Arctic Air’s Pascale Hutton Interview
Canada is an enormous country when we look at it on the map, so massive that it’s easy to forget that 75 percent of Canadians live within 161 kilometers (100 miles) of the U.S. border. It’s mind-boggling to think that, in a world so populated, Canada has all that space that’s still so void of man. Although most Canadians dream of one day making it up to Canada’s territories to truly appreciate the greatness of our massive country, it’s rare to meet a Torontonian or Vancouverite who’s actually made it up to Yellowknife or Whitehorse and has come back with tales of a land so incredibly different than what we southern Canadians imagine when we think of Canada. Pascale Hutton, however, has impressive stories, so impressive that we found ourselves asking her child-like questions like, “What do the stars look like up there?” Star of CBC’s Arctic Air, the British Columbia native has been traveling to Yellowknife on and off for over a year to shoot the critically acclaimed show that returns to TV tomorrow night for its second season. Pascale stars as Krista, a pilot for Arctic Air, an airline servicing Canada’s north on missions that are often complicated by extreme weather conditions. As if Krista’s career path wasn’t dramatic enough, her childhood sweetheart Bobbi Martin (played by Adam Beach) returned to Yellowknife after years away making money in Vancouver to work for Arctic Air, the airline his father founded with Krista’s dad. The show is visually stunning, action-packed and drama-filled. We spoke to the beautiful Pascale Hutton exclusively yesterday at the CBC headquarters in Toronto about filming and hanging out in Yellowknife, the Krista-Bobbi-Blake love triangle and everything that we can expect in season 2 of Arctic Air.
Real Style: How cold does it get while you guys are shooting up in Yellowknife?
Pascale Hutton: -30 or -40. And when we’re up there, we’re only shooting exteriors, so we’re outside the whole time. The only saving grace at that time of year is that there’s such little daylight that we know we can only be out there until like 4 or 4:30pm.
How are things starting off romantically for your character in season 2? You left off season one on a love triangle type note. Krista is engaged to Blake but kisses Bobbi.
Obviously, that informs a lot of what the second season is because the three of them are all still there, and they’re all still working together, and it’s incredibly awkward as they try to figure out what this new dynamic is between the three of them. Bobby and Krista are definitely trying to sort out what their relationship is, and there’s just a lot of hurt and anger from Blake. But at the heart of it, Blake and Krista really do, as colleagues, like each other and enjoy each other’s company. You’ll see through this season them at least trying to get back to that point… at least.
What Canadian issue does Arctic Air tackle that are just specific to your show?
The fact that the show takes place in Yellowknife. That’s a spot in Canada that people do not get to, and yet there’s still allure and mystique to Yellowknife because it’s so, so far north, and its landscape is truly, truly is unlike anywhere else in Canada, and I have traveled all across Canada. When we first started this show, I was one of the big voices saying, “Can’t we just fake it and film all of it in Vancouver?” But after the first trip up there, I was put in my place because you see it, and it truly is unlike anywhere else in Canada. For us to get up there and film in that location and really try to shine a spotlight on that area of Canada and the allure of the environment and the landscape up there – also, that environment and landscape inform so much of people’s way of life up there, so that’s put an interesting slant on our show. A story about an airline up north – there is inherent danger every time your flying, especially in those extreme elements, and that’s something that our show tackles. And Yellowknife is incredibly culturally diverse. There’s not only a huge First Nations culture up there, but also there are a lot of opportunities up there, and opportunities to make quite a lot of money. We ran into people often from various countries in Africa, from Southeast Asia, which blew my mind because I thought, “How on earth are you making the transition from tropical weather to this?” But they do because of the opportunity. Our show likes to shine a light on that too.
I think I read yesterday that you guys have taken some direction from the fans of the show, fashion wise, like less toques this season.
Yes, less toques this season! We’re up north! What do I wear on my head?! But, yes, the last episode [from season 1] was a heavily toqued episode. It was so cold, and we had this fur scarf that people would never think of wearing down here, but it was just so warm. For the rest of the season, our costume designer Sheila White did an amazing job of keeping it authentic but also keeping it heightened fashion-wise for the realm of TV but also in the realm and in the world of Yellowknife.
Do you having any new style tips for the super freezing Canadian winters?
When it’s that cold, there’s really nothing. You’re not really thinking about fashion, quite honestly, other than make sure your coat covers your bum, making sure you’ve got Hot Shots in your boots. You can wear whatever shoes you want, but make sure you’ve got hot shots in there. And that fur around your face is really nice.
Have you changed your beauty routine to adjust to the climate up there?
I use a pretty heavy cream on my face when I’m up there, because that’s extreme on your face. I use a much thicker cream for my face, and then also – and it’s so hard because at the end of the day all you want is scalding water on your body – but that’s counter-productive because it will end up frying your skin. I try to stick with lukewarm on my face.
How long are you up in Yellowknife? There were 10 episodes last season and 13 this season?
What we do is we go up there every month. Depending on each episode and what they require in terms of their location, we can be up there once and only up there for a week, and other times we were up there for maybe four days, two days… so anywhere from 2-3 days or 7-8 days a month.
Wow, because you have a 1-year-old at home, right?
Yes, well, he just turned 2 now!
He stays home in Vancouver?
Yes, it’s the big debate whether to bring him up there or not. But when I’m filming up there, I’m away and we’re on these crazy locations and jumping around from location to location. For me, it’s better for him to be at home with his dad and with his routine. They’re very conscious of trying to keep me up there for as short of period of time as possible, because they not it’s not ideal when you have a small child.
What do you guys do in your off time?
Yeah, because it’s kind of crazy! We’re like a road show, especially because we wrap at 5 or 6pm and then we have this whole evening. There’s this whole nightlife scene up in Yellowknife that you might not be aware of. The cast and crew are really tight. There’s a lounge in the hotel… Well, there’s one hotel to stay in, and that’s where we always stay and we often end up in the lounge. There is a bunch of really nice restaurants up there too, so we go to the restaurants and we go to the bars, and we all sort of descend at once, and it’s fun.
Have you picked up any flying lessons when you’re up there?
Yeah. All the stuff that takes place in the hangar, we film that at Buffalo Air up in Yellowknife, and Buffalo Air is the location for ice pilots. We film it there, and those guys have been amazing about giving us insights and tips about what flying up there is like. We also flew in a DC-3, which is one of the major planes that we use. We took a flight in a DC-3, and the pilots took me, and Adam and Kevin up into the cockpit tp see what that experience is like. It’s truly awe-inspiring to be up there and to see that landscape. We were up there on a beautiful, crystal clear day. I’ve gone up in some float planes as well. You can pretend and imagine as much as you want, but it doesn’t really compare to being up there and having that experience and seeing the world around you. Any flying sequence we do, we always have a flight specialist on hand who is guiding us through the technical components to flying.
What would you say is different in season 2 that wasn’t there in season 1 that the viewers will be wowed by?
We didn’t do a pilot episode last year; we just went straight to series. Last year was about working out those new series jitters and bumps and trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. This season, we have really struck that balance between the action and adventure component and being up in Yellowknife and running an airline up in Yellowknife, which is the driving force of each episode – the balance between that and the relationships and the humour and drama that goes with these people who work and spend so much time together. The relationships are more what carry the show through from the beginning to the end of the season, and within each episode the action and adventure component drives each episode.
Did you guys have any idea that it would be the hit that it is?
I certainly didn’t know that. When I joined the show, I was really just emerging out of having a young, young baby. He was really young at the time. I wasn’t even thinking about, “Oh is this going to be a hit show?” I was just thinking, “This will be a fun character to play, and how convenient, it films mostly in Vancouver, which is where I want to be working right now because I have a young son.” And then as we were filming, we started to realize that CBC was really behind the show and really supporting it. That was a great feeling because you can have a great show, but if it’s not supported, it’s not going to go anywhere. That was really exciting to know we had that kind of support fueling it. It just took off last season, and people really welcomed it in their homes last season all across Canada.
Have you noticed that Canada has become more of an appealing setting for shows and movies even to an outside audience?
I think people are getting smart to the idea that it’s not a white wash that people respond to. People don’t respond to generalities; they respond to specifics. It doesn’t matter if your show takes place in Yellowknife, or Republic of Doyle taking place on the east coast or Heartland in the Prairies, or Bomb Girls… It doesn’t matter; it’s that they embrace that location and allow that to be another character in the show. People respond to that, and not just in Canada, but worldwide. I’m glad that the people who are making shows are catching on to that.
How did you get involved in acting? Was it something you studied in school?
I grew up in Creston, BC, which is a small town in the southern interior of BC. I did not think about acting at that time. I was in school plays, but no one was a professional actor in Creston, so it just didn’t even occur to me. I had a high school drama teacher who said, “You know what: You should do this.” She got me hooked up with this school – it’s a conservatory program within the University of Alberta, so it’s a BFA program. They take in 12 people, and you’re with those 12 people, and you only study acting or acting related classes. That’s what started it. That program was very theatre-based, and I thought that that was what I was going to do. After I graduated, an agent approached me, and I ended up getting work in film and TV, and I started moving in that direction.
Do you think there’s actually an advantage to being Canadian in the film and TV industry, that we maybe have more opportunities?
I don’t know about that because I don’t know an different. I know that I love Canada, and I love living here, and I love working here. Given that, being Canadian is a bonus!
Had you been to Yellowknife prior to filming?
No, not prior to filming. It really is out of the way. Unless you’re going to Cambridge Bay, it’s not really en route to anywhere. I’m glad that I got the opportunity because it really is a special place.
What is it you like about playing Krista specifically?
She’s a strong, forthright woman. In season 1, I think they were really establishing that element, and they took the mold of her dad and transposed that into the younger female version of that. In this season, we see a much more well-rounded version of Krista where she definitely is strong and independent and forthright, but you see the cracks to that veneer and you see her vulnerability and you see her sense of humour come out, which is nice. It’s a much more interesting character to play then when you see those variations.
Have you guys all become close friends going into the second season?
Yeah, because it really is like camp going up there, filming together and then hanging out together. There really is nothing else to do except be together. Especially going into season 2. In season 1, you’re really much more focused on figuring out the show and figuring out your character. In this season, everybody and the show and the writing is much more grounded and comfortable this year, so it has been great. It’s like a family reunion with everybody coming back together.
Have you had the chance to talk to anyone who’s grown up in Yellowknife to see what their experience is like?
When we’re up there, we try to bring in people from the community to work on the show, not just in the background but in various roles. A lot of people were born and raised there, but a lot of people went up there for holiday and ended up staying 25 years. It really captures the heart of some people. There’s something up the north that speaks to people. It has to have that allure because there are so many challenges to living up there, mostly the weather. You have to really love Yellowknife to want to stay there, so that’s an interesting person who wants to brave that kind of weather to stay there.
You guys have been come much more involved with social media since starting the show.
I resisted, but they were very keen on getting me on Twitter to get the word out about the show. It ended up being so positive. I love it! It is this direct line to people who are fans of the show. You get this direct feedback and this direct communication. People all over the place are really excited about the show. People have opinions on whether Krista should end up with Bobby or whether she should end up with Blake.
What are your carry-on essentials when packing your own bag for travel?
You need pieces that can transition from day to night. You need one pair of comfortable shoes and one pair of dress shoes or something that can dress an outfit up. I only bring two or three accessories that can go with any outfit. I tend to go with a fairly neutral palate, because then the pieces can work together, and dark is usually good because if it gets a little dirty, it doesn’t matter. You can still wear it!
And what about your beauty essentials for traveling?
I never travel without my Valmont 24 Hour Cream, and I never travel without my Vivier serum. I find planes dry out my skin like crazy, so I never travel without those. Then a little bit of powder and a little bit of concealer and mascara and a lip gloss, and that’s all you need for makeup. And I never travel with my pashmina and my neck pillow.
Have you picked up any new hobbies since being up North?
Well, one thing I did this season was go dog-sledding, which was awesome! Everybody’s been wanting to do it since we filmed up there last year, but last year we were up there in November and there wasn’t really any snow yet. This season, not only did I get to go dog-sledding, we shot some stuff where my character is dog-sledding. I always imagined a Disney image of dog-sledding where you got these big fluffy dogs. Well, no, they’re actually really tiny — they’re really frisky and feisty and they’re itching to go, but I looked at them and thought, “There’s no way that these tiny dogs are pulling me in a sled.” But they just go, and it’s awesome. I wouldn’t say that’s a new hobby, but it’s definitely a cool new experience.
What are some of the most fascinating natural beauty wonders that you’ve seen up there?
The stars are amazing. You’re just so far north, and you can get out of the city in 2 minutes. It’s spectacular. The northern lights are very elusive. Nobody knows when they’re going to show up, and there’s no way to control it. Last time we were up there, it was our last night, and we pulled in after filming and they were just dancing. It’s truly spectacular. It’s just beautiful.
For season 2, you start off with a forest fire. How did you do that without actually starting a forest fire?
We started a forest fire! We can do that, it’s the movies, right? No, most of it was real fire… Obviously, we have a special effects team, and they were controlling all of it, but I was so glad that they did all of it, because there’s a realism to having that heat and those sparks and those flames all around you. That just added an intensity to filming it.
Is there anything that you are looking to this season and going into the third? Adam was saying he really hopes you guys hook up or make out…
He’s always saying that! I feel really excited about this season. We’re right on track with our stories and the ways the characters have developed and I hope we got forward on the path.
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