The North Water: cast of BBC drama series starring Stephen Graham and Jack O’Connell - plot and release date

BBC Two’s new drama is based on the 2016 novel by the same name, written by author Ian McGuire

The BBC’s latest drama is sure to be a hit with fans of The Terror, asThe North Wateris also a nautical themed thriller.

The miniseries is based on Ian McGuire’s novel by the same name, published in 2016 and shortlisted for the Man Booker prize.

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The drama is set in 1859, aboard a ship called Volunteer as it ventures into the perilous arctic waters.

So, who is in the cast of The North Water - and what have they said about starring in the five-part thriller? This is what you need to know.

Who is in the cast of The North Water?

The main character of the series is Patrick Sumner (Jack O’Connell), a surgeon who joins the voyage and expects to treat the crew for the unavoidable illnesses thrust upon them as they venture across the arctic.

What Sumner doesn’t expect is the brutality used among the crew members, especially harpooner Henry Drax (Colin Farrell).

Here is who leads in The North Water and all the other crew members.

Jack O’Connell

Skins and United actor Jack O’Connell plays surgeon Patrick Sumner, his character has also been a member of the British Army and while appearing straight-laced at first, his cool demeanour soon unravels.

Speaking to the BBC ahead of The North Water ahead of its release, he said of his character: “The character offered me a chance to do something that I haven’t really found much opportunity to work within before, in terms of who he is and where he regards himself in society.

“On the superficial basis, I’ve never played anyone within the medical profession before, and the idea of an ex-Irish patriot, an immigrant, coming into the world with all these complexities, as I understood it, gave him a sense of an imposter syndrome.

“That’s how I began to understand him.”

Colin Farrell

Irish actor Farrell (Scrubs, Total Recall) stars as harpooner Henry Drax.

He is one of the best whale catchers known, some say he’s more animal than man. The BBC describe his character as “pragmatic, physically imposing and devoid of empathy.”

While isolated on a boat, his angry characteristics prove problematic for Sumner, and the two clash relentlessly.

Asked why he wanted to be a part of the series, he said: “There have not been very many films and stories that take place around the whaling industry.

“Out of interest and curiosity and fun, I looked around, and for such a dramatic moment in the history of man, pre-Industrial Revolution, there are not that many stories, so it was wonderful to be immersed in this world that was so exotic, so brutal and so different.”

Stephen Graham

Time and Line of Duty star Stephen Graham plays Captain Arthur Brownlee, tasked with managing the mission and more importantly, the fiery tempers of his crew members.

The captain’s motive for peace isn’t just a safe return, as he is also hiding an ulterior motive.

Graham has recently also taken on the role of a dementia patient in Channel 4’s Covid care home drama, Help.

Graham told the BBC he did a lot of preparation to get into the role of a 19th century whaler.

“I did a lot of research about the period and about the men of the time, read some poems by whalers, had a look through the history books and the archives,” he said

Tom Courtenay

Sir Tom Courtenay is a well-known author and actor, rising to prominence in the 1960s for his roles in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962)⁠, for which he received the BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles⁠, and Doctor Zhivago (1965).

In The North Water, he plays a villainous financier known only as Baxter.

He is also working alongside Captain Brownlee to execute the mission for their own gains, playing along in the captain’s dark plans.

Sam Spruell

Sam Spruel (Snow White and the Huntsmen, Taken 3) is Drax’s ally, Cavendish, and his right hand man is as ruthless and ambitious in his approach to dominating the ship.

The pair prove to be twice the problem from Sumner, which could result in catastrophic consequences.

Also starring in the cast is Scottish actor Peter Mullan (The Vanishing), Philip Hill-Pearson (Good Cop) and Danish actor Roland Møller (Land of Mine).

When is The North Water released on BBC Two?

The North Water begins on BBC Two at 9.30pm on Friday 10 September.

Subsequent episodes air weekly on BBC Two on Fridays at 9.30pm for five consecutive weeks.

The episodes will also be available on BBC iPlayer.

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