Allan Hawco is up front that Frontier is not “an Allan Hawco vanity project.”
He says that a couple of times during the course of our chat about Discovery Canada’s first foray into scripted television. Yes, he’s set to co-star in the six-parter about the fight for wealth and power in the North American fur trade of the late 18th century, but he’s not the lead. That honour goes to Jason Momoa. Instead, Hawco will remain largely behind the scenes, serving as an executive producer alongside his fellow Take the Shot Production partners, two of whom—Rob (on the right in the above picture) and Peter Blackie—actually conceived of the project.
“There are so many stories to mine from history around the world, especially here in Canada, that has never fully been exploited,” Hawco says. “That’s just bizarre to me. I think there is a real appetite from Canadians to hear their stories told in an interesting and thought-provoking way.” Hawco, who starred, directed, wrote and produced Republic of Doyle for six seasons describes Frontier as being the story of the birth of capitalism in North America, and the greed, blood and power that went along with it. Frontier begins with The Hudson Bay Company, which has a monopoly on what’s happening during the fur trade in the region that will one day be Canada. Smaller factions seek out their own piece of the pie; Hawco portrays Douglas Brown, who plots alongside his brothers to steal some of the HBC’s thunder.
Rob Blackie explains the idea for Frontier came about thanks to a chance meeting at MIPCOM between business parter Alex Patrick and Discovery’s Edwina Follows. The network’s interest in having more dramatic, scripted programming lead to the brothers kicking around ideas for a time period history-based series; they presented Follows with two projects and Frontier was greenlit.
‘It’s an interesting, super-violent part of Canadian history that not a lot of people know about,” Blackie says. “As soon as we started researching it, we were shocked at how little we knew and how conflictual the time period was. The deeper we got, the more interesting it got.” Momoa plays the series’ anti-hero, a part-Irish, part-Cree man named Declan who works with a gang and becomes an unlikely host to a boy named Michael who has been living on the streets of London. Other cast includes Alun Armstrong, Landon Liboiron, Zoe Boyle and Jessica Matten.
Production just wrapped filming in England and has set up shop in St. John’s until a Christmas hiatus. Then it’s on to Louisbourg, N.S., to film at the famous fort and Morrisburg, Ont., to capture action at Fort Wellington in February.
“Winter has an inherent beauty and, if you can capture it, an amazing production value,” Blackie says. “And it’s true to the story. Winter was an important part of the fur trade.”
Frontier debuts on Discovery Canada and Netflix outside of Canada in 2016.
(Photo credit: Duncan de Young on set of Frontier.)