Entertainment

Colin Farrell on going to the arctic for a rare TV role

Colin Farrell stars in the new period drama “The North Water” — marking one of his rare small-screen roles.

“It was like nothing I had ever endured before,” Farrell, 45, told The Post. 

Premiering Thursday on AMC+ (BBC Two in the UK), the five-episode miniseries is set in the 1850s and follows Patrick Sumner (Jack O’Connell), a disgraced ex-army surgeon who joins a whaling expedition to the Arctic. His fellow crew members include Henry Drax (Farrell), a violent and brutish harpooner, and tensions soon rise between the two men. 

 “Henry Drax is an animal of pure instinct and desire,” said Farrell. “I do think at the heart of all of us — men particularly, perhaps — there is a kind of a brutality that has been tapered down and socialized, but it’s still there in our darker moments. So I found it fascinating to try to understand the psychology of a man that I would like to think is very different from me, but maybe isn’t as different as would be comfortable.” 

Colin Farrell as the brutish harpooner Henry Drax in "The North Water."
Colin Farrell as the brutish harpooner Henry Drax in “The North Water.”
© 2021 See-Saw Films

“The North Water” is the Irish movie star’s first major TV role since HBO’s “True Detective” in 2015, but he hasn’t deliberately stuck to the big screen, he said. (He’s a fan of the Netflix series “Mindhunter.”)

“Fewer and fewer actors and directors are drawing any line of delineation between television and film. I’m a big fan of [‘The North Water’ creator] Andrew Haigh. When I read [the script], I thought, ‘This is going to be so brutal, unrelentingly so,’ but also there was some strange beauty at the center of it.”

Colin Farrell attending a premiere in 2019.
Colin Farrelll in 2019.
FilmMagic

Farrell, who splits his time between his native Ireland and LA, underwent a physical transformation for the part.

“I ate and lifted weights. Drax was drawn as a big thick hulking brute, and my physiology doesn’t naturally lean in that direction. So, I knew that I had a little bit of work to do to physically inhabit him.”

Colin Farrell stands on a ship in "The North Water."
Colin Farrell as Henry Drax in “The North Water.”
Nick Wall/BBC Studios/See-Saw Fi

Although he’s been all over the world for his films, in locations ranging from the picturesque Belgian setting of “In Bruges” to Morocco (for “Alexander”), “The North Water” put him, he said, in “The most unusual environment I had ever found myself in – and the most extreme.”

While filming the show, Farrell and his co-stars stayed aboard a ship on the frozen seas near the Svalbard Archipelago for five weeks, in what’s reportedly the furthest north a drama series has ever been filmed, just 500 miles from the North Pole.

“There was something very liberating about the experience of being up there,” he said. “It had a kind of a loneliness to it that was soothing. There was nothing in the way of anything man-made. It was just raw, hostile cold and dangerous nature.”

Colin Farrell as the violent Henry Drax slays whales and seals in "The North Water."
Colin Farrell as Henry Drax in “The North Water,” filming just 500 miles from the North Pole.
© 2021 See-Saw Films

The region’s wildlife was a concern — though Farrell wasn’t worried. “We had polar bear spotters who were equipped with rifles in case anything went pear-shaped. To be honest, civilization has a lot to answer for. We just have to look at the world around us and see how we treat each other and what we’re doing to the environment and the kind of breadth of greed that seems to inevitably rear its head when man is doing his business on this planet.

“So, it was actually a great relief to go to what felt like a more basic time and place.”

"The North Water" cast: Cavendish (Sam Spruell), left, Henry Drax (Farrell), Captain Brownlee (Stephen Graham), center, Patrick Sumner (Jack O'Connell) and Otto (Roland Møller), right.
Cavendish (Sam Spruell), left, Henry Drax (Farrell), Captain Brownlee (Stephen Graham), center, Patrick Sumner (Jack O’Connell) and Otto (Roland Møller), right, in “The North Water.”
Nick Wall/BBC Studios/See-Saw Fi

Aside from “The North Water,” Farrell has a slew of movies coming up, including a reunion with “In Bruges” team Martin McDonagh and Brendan Gleeson for “The Banshee of Inisheer”; a romantic drama with his “The Lobster” co-star Rachel Weisz called “Love Child”; and “The Batman” with Robert Pattinson in the title role (Farrell co-stars as Oswald Cobblepot, aka “The Penguin”). 

He has laissez faire outlook about them all. “I don’t really have any expectations or hopes for many things. Not that I’m a pessimist — I just try to live fully in the experience of doing [a project] and then it’s so out of your hands.”

He called “The Batman” a “strange experience,” since the pandemic arrived in the middle of filming. “The script was extraordinary and visually from what I saw, the world is rich and dark. I have no idea what the film is going to be. But I loved being part of it.”

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