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Nunavummiuq actor basks in The Terror


Iqaluit actor Johnny Issaluk was in a hotel room in Ottawa on March 26 watching the premiere of the television series The Terror, 172 years after Sir John Franklin's ill-fated ships got trapped in Arctic Ocean ice.

Ciaran Hinds plays Sir John Franklin in the AMC television series The Terror. Franklin and his 128 crew members all died after the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror got trapped in Arctic Ocean ice in 1846 in what is modern-day Nunavut territory. Three actors from Iqaluit also have roles in the TV series.
Aidan Monaghan/AMC photo

Issaluk, who plays the role of a Netsilik hunter on the show, appeared on-screen in the first episode.

"It was very good. It was very well done and I was fascinated by the whole show," he said. "It exceeded my expectations."

The series, which airs on the U.S. network AMC, has 10 instalments in its debut season. Issaluk will appear in three of those episodes, according to the website IMDB. Apayata Kotierk, another Nunavummiuq actor, takes on the role of a shaman and is also cast in three episodes. Iqaluit's Vinnie Karetak plays the character Koveyook, who appears in one episode.

Although Issaluk is part of The Terror, he's primarily aware of his own scenes. He wasn't privy to the remainder of the filming and production.

"They don't allow you to see it until it's out," he said. "When you watch it on TV, they do an amazing job to make you look good... I'm looking forward to the rest of it."

Filming for the series initially took place in Budapest, Hungary, in November 2016. Then cast members were brought back to Europe, to Croatia, in May 2017 to continue filming.

Prior to sending a video audition for the show – which he said he was urged to do by friend Nive Nielsen, a Greenlandic actress who landed a major role in The Terror – Issaluk coincidentally travelled through the Northwest Passage during summer 2016.

"I saw the graves and everything, and got the history from historians on the ship. Then I started filming. It's crazy," he said, adding that a subsequent play he was cast in at Stratford Theatre in Ontario had a reference to the Franklin expedition. "Everything is meant to happen the way it happens."

Asked whether he's aware if there will be a second season of The Terror, Issaluk said he's unsure.

"I don't want to screw it up, but I thought they all die anyways at the end," he joked. "I haven't heard (about a second season). I just do what I'm told, do my job."

Issaluk travelled to Ontario last week for the premiere of another project that he's involved in, Indian Horse. That feature film tells the story of an Indigenous boy who shows promise as a hockey player, but he battles racism and alcoholism after enduring the residential school experience.

Issaluk was too busy to check online for critical reviews of The Terror, but he had been receiving many comments from family and friends, he said.

"I've had a lot of messages where they're saying they're very proud of me and I did a good job, and they really enjoyed the show, the storyline," he said.

Among the interested viewers March 26 was Gjoa Haven's Sammy Kogvik, who gained acclaim by revealing that he had found the location of the mast of the Franklin ship HMS Terror. The ship's wreckage was officially discovered in 2016 off of King William Island, two years after the Erebus was located in the Queen Maud Gulf.

"I enjoyed watching it. It was a good show," Kogvik said of The Terror, adding that he wishes the producers had started at an earlier point in history to capture more of the background of how the Franklin expedition came to be. "If it was the full story, I think I would enjoy it even more."

The Franklin ships, with a mission of traversing the Northwest Passage, departed Britain in 1845 before getting trapped in the Arctic ice of Victoria Strait a year later. They eventually sunk. All 129 crew on board perished, but some of the men are suspected to have endured a few years of agonizing existence before meeting their demise.