will debut early next year. "It's been a bit of a slog; we weren't really prepared for the heat aspect of it. It isn't really a problem we've had before on Arctic Air. It's been quite interesting, how it really has slowed everything down. The heat really takes it out of you."
The first stop on show's abbreviated Manitoba tour was Scanterbury, and the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation, where series star Adam Beach and his Arctic Air cohorts spent a couple of days turning a residential dirt road into the site of a blockade that will figure into an Episode 2 storyline in which Bobby Martin (Beach) finds himself drawn into a clash between protesters and police over a proposed fracking operation.
The scenes required nearly 60 extras -- almost all from the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation -- to form the angry, placard-waving mob that opposes fracking and is prepared to fight to keep drilling crews off native land.
"The community has been great; we had a lot of people show up for it, and there's been no complaining, despite the heat," said Harvey. "It's great when you can roll in and draw from the community directly. We try to do that whenever we can."
For its next stop, the entire operation relocated to Pinawa to shoot scenes involving a canoe-trip mishap and a subsequent whitewater rescue effort -- a sequence from Arctic Air's third-season opener that sets the stage for an ongoing focus on search-and-rescue operations throughout the season.
When the Free Press visited the Arctic Air set during its second sweltering day at Brokenhead, Manitoban-born star Beach was clearly glad to be back on home turf and was using the whirlwind location tour as an opportunity to reconnect with old friends and make one rather significant new announcement.
"For me, coming home represents looking back at my entire career, from (1993's) Spirit Rider right through to Arctic Air," said Beach, 40, who is slightly more than 20 years removed from his first speaking part in a locally produced TV movie. "It kind of shows the evolution, and it shows people that you can achieve whatever you want if you have the desire and passion to pursue it. I mean, I shouldn't be doing what I'm doing, but I got here."
Beach capitalized on this shooting-schedule detour to his home province by combining the Arctic Air production with the official launch -- on Wednesday, Aug. 28, at the South Beach Casino -- of the Adam Beach Film Institute (adambeachfilminstitute.com), an non-profit organization committed to providing resources and training for aboriginal youths interested in pursuing careers in the film and TV industry.
"We were planning the launch to be later this fall, but when we found out we were going to be (shooting) up here, it made things a lot easier," he said. "The film institute represents an opportunity for me to share my experience; it's my chance to say to young people, 'C'mon, jump on my train. It's a pretty good ride.'"
And speaking of smooth rides, Beach said he's very content in the role of maverick Far North pilot/businessman Bobby Martin on CBC's Arctic Air. Though he has had parts in ongoing TV dramas before, ranging from The Rez to Law & Order: SVU, he has tended not to remain in one role for an extended duration, as his career has moved seamlessly between feature films and TV roles.
"The most important thing about Arctic Air, for me, is that we've created a character that reaches out to (aboriginal) communities throughout Canada that watch television for entertainment," he said. "And if we can tell stories that show this young man, Bobby Martin, as a hero and a role model and an intelligent man who can succeed in spite of whatever trials and tribulations face him, it's going to have a positive impact on a lot of young aboriginals in communities that are in need of inspiration. A show like this can promote a successful journey in their lives."
Before getting back to work on Arctic Air, Beach spent some time in Austin, Texas, working alongside fellow Manitoban Tracy Spiridakos on episodes for the second season of the NBC/Citytv drama Revolution. In that series, which returns Sept. 25, Beach plays the sheriff of a small Texas town where Charlie (Spiridakos) and the rest of the rebels take refuge during their cross-country trek.
Beach said he has also been in discussions with comic-book titan Stan Lee that may result in the addition of a Native American superhero to the Marvel Comics roster that currently includes Spider-Man, Thor, Captain America, the Hulk and The Avengers.
For now, however, Beach is strapped into his current commitments as Arctic Air and the Adam Beach Film Institute prepare for takeoff.
"It's kind of nice how the launch of the film institute and what I'm doing with Arctic Air fit with each other," he said. "Like Bobby Martin, I'm a guy who's coming back home and saying, 'Look, this is the experience that I had when I was away from you guys, and this is what I'm bringing back.'"
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