TVGuide Canada’s article on “Iron Road”
New article on “Iron Road” featuring a small interview with Luke Macfarlane. This one comes directly from TVGuide.Ca. Thanks to Laira for the link!
By Greg David
CBC mini finds love amid slavery on Canada’s rails
Luke MacFarlane says he’s always wanted to act in a CBC TV-movie.
“My career has really had nothing to do with Canada. I graduated high school and then moved to the States, and all of my work was doing American plays, American movies and American TV shows,” says MacFarlane, a London, Ont., native who stars in the Canadian railway miniseries Iron Road.
”I really wanted to do something that was Canadian. Then this came along, and it seemed like the perfect Canadian thing to do. Also, growing up, I watched these great CBC TV-movies, and said, ‘I want to do that!’”
MacFarlane can check that item off his to-do list.
Iron Road is a visually stunning, remarkably enjoyable CBC miniseries that explores the romance between a Chinese slave and a railroad tycoon’s son set against the backdrop of the construction of the cross-Canada railroad circa the 1880s.
Filmed in China and B.C., Iron Road boasts a powerhouse cast – including Sam Neill (The Tudors), Peter O’Toole (Venus) and Sun Li (Fearless) – that delivers lines from a script written by Barry Pearson and Raymond Storey (The Guard) with aplomb and conviction.
Based on the opera by the same name, Iron Road doesn’t flinch away from one of the biggest black marks on Canadian history – the shipping of Chinese slaves to Canada under false promises of a better life.
The slaves ended up working in notoriously unsafe conditions as they built the railroad – thousands died as tunnels collapsed, dynamite accidentally exploded and cruel bosses oversaw them. Iron Road’s sweeping views of graves alongside the railroad embankment drives the point home.
“It’s really one of our great acts of shame,” says MacFarlane, who also plays Scotty on Brothers & Sisters, from the set of the ABC show. “At least the government acknowledged that with some form of retribution recently.”
But at its heart, Iron Road is a love story about two people from very different cultures.
On one hand is James Nichol (MacFarlane), son of railroad tycoon Alfred Nichol (Neill), who is so determined to impress his father that he goes to China in search of more workers to help build the railroad, and keep it on schedule.
It’s there that James meets Relic (O’Toole), the man in charge of recruiting new workers seeking a new life in Canada. It’s also there that James meets Little Tiger (Li), a girl masquerading as a boy so she can earn a living at a fireworks factory.
Falling short of his 100 slaves, James reluctantly agrees to bring the stubborn Little Tiger overseas with him.
Without giving too much away, Tiger is forced to decide – since she’s falling in love with James and all – whether to reveal her true identity to him, and face being sent back home.
“I want people to understand the sacrifices that these people made for the railroad,” MacFarlane says. “Yes, this is a love story, but this is also to honour the Chinese people and the sacrifice they made.”
Iron Road is a beautifully shot mini, going from black and white to sepia tones, to vibrant colours and then back to dull tones, and it’s all part of director David Wu’s vision.
“The film begins in black and white to show that this takes place a long time ago,” he says on the line from Vancouver. “Little Tiger’s [life in China] is hard, so the colours are washed out. When she comes to Canada, colours, like reds, begin to seep into the scenes, as things get better for her.”
When asked how much direction he had to give film legend O’Toole, Wu chuckles.
“He’s such a pleasant human being,” Wu says. “If someone told me that, when I walked out of seeing Lawrence of Arabia when I was 15, that I would be directing him, I would have said, ‘Get out of here!’
“When we were shooting in China, we would sit and chat, and he would talk about his classmates in performing school, like Richard Harris, and he studied his character pretty well, so I didn’t have to give him much direction.
“And if I did give him some direction, he would say, ‘Done!’ and then nail it in the next take.”
Part 1 of Iron Road airs Sunday, Aug 9, at 8 p.m. ET on CBC; the conclusion airs Sunday, Aug. 16, at 8 p.m. ET.
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