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'The North Water' — release date, cast, first look pictures, trailer and all about the new Arctic thriller

The North Water stars Jack O'Connell and Stephen Graham.
The North Water stars Jack O'Connell and Stephen Graham. (Image credit: BBC)

Based on a bestselling novel, The North Water is arriving on AMC+ in the US on July 15 and BBC2 this autumn in the UK. It has all the ingredients of a cinematic epic, plus there's a top cast that includes  Jack O’Connell, Stephen Graham and Colin Farrell. All high-calibre actors who choose great projects. So it's fair to say The North Water has really got us buzzing with anticipation.

Ian McGuire’s dark, twisted novel takes us into the bloody world of whale harpooning...this of course was long before the days of Greenpeace! The fiver-parter is set aboard a whaling ship, the Volunteer, working the Arctic waters in the late 1850s. Soon however it becomes a story of rivalry, murder and a huge battle against nature. Here’s everything you need to know about The North Water, and do have a look at its great selection of first look pictures too… 

The North Water release date

The North Water is a five-part series coming to AMC+ in the US on Thursday July 15, followed by its release on BBC2 and BBCiPlayer this autumn in the UK. We will update as soon we get a date from the BBC. 

Is there a trailer for The North Water?

The BBC hasn't yet released a trailer for The North Water, as the drama won't be shown until this autumn on BBC2 and BBC iPlayer. But, as the series premieres on AMC+ in the US first, we can now watch the American-released trailer here:

What is the plot of The North Water?

The North Water follows Patrick Sumner, a disgraced ex-army surgeon whose reputation is in tatters after an incident in India. In 1859 he signs up to be ship’s doctor on the Volunteer on its whaling expedition to the Arctic. On board, he has to pit his wits against both the harsh elements and the violence of the crew. 

Then deep into the journey, the body of a murdered cabin boy is discovered, and Patrick is forced to act. But he needs to watch out for Henry Drax, a harpooner and brutal man. Soon Patrick becomes aware of the true nature of the expedition and a confrontation between the two men erupts. In the middle of the Arctic, there’s nowhere to hide...

Whale harpooning in the Arctic in The North Water.

Whale harpooning in the Arctic in The North Water. (Image credit: BBC)

The North Water cast — Jack O'Connell as Patrick Sumner

In The North Water, Jack O’Connell plays Patrick Sumner, an ex army surgeon who was injured in the siege of Delhi. He signs up as ship’s doctor on the Volunteer, a whaling boat heading for Greenland and on which violence is the norm. Jack made his name in hedonistic teen drama Skins, then did TV series such as The Runaway. He's also starred in hit movies such as Unbroken, Starred Up, '71 and Eden Lake. He's also among an all-star cast an upcoming BBC1 drama SAS: Rogue Heroes.

'The North Water' cast – Jack O'Connell as Patrick Sumner.

The North Water star Jack O'Connell as ship's surgeon Patrick Sumner. (Image credit: BBC)

Colin Farrell as Henry Drax

Colin Farrell is playing the savage harpooner Henry Drax, who barbaric behaviour is no better at sea than it was on land. Colin started out in Ballykissangel back in 1998-1999 but then had roles in hit films such as Minority Report and Phone Booth. Since then he’s been in numerous Hollywood movies, including Horrible Bosses, In Bruges, Saving Mr Banks and the hit TV series True Detective

Colin Farrell as Henry Drax in 'The North Water'.

Colin Farrell as Henry Drax in The North Water. (Image credit: BBC)

Stephen Graham as Captain Brownlee

Stephen Graham plays Captain Brownlee, who lost his last ship and crew. Back in 1999 Stephen played Lee Sankey in Coronation Street and has gone on to become a hugely prolific actor. He’s appeared in the This Is England series and played Detective Superintendent Dave Kelly in the ITV series Little Boy Blue. He starred in the 2019 series The Virtues, White House Farm, and Save Me. In Line of Duty he played doomed undercover cop John Corbett. This year he’s been in BBC1 prison drama Time, alongside Sean Bean.

Captain Brownlee (Stephen Graham) and his crew in 'The North Water'.

Captain Brownlee (Stephen Graham, center) and his crew in The North Water. (Image credit: BBC)

The North Water cast — who else is starring

Also starring in The North Water is Tom Courtenay as a character called Baxter, Peter Mullan, Sam Spruell and Roland Møller.

Sir Tom Courtenay as Baxter in The North Water.

Sir Tom Courtenay as Baxter in The North Water. (Image credit: BBC)

The North Water locations and settings

The action in The North Water starts in Hull where the whaling industry is under threat, as paraffin and coal oil are replacing whale oil. The ship then sails to the Arctic, which is where most of the filming took place. The crew shot on the frozen seas north of the Svalbard Archipelago and sailed as far as 81 degrees north to film sequences in the pack ice. This is the furthest point north it is believed a drama series has ever filmed before. The North Water is made by See-Saw Films for the BBC and is adapted and directed by Andrew Haigh.

The North Water novel

Ian McGuire’s book, about a doomed whaling voyage, was released in 2016 and was long-listed for the Booker Prize. It told the story of how brutal violence broke out between two desperate men against the backdrop of the death of Hull’s whaling industry. The novel was also featured in the New York Times’ 10 best books of 2016 list. English author Ian McGuire is also a lecturer in American literature and creative writing and wrote Incredible Bodies in 2006 and The Abstainer in 2020.