BIG READ: Vancouver as Yellowknife & Calgary for ARCTIC AIR’s 2nd Season

Published January 9th, 2013 on Vancouver is Awesome

A wildfire breaks out on the season two debut of Arctic Air tonight at 9 p.m. on CBC, with “real-life fire, smoke and trees falling down in front of us” say leads Adam Beach and Pascale Hutton about a 10-day shoot up north last August, supplemented by elements in the Vancouver area and computer-generated effects. This classic adventure series tries to film as many exteriors as it can in Yellowknife, block shooting two episodes at a time which overlap into four episodes, making the season seem like one long movie, according to Beach and Hutton. But the bulk of filming is done in Vancouver on permanent sets like the DC-3 fuselage (used for green-screen flying) in Aldergrove or at small airports around the Fraser Valley. Last season our downtown memorably played itself for one episode, the wonderfully-titled “Vancouver is Such a Screwed-up City”, but not this time. When our northern pilots do go south in the second season, it will be to Burnaby pretending to be Calgary for the penultimate episode guest-starring Dragons’ Den Dragon and best-selling personal finance author David Chilton as himself.  I had the chance to interview all three CBC stars at CBC Vancouver’s Open House and Food Bank Day late last year.

The story so far: loose-cannon Bobby Martin (Adam Beach) returns to Yellowknife after a decade down south to help keep alive the maverick airline co-founded by his dead father and the cantankerous Mel Ivarson (Kevin McNulty). There he reunites with Mel’s daughter Krista (Pascale Hutton), a childhood friend, former flame and Arctic Air’s chief pilot. In last year’s season finale cliffhanger. much of it filmed in B.C.’s Cariboo country, Mel has internal bleeding after helping the other survivors of a plane crash and Krista’s fiance is fed up with her obvious attachment to Bobby.  What’s ahead? Well, Mr. Crankypants lives and the relationship between Bobby and Krista intensifies, which will delight the many Bobby and Krista (Bista?) shippers.

After all, it wouldn’t be Arctic Air without hookups — and fights. One of last season’s best fighters, prospector Jim McAlister (Aleks Paunovic who once boxed for Canada in the Pan Am Games ), will put the gloves on for an amateur boxing match filmed inside a hangar at the Langley airport.  The very tall Paunovic, affectionately known as “The Griz” on set, tweeted a photo of himself rehearsing the fight.

Bobby is coaching his pal Jim and this sets up a clash with a new nemesis, the sleazy promoter of the fight (Ben Cotton), a guy who “beat the hell” out of Bobby when they were younger. The two men will  clash over their own kids too, Beach says, as Bobby’s  relationship with his son grows in importance in the season two storylines.

Since the episodes are filmed out of order and my interview short, I’m not sure if the amateur fight is part of a comedic one about gold fever in which our Yellowknife characters are “all looking for gold,” Beach says. “It’s all they think about.”
I am more comfortable writing about the set-in-Calgary episode guest-starring David Chilton, He says he was thrilled to meet local sci-fi goddess Amanda Tapping (Stargate SG1, Stargate Atlantis and Sanctuary) who directed it. “I’ve read about her following,” he confides. Chilton shot his cameo in a Burnaby hotel ballroom a couple of days before the CBC Vancouver Open House. While he played himself, it’s a self that’s “being conned” at a book-signing by guest stars Sonja Bennett and Sage Brocklebank. Is this where fiction diverges from real life?
There will be very little to fake for the episode featuring the last shoot of the season in Yellowknife. Cast and crew bonded in the “deep freeze”, Pascale Hutton says of shooting scenes in 35 below weather with the howling wind and extreme temperatures restricting movement and making it difficult for cast to stand outside far less rattle off pages of scripted dialogue.  Hutton tweeted some photos of herself looking suitably frozen.
Arctic Air airs Wedensdays at 9 p.m. on the CBC.

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