A new mini-series has debuted on American streaming service AMC+ and Nunavummiuq actor Ipeelie Ootoova has a role.
He appears as the character Urgang in the fifth episode of the story, a dark drama about an 1850s Arctic whaling expedition.
“He’s a hunter,” Ootoova said of Urgang. “He’s kind of a hero for the main character. He saved the main character’s life,”
The pilot debuted in the U.S. on July 15. Nunavummiut and others across the country will have to wait until September to view it on a Canadian channel.
Ootoova, who grew up in Pond Inlet but has lived in Cambridge Bay for the past several years with his common-law Sarah Jancke, auditioned for the mini-series remotely due to COVID-19, sending a tape to the producers.
He was selected to play Urgang and he flew to London, England for filming last September. While overseas, the pandemic forced him to isolate in a hotel, then travel to the studio for four days of production. There was very limited opportunity to see the historic city.
“I couldn’t do much over there … it was pretty strict. I had to follow quite a bit of rules. I couldn’t go out much,” he said. “The last two days before we left, we did two hours of sightseeing, that was it.”
He added that it was quite a departure from his experience filming in Montreal several years ago when he was able to tour the city and surrounding area, visit friends and go to restaurants.
Ootoova, 29, filmed scenes for The North Water with English actor Jack O’Connell, Greenland’s Nive Nielsen and a few others, but not with the show’s most famous star, Colin Farrell.
“He wasn’t there,” said Ootoova. “I didn’t get to meet Colin Farrell. A lot of people think I did.”
Breaks and rejection
The Nunavummiuq actor has been involved in feature films, short films and commercials previously, but this was his first time in a mini-series.
He said he’s currently writing for his own new project and he hopes to start filming it around November. Prior to The North Water, he co-wrote and co-directed a short film with Jancke titled Nakimayuq, a thriller that they entered in Yellowknife’s 2020 Dead North Film Festival.
Before that, there was a gap in his acting resume dating back to 2013 when he had roles in the films Maina and Uvanga. It wasn’t that he’d lost his passion, he endured a succession of rejections as he tried out for role after role, which is part of being in the industry.
“I never got picked. It was either I’m too old or too young or not right for the part. I still tried but it’s a tough business,” he said. “There’s some parts that I really wanted to get – that kind of hurt me … but I’ve learned to just move on.”
Ootoova said he “didn’t plan to be an actor,” but gained an interest in the art during high school when he took drama classes and an acting workshop.
He said there are many great filmmakers who have inspired him and he’s hoping to do the same for others.
“There’s a lot of great stories, and I’m hoping to teach people … I’ve always had that interest. Why not teach people the way film has taught me?”
The North Water earns 88 per cent on website Rotten Tomatoes and rates 7.6 out of 10 among website IMDB users.
AMC+ describes The North Water thusly: “Set in Hull, England, and on the ice floes of the Arctic in the late 1850s, the series follows the story of Patrick Sumner (Jack O’Connell), a disgraced ex-army surgeon who signs up as the ship’s doctor on a whaling expedition to the Arctic. But the ferocity of the elements is matched by the violence of his crew mates, particularly Henry Drax (Colin Farrell), a harpooner and distinctly brutal force of nature. As the true purpose of the expedition becomes clear, confrontation between the two men erupts, taking them on a journey far from solid ground and way beyond the safe moorings of civilization.”
AMC also aired two seasons of The Terror in 2018 and 2019, a show loosely based on the Franklin expedition.