North of 60 Interview: Nathaniel Arcand

As tough-on-the-outside, scared-on-the-inside bad boy William MacNeil, actor
Nathaniel Arcand made numerous appearances on "North of 60" starting at the
beginning of Season 3. William played a key role in Brian Fletcher's downfall,
and later tried to take over the bootlegging business of the absent Albert Golo.

While I was at the Nof60 set during the filming of the fourth movie, "Another
Country," Nathaniel showed up to visit Dakota House. Although he wasn't
involved with the movie and thus wasn't expecting to engage in publicity
activities, he was kind enough to let me interview him.

(In addition to comments from Nathaniel and me, you'll also see a few from
Nof60 site-security person Sharon Fogarty.)

"100 Days in the Jungle"

PW: I've seen your name on various projects since "North of 60" ended. I know you were on "Caitlin's Way," which aired on Nickelodeon in the U.S. and YTV in Canada. That show lasted a season or so?

NA: Two or three seasons. I was just on the first season. I was asked to come back for the second, but I was working on something else.

(Click on photo for larger image.)

PW: So what have you been doing since then?

NA: Well, my most recent project was down in Costa Rica for CTV, "100 Days in the Jungle." I played the American, the only American out of the eight hostages. Seven Canadians, one American. I played a Navajo from Utah who's like an oil worker.

PW: This is based on a true story, right?

NA: Yeah. Back in '99, they went down to Ecuador, and the only people they could find that would actually do it were Canadians. Nobody else wanted to touch the job. [laughs] So they hired these Canadians. And they ended up getting hijacked and taken hostage by these what they figured were probably a joint collaboration of guerrillas and guys like that from all over South America that got together for this one little job.

PW: Do you know when that's going to be on CTV?

NA: I'm assuming it might be before Christmas, because it kind of deals with Christmas. In the story, real life, these guys were held for 100 days exactly, [and were released] just days before Christmas.

PW: So you were in Costa Rica for how long?

NA: One month.

PW: Was that a challenge?

NA: Oh yeah. It was tough not only physically but mentally.

PW: You were actually out in the jungle?

NA: Oh yeah, all the actors were covered in the jungle filth and everything. So it was crazy.

PW: What time of year was that?

NA: November to December. It was actually nice. It was summer weather pretty much. But it was rainy season, too, so there was a lot of rain. And a lot of new bugs I'd never seen before!

"The Lone Ranger"

PW: So you finished "100 Days in the Jungle" a few months ago. What's next?

NA:Well, now I'm just gearing up to be Tonto in the new Lone Ranger/Tonto pilot.

PW: That's going to be a series?

NA: Well, I'm going to say it's going to be a series. [laughs] Right now we're working on the pilot.

PW: And who's that for?

NA: It's Warner Brothers.

PW: Oh, so you mean we'll get it in the States?

NA: Oh yeah, it's on the Warner Brothers channel.

PW: Great, yeah, the WB. What's the schedule on that?

NA: We're going to do the pilot April 29 to June 3, I think, in L.A.

PW: Has WB said anything definite yet about whether they're going to pick up the series?

NA: I've been hearing different stories, most of them saying that yeah, it's going to be a series.

PW: So I guess you have to hold yourself out and see what happens with that before you can decide whether to take on any other projects.

NA: Yeah.

(Click on photo for larger image.)

PW: Have you seen the script?

NA: No, I haven't.

PW: Do you know what kind of Tonto we're looking at here?

NA: Well, a new-age Tonto. [laughs] He's going to be more politically correct, I assume. He's not going to be so much a sidekick, I think. He's going to be a partner.

SF: Oh good!

NA: They just finished the script, so I have yet to see it.

SF: So there's an L.A. writer then?

NA: Yeah, I think so. I met the writers, a couple of them there.

PW: Who's playing the Lone Ranger?

NA: A young kid named Chad Murray. He's on "Dawson's Creek." He's a tall, dirty-blondish, spiky-haired guy.

PW: So at this point, it's basically you show up at the end of the month in L.A., and then you'll know more?

NA: Yeah, I go in about two and half weeks from now. They'll bring me down a week early to do some publicity stuff and prep me. I think they probably want to get me on a horse...

SF: Will you have to do a lot of riding?

NA: Oh yeah.

PW: Have you done that before?

NA: Oh yeah. I'm a pretty good horseman now.

PW: Have you had to learn that for your roles, or is that something you did as a kid?

NA: Oh, I rode as a kid.

PW: Where are you from?

NA: Edmonton.

PW: Right in the city, or nearby, or what?

NA: Yeah, I was born and raised in the city. My father lives in a small settlement northeast of Edmonton. He has horses, and so do my uncles, who live out there. So I've had the opportunity to just go out there and ride horses whenever I want.

PW: And where do you live now?

NA: I live in Edmonton.

Other recent projects

PW: So we'll all keep an eye out for "The Lone Ranger" and "100 Days in the Jungle." What did you work on before that one?

NA: I think I did "Living with Monsters." And I also did an episode of "Jeremiah" with Malcolm Jamal Warner and Luke Perry.

PW: Oh really? I know that one--it's J. Michael Straczynski's new series on "Showtime." Do you know the title of the episode you were in?

NA: I can't remember. [Note: that episode was "Man of Iron, Woman Under Glass."] My character was Shashona. He's just this guy who's a native character, like a born-again Indian who goes back to the natural ways. I don't know if you know the story of "Jeremiah"....

PW: It just started airing a few weeks ago.

NA: Yeah, so it's post-war, and some cities are demolished by nuclear blasts, and stuff like that. And a lot of people are relying on going back to the old ways of living. My character is trying to look for survivors.

PW: He's a good guy?

NA: Yeah, he's a good guy. So my character just kind of came in, flew in and left. I don't know if we'll ever see him again.

PW: And what was the other series you said you did an episode of?

NA: "Living with Monsters." It's basically a docudrama kind of show.

[Note: The title of that show has been changed to "Before We Ruled the Earth." It's schedule to air on The Learning Channel on October 13, 2002.]

PW: Where they reenact things?

NA: Yeah, mine was from 15,000 years ago or something like that. I play this prehistoric sort of Indian who's hunting with his two sons. I know my name's Gii-aak. Also I did a movie in South Dakota earlier last year with Graham Greene and Eric Schweig and Chaske Spencer. Chaske and I play the younger versions of Eric and Graham.

PW: That would be "Skins," right?

NA: Yes, the new Chris Eyre movie.

PW: That just premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, didn't it?

NA: Sundance, right.

PW: Have you heard anything yet about when the theatrical release will be?

NA: Don't know. It's a pretty cool role. I get to play a football hero in school who goes off to war and joins the U.S. Marines. I've played a Marine twice now!

[Note: "Skins" will open in theaters in late summer or early fall.]

PW: What was the other one?

NA: "Doe Boy," which was the same producers as "Skins" the year before, in Oklahoma. I played another U.S. Marine in that one. I've been a police officer now twice, in the army a couple of times.

William MacNeil

PW: Well, no offense intended, but you certainly weren't such an upstanding character in "North of 60"! [laughs]

NA: No, not at all! [laughs]

PW: William MacNeil had quite an attitude.

NA: Yeah, he was kind of a...prick, I guess! [laughs]

PW: Just to explain, you're here today visiting Dakota House. William hasn't been in any of the movies yet.

NA: No, I wasn't contracted for that.

PW: Well, who knows, maybe they'll write him in again sometime. We never really heard where he disappeared to. Maybe he went back to Vancouver to look for Brenda.

(Click on photo for larger image.)

NA: Yeah, something like that. I always assumed that he took over Albert's position.

PW: You're probably right!

NA: You never see him. He's the top dog somewhere, just living it up making money off all the other dudes.

PW: So you figure William has become a shadowy character who's in and out running his scams?

NA: Yeah, you never know. Who knows--maybe he grew up. His family were good people, so maybe he turned his life around. He had a sense that he could be a good guy.

PW: In that whole storyline about Brenda Shore and Brian Fletcher, there were aspects of that where it looked like William really did care about Brenda, that there was a good side of William we hadn't seen before.

NA: Yeah, that could be a whole series itself--Brenda and William!

PW: But most of the time, he wasn't very likeable.

NA: Yeah, he was kind of a slimeball in a lot of ways. He was mostly just trying to undermine Albert all the time with his drugs and bootlegging and all his dealing. William wanted a piece of the pie. He didn't want to be the working dog; he wanted to be the top dog. So he got in trouble with Albert. He had to work his way up and prove himself first. I guess that's where all his skullduggery came into play, setting up Brian eventually and playing the cops against the robbers and stuff. That was fun. It was a lot of fun.

PW: It was fun being the bad guy, huh?

NA: Yeah, it was.

PW: We haven't seen Nathan Golo since the second movie. Do you think maybe he took over the family business?

NA: I don't think Nathan had the...the balls, I guess you'd say!

PW: And the other two sons were just too stupid to take it over! I guess the field was wide open for William if he wanted it.

NA: [laughs] Yeah. That's what I'm assuming. William would probably be the most likely candidate to take that on, for sure.

PW: So as for you, I guess any possible work commitments are on hold now until you find out whether "The Lone Ranger" gets picked up.

NA: Yeah, I'm just going to go there and do my job, and when it's finished, I'm just gonna move on and see what happens after that.

PW: But you don't have anything else specific lined up at the moment.

NA: There are some things that are out there, but I'm not sure if I can move on them yet. That's the trouble with these kinds of things, you know--everything all of a sudden comes all at once! Everybody wants you at the same time, and it's like, oh, I gotta pick one.

PW: That's a nice position to be in, though!

NA: Yeah, yeah. I'm just glad they want me.

"Grey Owl"

PW: Let's see, some of the other movies you've been in since "North of 60" ended would include...

NA: Oh, "American Outlaws," that was a movie I forgot to mention. It just came out last year in theaters. "Grey Owl" I did, with Pierce Brosnan, Richard Attenborough...

PW: And Graham Greene.

NA: Graham Greene. But I didn't actually get a chance to work with him.

PW: And Annie...

NA: Galipeau.

PW: Yeah, I hadn't seen her before. She's a very talented actress.

NA: Yeah, she did a really good job, especially considering that her first language is French.

PW: Where were your scenes filmed?

NA: Throughout Quebec. We stayed in Montreal and we shot in little towns and at a lake that's actually a reserve of some sort.

PW: That was also right near Montreal?

NA: No, we had to actually stay in the cabins there. That part of the film where they're showing the cabins on the lake, we actually got to stay in those cabins.

PW: At the resort that Grey Owl was performing at?

NA: Yeah. The rest of the time we stayed in Montreal.

PW: I assume that story is quite well known in Canada, but I hadn't heard about it before the movie came out. The whole story of an Englishman passing himself off as a native for decades.

NA: I heard about Grey Owl as a kid, but hadn't really looked into it. But when I did get the job, I did some research. I thought it was amazing that back in the '30s this white guy was trying to be an Indian when most Indians were trying to be white! It was kind of a switch. But he was one of Canada's first environmentalists

PW: His methods were rather unorthodox, but he did a lot of good.

NA: Saved the beaver.

PW: Canadians gotta love that! [laughs]

NA: Yes. [laughs]

PW: The scenes with the baby beavers were so cute!

NA: There was that one scene where he realizes they lost one beaver and he goes running out for it searching frantically, and he realizes, "Oh, the traps," and he's going out setting off all the traps. And he sees one that gets caught, and he's thinking that's the one and he's heartbroken. I cried during that scene. That was a good scene!

PW: And then it turns out the other baby beaver is actually safe back at the cabin.

NA: Yeah, but that's what triggered him to save the beavers.

PW: Well, I think someone was going to try to find Dakota for you, but they haven't come back, so I should probably let you go and look for him. Thank you for letting me take the time to do this, Nathaniel.

NA: Thank you.

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Text and photos (c) 2002 Patricia F. Winter, except as noted.

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Last updated 6/19/09