Belfast Telegraph

Richard Dormer: 'I've been going through tough times and my character is doing the same'

Fortitude is back for a third and final series, and Portadown-born actor Richard Dormer is really going to miss playing sheriff Dan Anderssen. He talks to Georgia Humphreys about relating to his character's difficult journey, and how filming the show has been a cathartic process

Arctic role: Richard Dormer as Dan Anderssen and Dennis Quaid as Michael Lennox in Fortitude
Arctic role: Richard Dormer as Dan Anderssen and Dennis Quaid as Michael Lennox in Fortitude
Dormer in his one-man show as Northern Ireland snooker legend Alex Higgins

It's impossible to ignore how emotional Richard Dormer feels about the end of Fortitude.

Tears suddenly start rolling down the Northern Irish star's cheeks as he discusses the Sky Atlantic sci-fi thriller.

Now in its third - and final - series, the 49-year-old plays the mad and sinister Sheriff Dan Anderssen, who's at the centre of the crazy goings-on in a close-knit community in the Arctic Circle.

"Some characters, some jobs, some souls you can relate to," Dormer says candidly, as he dabs at his eyes and tries to pinpoint exactly why this has "been the most emotional" shoot he's ever done.

"Just personally, in my life, I've been going through tough times and this guy is doing the same thing. He's trying not to lose himself.

"It's kind of a reflection of where I am, and that journey of someone trying to hold on to the things he loves."

But filming the series, which was created by Simon Donald, has been "cathartic".

"It's therapy time for me," says the actor, who's also known for his role as Beric Dondarrion in the HBO series Game Of Thrones.

He also wrote and performed in a one-man show based on the rise and fall of troubled, Belfast-born snooker genius Alex Higgins.

Dormer explained that he decided to write the play after meeting Higgins in a train station in Dublin and discovering that he reminded him of himself as a young man.

Dormer won the BBC Stewart Parker Award for New Writing and The Stage Edinburgh Fringe Best Actor award for Hurricane.

So far in Fortitude we've seen a lot of deaths and some bonkers storylines, such as a killing spree by a parasitic wasp and the rampage of a shaman seeking revenge.

And Dan - having survived the parasite and a host of other traumatic events - has lost his way.

The new episodes will see the complex character struggling to hold on to any sense of good and evil.

"He's evolved ... he's a new human being ... or maybe not human," offers Dormer. "He's a demon. He's lost his morality and his humanity, but he's stronger and wiser than ever, so that's pretty scary."

He's also seeing ghosts - and things that others can't see.

Dormer continues: "As well as being addicted to every substance on the planet, he's now addicted to muscimol juice. When reindeer have eaten fungi and they pee, people collect the pee. Eskimos used to actually do this to be able to have visions of the afterlife or the land of the dead.

"Dan has one foot in this world and the other foot in the land of the dead, so he can communicate with the people who he has killed."

The final instalment of the show, which also stars the likes of Dennis Quaid, Luke Treadaway and Sienna Guillory, was shot in Svalbard, Norway.

At times, the weather dropped as low as -35 degrees, or -50 with wind chill.

"It's where the show is originally set," says Dormer, "and it really added a new dimension to the characters because we were informed by the severity and the absolute brutality of that landscape."

How did he find it being in a much colder environment for this series?

"If you take your glove off to light a cigarette, within 20 seconds it hurts," he admits.

"And if you're going out for a walk, you've got to tell somebody because if you slip and get knocked unconscious, you're dead in 10 or 15 minutes, so you have to be really careful."

But there's no denying this added element of danger helped with his performance.

"I think everybody just got tougher and meaner and then whenever we do the interiors, when it's warm and cosy, out comes this extreme gentleness and love, so you get those extremes.

"We tried to get them in the first two seasons, but I think they really come out in this one."

The show isn't an easy watch, with its heavy themes of loss, death and identity.

But it has amassed a huge cult following, perhaps for the clever way it balances elements of horror (expect some gruesome scenes) and sci-fi.

It also feels "kind of Greek", says Dormer.

"Dan is kind of Prometheus because he's stolen this gift ... he's stolen the power to regenerate, to become godlike, and with that power of course comes the responsibility. It's about how a human being deals with that.

"Having played this part, I could play anything because nothing could take me as far into darkness and light. This part has just been extraordinary."

It may be time for him to say a sad goodbye to the role, but at least Dormer is going to keep a prop to remember Dan by - his gun. "It's the best gun on television," he boasts.

"Dan is an Arctic sheriff; he's like a western sheriff and he's kind of styling himself on that, so we got this beautiful gun holster made for a nine-inch barrel magnum - it's a real gun!"

Fortitude is a job Dormer has clearly relished in more ways than one.

"I'm really going to miss it because it's like Dan's my best friend," he says.

"He's a monster, but I play him like nobody's truly a monster. There's a deep humanity in him and I think that's what makes him interesting.

"If he ever does anything wrong, you know it's going to hurt him later. He has a conscience. Even though he's losing his humanity, there's still a little seed of goodness in him, and that's what I hold on to when I'm playing him - that he could redeem himself."

  • Fortitude returns to Sky Atlantic and Now TV on Thursday, December 6

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