Production began in March 2013 in Alberta, Canada. Klondike
is a co-production between Discovery, Entertainment One and Nomadic Pictures, in
association with Scott Free Productions. Paul Sheuring wrote the script based on
the book, "Gold Diggers: Striking it Rich" by Charlotte Gray.
Producer David Zucker: "When we were pursuing Sam, even getting connected to him
proved to be a challenge. It proved to be a rather large ordeal because he was
out fishing. So we couldn’t get hold of him directly. He didn’t have Internet.
We couldn’t e-mail him the script. So we had to find a way to actually get
connected with Kinkos so that we could have it printed and then the next morning
when he’s back from fishing, he could then pick it up. He read it. He called us.
And then I think the other attraction perhaps is that he could get in his car,
drive up to Calgary, do some work, and then go out and fish again."
On the set: The crew of Discovery's first-ever scripted show cranks up the snow
machine as stars Richard Madden and Sam Shepard button up their wool coats and
two buses unload dozens of extras dressed in heavy 19th-century garb. The only
problem? It's actually a beautiful May day on the Calgary set, with temperatures
hovering in the high 80s. When the director yells "Action!" the actors do their
best to re-create the subzero temperatures of the Yukon tundra - until the snow
machine unexpectedly shuts down mid-scene. "What the f--- happened to the snow?"
exclaims Shepard as he looks to the sky, prompting laughs from his costars.
Wall Street Journal:
The best of the townspeople is the priest Father Judge
(Sam Shepard). Like other characters and events in the
series, he was partly drawn from Charlotte Gray's 2010
book, "Gold Diggers: Striking It Rich in the Klondike."
Father Judge is a small but bright light of goodness in
a town where most people go wrong at least in some way
just to survive. An older Mr. Shepard has let his face
become more expressive than the younger one did, giving
him increasing power as an actor. A scene of Father
Judge climbing up his rickety church in a rainstorm to
raise a cross atop it is a dramatic high point of the
Kansas City Star:
Sam Shepard plays Judge as a grizzled, stark
scepter who could frighten Christopher Walken. As usual,
Shepard is restrained and razor-sharp.
David Wiegand, Houston Chronicle:
"Klondike" is melodramatic, but feels more substantial because of minutely
detailed scripts and fully realized performances. The miniseries was shot on
location, and the cinematography is spectacular, so much so that it's almost
like watching a top-grade travel documentary at times.
Tim Goodman, The Hollywood
Superbly directed by Simon Cellan Jones, who packs in
sweeping, awe-inspiring images of nature with the
up-close ugliness of dank, mud-packed streets, Klondike
stands out instantly with its large canvas. Jones and
his crew filmed real avalanches, icy river scenes, snow
storms, gunfights in dense forests - all of which
contrasted grandly alongside the day-to-day drudgery of
the camps. Jones manages to make these six hours feel
cold and wet as you follow Haskell and the denizens of
the Yukon through their often bleak pursuit of the
all-consuming gold nugget.
Terri Schwartz, Zap2it.com:
The great acting chops of the cast of "Klondike" and the strong writing and
cinematography made Discovery's first scripted miniseries a solid investment of
Hank Stuever, Washington Post:
A strong cast delivering an honest effort... A solid spirit and a moral
underpinning... “Klondike” is not going to win awards for its lackluster
screenplay and penchant for melodrama, but it does have some of the plucky
energy you’d enjoy at one of those faux-saloon dinner theaters, where the
gradations between good and bad hardly exist. It comes across almost like a
musical without any songs, and before long, you’re swept up in its crisp visuals
and steady pace.
Shaunna Murphy, Hollywood Life:
Sam Shepard and Tim Roth shine as two of the (many) colorful characters Bill
meets on his journey. Sam plays the fascinating real-life historical figure
Father Judge, a strong-willed but ultimately just priest who tends to the
emotional and physical needs of the brave souls navigating the treacherous
conditions of Klondike. Tim Roth, meanwhile, is delightfully wicked as the Count
— a campy, would-be land baron who is willing to resort to desperate measures to
make it rich.
Hugh David, Cult TV Times:
Lead Richard Madden as Bill Haskell, an educated man taking a risk with his
gambling brother, does a fine job from the get-go, particularly around veterans
like Brit Ian Hart, American Tim Blake Nelson, and the great American playwright
and actor Sam Shepard as the Catholic priest planning on bringing at
least God’s law to this place.
Ellen E. Jones, The Independent:
The support cast includes everyone's favourite craggy-faced wise man, Sam
Shepard, as a craggy-faced, wise preacher man.
Scott Foundas, Variety:
Boasting a first-rate cast, an increasingly engrossing
narrative and frequently awe-inspiring visuals, the
six-hour saga transports viewers back to the tail end of
19th-century life with a requisite dose of contemporary
Josh Bell, Las Vegas Weekly:
Discovery has really gone all out for its first original
scripted show: Three-part miniseries Klondike has
top-notch production values, with beautiful scenery and
impressive special effects, set design and costumes. Its
supporting cast includes recognizable faces Sam Shepard,
Tim Roth, Tim Blake Nelson and Abbie Cornish. And the
story, crafted by Prison Break creator Paul Scheuring,
is suitably epic.
R. Thomas Umstead,
"Klondike’s" pace, dialogue and storyline are terrific,
but just as impressive are the majestic images of the
landscapes and nature that surround the characters’
quest for success. "Klondike" makes viewers feel like
their travelling through the cold, snowy mountain caps,
roaring river rapids and muddy, stream banks that
Haskell and Epstein have to navigate to reach their
Performances are generally excellent across the board,
with the charismatic Madden handling a pitch-perfect
American accent while subjecting himself to all manner
of challenging physical ordeals. Cornish walks a fine
line in showing both Belinda’s toughness and her
vulnerability and Sam Shepard is admirably
unsentimental yet compassionate as Dawson City’s
resident priest, Father William Henry Judge.
Mary McNamara, LA Times:
Sam Shepard and Tim Roth are the A-listers here, representing two sides
of the frontier coin. Shepard plays historical figure Father William
Judge, the steely but humane Jesuit who ministered to Klondike's physically and
spiritually sick. Roth, in full fiend mode, is the Count, who having not struck
gold seeks to control all he sees. They are, it almost goes without saying,
fabulous, bringing to "Klondike" the shifting hues of deep-water characters that
have become a hallmark of prestige drama.
Erik Adams, AV Club:
"Klondike" amounts to a classy, well-photographed treatment of big ideas: Greed,
survival, manifest destiny, justice, sacrifice, and fate all get a chewing from
Dawson City’s prospectors, con artists, legitimate business owners, and
representatives of law and order. Klondike’s cast is stocked with top-flight
talent - Sam Shepard, Tim Roth, and Tim Blake Nelson all put in
Alan Sepinwall, Hitfix.com:
Other than Cornish's complicated Belinda, the supporting characters are all
stock types, but the actors generally breath interesting life into them. There's
a world-weary matter-of-factness to Shepard's performance, for instance,
that sells the innate decency of Father Judge.