Helping Hand: Interview with Arctic Air's Adam Beach

By , Contributor

Omni Films/CBC

Arctic Air's Bobby Martin (Adam Beach)

Since the mid-'90s, Adam Beach has been entertaining audiences on the big and small screens with his down-to-earth and compelling performances in a wide variety of roles. From his portrayal of Blue Duck in the CBS TV miniseries Comanche Moon to his critically acclaimed work as Ira Hayes in the Clint Eastwood-directed feature film Flags of our Fathers, the Canadian-born actor always manages to connect on an emotional level with those watching.

North of the border, TV viewers are having the opportunity to enjoy Beach’s work as Bobby Martin in season two of the popular CBC drama Arctic Air. A Vancouver businessman, Bobby returns home to Yellowknife with the intention of closing a business deal. Never in a million years, however, does he expect to stick around and help rescue his late father’s local airline or rekindle his relationship with childhood sweetheart Krista Ivarson. Like many of his roles, creating his character has been a work in progress for Beach.

“A friend of mine gave me a copy of the first Arctic Air script after hearing that they [the show’s producers] were casting a character that was similar to who I am,” recalls Beach. “I read the script, liked it, and then the producers called me. I had a meeting with them and agreed to come on board. So that’s how I originally became involved with the show.

“As far as preparing for the role, in the first season it was kind of difficult tracking who Bobby Martin was because the writers weren’t all that sure where they were taking the character. So I just had to learn on the job, try to be spontaneous and give Bobby a sense of charm as well as a sense of belonging and someone who missed his family and wanted to be home. At the same time, the writers and I also agreed that we wanted to make Bobby very smart and school-minded in the way he talks and then create different situations around him.

“The Arctic Air pilot was very exciting for me because one of the reasons I wanted to take part in this show is that it deals with the Northern communities and how this airline serves as a lifeline for these communities when it comes to distribution and services. I personally do a great deal of work with [Native American] reservations involving suicide, economic development and just giving a sense of hope and motivation to better peoples’ lives. Arctic Air deals directly with those Northern communities who feel left out, and that’s one of the most important things that this TV show provides that others don’t.”

As Bobby works with his late father’s business partner Mel Ivarson (Kevin McNulty) and Mel’s daughter Krista (Pascale Hutton) to help save Arctic Air from going under, he also has to confront his rekindled feelings for Krista. The latter is further complicated by one of the airline’s pilots, Blake Laviolette (John Reardon), who is also vying for Krista’s attention.

“Krista’s and Bobby’s relationship is very much bred from their high school days and being best friends,” says Beach. “Having since grown into adulthood, they’re now faced with revisiting the whole friendship/relationship and boyfriend/girlfriend thing. Do they want to risk ruining their friendship if the attempt at being a couple doesn’t work?

“So it gets really complicated, and in the show’s second season the two characters are nurturing the whole idea of working together on a real relationship as opposed to just being best friends.”

This past summer, the cast and crew of Arctic Air began production on the show’s second season. Along with the characters, Beach saw further growth and development of the series as a whole during filming of these 13 new episodes.

“I think what we realized was that we had to find a way to take Arctic Air to the next level and what that would be,” he muses. “One of the goals was to create specific environments in Yellowknife, so we did things like a polar bear episode and a boxing one. Of course, if I told you about every story, then why would anyone want to watch,” jokes Beach. “So we worked towards creating a better entertainment environment for everyone in the audience under the conditions of Yellowknife.

“As for Bobby Martin, I’m very comfortable about his growth in season two. While still using the writers’ words, of course, I felt I was able to allow myself to do whatever I wanted with the character and not have to conflict with my own personal outlook as far as who Bobby is.”

Raised on the Dog Creek First Nations Reserve with his two brothers, the actor and his siblings went to live with his grandmother and then their aunt and uncle following the tragic deaths of their parents. Beach initially looked to acting as a way to “lose” himself and forget about his troubled childhood, but it then turned into something much more for him.

“When I was younger, acting was just about having fun with my friends,” he says. “Around 10 of us joined drama class and spent much of our time creating scenarios involving things like racing cars and Ninjas and always trying to outdo each other.

“I ended up sticking with it and enjoyed the idea of disappearing into a character because it took me away from the situation I was in with the loss of my parents, being in gangs and growing up in one of the worst neighborhoods in Canada. It [acting] just seemed like a good fit.

“My first movie was Spirit Rider, which I shot in Winnipeg with [director] Michael Scott. Two weeks after finishing work on that, I began filming Cadillac Girls followed by projects like [the TV series] North of 60 and the Disney film Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale, and it just kind of kept going.

“I’ll never forget my first job as an extra. I was paddling a canoe and 'pressed pause' in my mind. I kept that one image in my head for the next four years until I made my acting debut. That was just amazing, and now I’m in the process of establishing the Adam Beach Film Institute, which will not only create film schools for your Native American artists, but also an opportunity for anyone to come learn and build on the experiences that all filmmakers do.”

Please note, all Arctic Air photos courtesy/copyright of Omni Films and CBC.

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A native of Massachusetts, Steve Eramo has been a Sci-Fi fan since childhood, having been brought up on such TV shows as Star Trek and Space: 1999. He is also an Anglophile and lover of British TV. A writer for 35 years – 17 of those as a fulltime freelancer – Steve has had over 2,500 feature-length…

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