Arctic heatwave in Vancouver
Arctic Air star Pascale Hutton thought she knew the difference between slightly chilly and absolutely freezing until on-location shooting in Yellowknife provided a harsh re-education.
“It’s 40-below. We finish filming, run into a heated tent and we’re like, ‘oh my gosh, it’s so warm in here, this feels so good,’” recalled Hutton during a December interview in a warm CBC Vancouver studio. “The make-up artist goes over to her bag and pulls out her water bottle that has been in the tent the whole time, and it’s ice. So it feels so warm in there, but it’s still literally freezing.”
But, according to Hutton, the je ne sais quoi that Yellowknife infuses into Arctic Air is well worth braving the chill. “People say, ‘Couldn’t you just fake it? Couldn’t you just go up to Squamish and get some snow shots?’ And we really couldn’t,” said the Vancouver-based actress, who added that she considers Yellowknife a co-star. “That landscape is so specific and it really does inform so much of our storyline and the interaction between the people. We have to go out there.”
Arctic Air follows the harrowing adventures and messy interpersonal relationships of a group of pilots working for a struggling Yellowknife airline co-owned by cantankerous Mel Ivarson (Kevin McNulty) and playboy Bobby Martin (Adam Beach). The first season of Arctic Air smashed ratings records for the national broadcaster, and positioned Hutton as a breakout star.
Hutton portrays Mel’s daughter Krista, a talented, headstrong pilot who shares a complicated romantic past with Beach’s Bobby. “What initially drew me to the character was that… she was almost the traditional male role,” said Hutton, 33, who’d previously graced the small screen with roles on Sanctuary, Flashpoint, and Smallville. “[Krista]’s the one who’s kind of hard around the edges. She’s not flaky. She’s not emotional. She’s the person you want to call in an emergency because she will get stuff done.”
Hutton has nothing but praise for co-star Beach, a veteran of film and television whose credits include Windtalkers, Flags of our Fathers, and Cowboys & Aliens. “[Beach] is an amazingly charming man, and he tells me I’m beautiful every day, so how can I really not like that man? Even when I look like I’ve gone through a meat-grinder, he’s like, ‘Pascale, you look amazing,’” said Hutton. “He’s a lovely person to be around, and we put in a lot of hours together, and that could potentially be tense, and it never is.”
Their on-screen chemistry took centre stage in the season one finale when Krista, newly engaged to fellow pilot Blake (John Reardon), shared a sizzling smooch with Bobby — a moment that happened to be witnessed by her hapless fiancé.
“[The triangle] just gets more complicated and tense and awkward and painful and passionate in season two,” said Hutton with a laugh. “That triangle really carries us through season two, because they all are still working together, and trying to work out that complex web of emotions.”
The new season will also introduce viewers to Krista’s previously MIA mother. “That just unearths a whole new side to Krista that we have never seen,” said Hutton.
Arctic Air isn’t focused solely on relationships. It’s also an action-adventure show, showcasing the dangers regularly faced by Northern pilots. “Obviously it’s ramped up for television… but those scenarios that they find themselves in, those aren’t made-up scenarios,” said Hutton.
She spoke from experience: shortly after production began on season one, a pilot who’d flown Arctic Air crewmembers to film aerial shots was killed in a plane crash in Yellowknife. The first episode of the series was dedicated to this pilot and her colleague.
“When you are dealing with those elements, such extreme cold, that adds an intensity to every aspect,” said Hutton. “Then to fly in that sort of environment is intense.”
Still, the Creston native (and mother to a rambunctious toddler) relishes every second she spends in the Northern sky with professional Arctic pilots. “[When] you’re in those little planes and you’re looking out the window and the landscape is right there below you, it’s surreal and it’s amazing,” she said.
Arctic Air kicks off its second season at 9pm on January 9 on CBC.