Richard Madden and Augustus Prew in KLONDIKE - Season 1 | ©2014 Discovery

Richard Madden and Augustus Prew in KLONDIKE - Season 1 | ©2014 Discovery

The Discovery Channel makes an ambitious leap into scripted programming with the three-night miniseries event KLONDIKE, running at 9 PM Monday through Wednesday, Jan. 20-23. Based on Charlotte Gray’s novel GOLD DIGGERS, the 1897-set KLONDIKE mixes real people like novelist Jack London (played by Johnny Simmons) with fictional characters like our initial point-of-view characters, recent college graduates and best friends Bill Haskell, played by Richard Madden, and Byron Epstein, played by Augustus Prew.

Bill and Epstein don’t really have any idea what they’re getting into when they set out for the virtually lawless Yukon Territories, where people were prospecting for gold in the treacherous, freezing wilderness outside of Dawson City. They soon learn that their competitors can be just as dangerous as the landscape. The large cast includes Tim Roth as the openly destructive Count, Abbie Cornish as a businesswoman and Sam Shepard as a man of the cloth.

As part of its KLONDIKE presentation for the Television Critics Association, Discovery Channel has set up a saloon – complete with costumed gamblers and wenches, with even a mellow horse outside in a corral – on the back lawn of the Pasadena Langham Hotel.

British actor Prew (Prince Alfonso in Showtime’s THE BORGIAS and the hero’s best friend in KICK-ASS 2) is here with some friends, but he makes time to talk about working on the production, filmed in often freezing conditions in Calgary.

ASSIGNMENT X: Is this the most physically arduous thing you’ve done?

AUGUSTUS PREW: Most definitely. Yeah, I think I broke – the fourth day of having an avalanche on top of me, I think that was what did it. And the river rapids. It took us an hour-and-a-half to get to these locations before we even started shooting, and there’s something incredibly physical about being up at ten thousand feet with no oxygen for sixteen hours a day. It just takes it out of you. But it’s wonderful – incredible strength.

AX: Did you have any trouble with Epstein’s American accent?

PREW: No. This is not the first time I’ve played an American. I mostly play Americans.

I live here as well. So not so much [trouble]. But I liked the fact that it was not a contemporary American accent, it’s sort of a very specific New York, and a very specific community in New York, so I liked to play that accent. I feel like the voice is a really interesting way into a character, I feel like it’s where we start.

AX: Did you know anything about the Klondike gold rush before you became involved in KLONDIKE?

PREW: Well, I knew about the California gold rush, and it’s interesting that that is so much better documented. With the California gold rush, you have a legacy city, like San Francisco. That was the end result. So people always remember it, and it’s constantly brought back up, and California is obviously an incredibly relevant place in the world. Whereas the Yukon Territory, sixty miles south of the Arctic Circle, doesn’t have that advantage. And so I guess it was very much an untold story in that sense. But it embodied the Wild West and it’s very much the rhetoric of the American dream and finding your dreams and all that kind of thing, and that’s a very universal thing, I think.

AX: Why do you think Epstein decides to go to the Yukon? He says he’s going along with Bill and hoping to ride on his friend’s coattails – it’s kind of a sad moment.

PREW: I think their relationship’s more symbiotic than that. I don’t think, on the flipside, that Bill Haskell would have gone without Epstein. There was an initial draft of the script where it was Epstein’s idea to do it in the first place, but he lacks the smarts, if you will. But he very much embodies the American dream, really. He’s an immigrant and very much wanting to seek his fortune, whereas Bill Haskell is far more landed and from wealthier stock.

AX: How was working with KLONDIKE director Simon Cellan-Jones?

PREW: He’s wonderful. I worked with Simon before on THE BORGIAS on Showtime. We did two seasons of that with him, and he’s just a wonderful director. He has massive things ahead of him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was one of the ones to watch.

AX: Do you get to play any contemporary characters?

PREW: [laughs] I do. It’s funny – the next project I have lined up is also a BBC period drama, it’s set in 1920, it’s called THE VILLAGE. It’s the second season. It’s a show that’s [aired] throughout Europe. I had a movie out this summer called KICK-ASS 2, which was very much a contemporary movie, and I play Kick-Ass’ best mate in that, a character called Todd. So that was very contemporary and very sardonic and part of a franchise. But again, another American part. I do mostly Americans these days. I kind of enjoy it. It’s part of the territory – I get to transform.

AX: Is there a different vibe in working in the U.S., or at least a U.S.-produced, North-American-shot production, than in the U.K.?

PREW: Yes, I think there is. What’s the difference? I suppose it’s bigger here, if that makes sense. Crews are bigger, there’s more money to play with and therefore by and large I think people do take on bigger projects. But I would argue there’s perhaps more of a community vibe in the U.K. It’s a much, much smaller pool and consequently, everyone knows each other. It feels more familial, if that makes sense.

AX: Is there anything we should know about KLONDIKE?

PREW: Read the book [GOLD DIGGERS] . The book’s brilliant. It’s a really wonderful tale. It makes you understand the series far more, I think. And there’s so much going on. The series itself is like a novel – there are so many strands and so many different concepts and ideas and themes, you could watch it many, many times. It’s a trilogy, really. It’s three movies put together for TV. So if you are interested in that, I would read the book. There’s a lot there.

Related: Exclusive interview with KLONDIKE director Simon Cellan Jones

Related: Interview with actor Richard Madden on GAME OF THRONES and KLONDIKE

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Article: Exclusive interview with KLONDIKE star Augustus Prew

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