Nive Nielsen is
an actress and musician based in Nuuk, Greenland
Nielsen play the female lead in AMC's show The Terror. Her
character is Lady Silence. (Aidan Monaghan/AMC)
Missing for 170 years now, the bodies of the 129 crew members
of Sir John Franklin's Northwest Passage expedition likely litter
King William Island, Nunavut.
The remains that have been found show signs that in their last
moments, those men ate
If these are the facts of the real-life Arctic mystery, perhaps
it's not surprising that the story is getting a fictional horror
treatment in an upcoming television series.
The Terror premiers on AMC on March 26.
Named for one of Franklin's two ships, HMS Terror, the show
blends facts with Inuit legend and is based on the novel of the
same name by Dan Simmons.
Commitment to accuracy
Nive Nielsen is the lead actress. She's an Inuk woman born in
Terror thrown up by the ice (engraving by George Back)
She says she grew up hearing through Inuit oral tradition where
the ships went down and what happened to the men, but before starring
in the show, she said she'd never heard the English account.
"I was kinda surprised how it was perceived in England,"
she said. "I didn't know the English part of it, so it was
interesting that Franklin was a wealthy man out on an adventure
and a prestigious expedition and then how horribly it ended."
Nielsen studied some anthropology, which, she says, helped her
have meaningful conversations with people on the television set
about what life would have been like in the Arctic during that time.
When considering the role of Lady Silence, she said she appreciated
the show's commitment to research and accuracy.
"There isn't a lot of roles for Inuit people," she
said. "I thought it was nice, that they were actually combing
throughout the Arctic to find a real Inuk actress, it's nice that
they are trying to stay true to the culture because a lot of the
times, you see movies and they just put on people from other cultures
to play our parts and it's not very accurate."
Nielsen is better known for her music, with Nive and the Deer
Children, but acted in The New World in 2005.
Getting the role
"I was home coincidentally, which I am not very often,
I'm mostly out on tour, and it was on the radio news that they were
searching for an Inuit actress for this, but I was super tired,"
Then she was tagged in a Facebook post advertising the role
by a friend and she thought maybe it would be fun to audition.
By the time she got a call-back, she was already back on tour
with her band across Europe, so she continued to audition over Facetime
and Skype, eventually they called her to Budapest, Hungary, for
a final screen test.
Nunavut actors Johnny Issaluk, Apayata Kotierk and Vinnie Karetak
were also cast in the show.
Filming took place in Budapest and an area of Croatia, that
Nielsen says looks a lot like the Arcticwindswept and treeless.
set, Nive Nielsen wore costumes made out of real caribou fur.
( Aidan Monaghan/AMC)
Unfortunately for Nielsen, the temperatures were not comparable.
In keeping with the show's dedication to authenticity, Nielsen's
costumes were made of real caribou fur and were so warm she had
to wear a cooling vest underneath that pumped ice water.
Using the right dialect
The real Franklin ships are still submerged in the ocean near
Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, so the show built a full re-creation in the
The dialect of Inuktitut that Nielsen speaks is different from
what is spoken around Gjoa Haven.
"They were having me speak the Netsilik dialect, so somebody
in Netsilik was translating all the lines I was supposed to say
and pronouncing them into a phone and then they would send them
to me and I would just listen to them again and again and pronounce
it the way that they would over there," she said.
Nielsen said the grammar was different and the Netsilik dialect
has a special "r" that she says she'd never heard in another
Terror was found in 2016. (Parks Canada)
'Crying and screaming for 9 hours is very tiring'
But harder than mastering the language, was handling the emotional
life of her character, who was nearly always avoiding some conflict,
desperate to survive.
"It was a challenge and it was harder than I thought it
would be, it was very demanding, emotionally I had to really be
way out there, it's all extreme circumstances ... every day,"
she said. "Crying and screaming for nine hours is very tiring."
Nielsen says she had the support of a great cast to learn from.
"I don't think I could done this five years ago. I think
it really helped me that I'd been playing music for so long and
standing on stages long enough to be comfortable in front of a lot
of people just staring at you."
Nielsen says she's interested in doing more acting work, but
for the next little while, she plans to stay put in Nuuk as she
is expecting twins in the near future.
This summer, she plans to tour Canada with her band.