Richard Dormer: 'In my life I've been going through tough times,' says tearful star

Norway-set sci-fi thriller Fortitude is back for a third and final series, and Richard Dormer is really going to miss playing sheriff Dan Anderssen. The Northern Ireland actor talks to Georgia Humphreys about relating to his character's difficult journey, and how filming the show has been a cathartic process

Northern Ireland actor Richard Dormer as Dan Anderssen in Foritude

IT'S impossible to ignore how emotional Richard Dormer feels about the end of Fortitude. Tears suddenly start rolling down the Portadown-born actor's cheeks, as he discusses the Sky Atlantic sci-fi thriller.

Now in its third – and final – series, the 49-year-old plays the mad and sinister Sheriff Dan Anderssen, at the centre of the crazy goings-on in a close-knit community located in the Arctic Circle.

"Some characters, some jobs, some souls you can relate to," Dormer says candidly, as he dabs at his eyes, and tries to pinpoint exactly why this has "been the most emotional" shoot he's ever done.

"Just personally, in my life I've been going through tough times and this guy is doing the same thing, he's trying not to lose himself.

"It's kind of a reflection of where I am, and that journey of someone trying to hold on to the things he loves."

But filming the series, which was created by Simon Donald, has been "cathartic".

"It's therapy time for me!" quips the actor, best known at home for his roles as Alex Higgins in his own stage play Hurricane and as Terry Hooley in the film Good Vibrations, and recognised internationally for his role as Beric Dondarrion in Game Of Thrones.

So far in Fortitude, we've seen a lot of deaths, and some bonkers storylines, such as a killing spree by a parasitic wasp, and the rampage of a shaman seeking revenge.

And Dan – having survived the parasite, and a host of other traumatic events – has lost his way.

The new episodes will see the complex character struggling to hold on to any sense of good and evil.

"He's evolved, he's a new human being... or maybe not human," Dormer says. "He's a demon, he's lost his morality, his humanity. But he's stronger and wiser than ever, so that's pretty scary."

He's also seeing ghosts – and things that others can't see.

Dormer continues: "As well as being addicted to every substance on the planet, he's now addicted to muscimol juice; when reindeer have eaten fungi and then they pee, and they collect the pee.

"Eskimos used to actually do this to be able to have visions of the afterlife or the land of the dead. Dan has one foot in this world and the other foot in the land of the dead so he can communicate with the people who he has killed."

The final instalment of the show, which also stars the likes of Dennis Quaid, Luke Treadaway and Sienna Guillory, was shot in Svalbard, Norway.

At times, the weather dropped as low as –35 degrees, –50 with wind chill.

"It's where the show is originally set," says Dormer, "and it really added a new dimension to the characters because we were informed by the severity and the absolute brutality of that landscape."

How did he find it being in a much colder environment for this series?

"If you take your glove off to light a cigarette, within 20 seconds it hurts," he recalls. "And if you're going out for a walk you've got to tell somebody, because if you slip and get knocked unconscious, you're dead in 10, 15 minutes. So you have to be really careful."

But there's no denying this added element of danger helped with his performance.

"I think everybody just got tougher and meaner and then whenever we do the interiors, when it's warm and cosy, out comes this extreme gentleness and love. So you get those extremes," says Dormer, who is married to Cork-born theatre director Rachel O'Riordan.

"We tried to get them in the first two seasons but I think they really come out in this one."

The show isn't an easy watch, with its heavy themes of loss, death and identity. But it has amassed a huge cult following, perhaps for the clever way it balances elements of horror (expect some gruesome scenes) and sci-fi.

It also feels "kind of Greek", notes Dormer. "Dan is kind of Prometheus because he's stolen this gift... He's stolen the power to regenerate, to become godlike, and with that power of course comes the responsibility and it's how a human being deals with that."

He adds: "Having played this part, I could play anything because nothing could take me as far into darkness and light. This part has just been extraordinary."

It may be time for him to say a sad goodbye to the role, but at least Dormer is going to keep a prop to remember Dan by – his gun.

"It's the best gun on television," he boasts. "Dan is an Arctic sheriff; he's like a western sheriff and he's kind of styling himself on that. So we got this beautiful gun holster made and a 9in barrel magnum, and it's a real gun!"

Fortitude is a job Dormer has clearly relished in more ways than one.

"I'm really going to miss it because it's like Dan's my best friend," he says. "He's a monster but I play him like nobody's truly a monster; there's a deep humanity in him and I think that's what makes him interesting.

"If he ever does anything wrong, you know it's going to hurt him later. He has a conscience. Even though he's losing his humanity, there's still a little seed of goodness in him, and that's what I hold on to when I'm playing him – that he could redeem himself."

:: Fortitude returns to Sky Atlantic and Now TV on Thursday, December 6.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access


Today's horoscope


See a different horoscope: