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Oscar winner Hilary Swank stars as an investigative journalist digging into an important story in Alaska Daily
The last place that award-winning investigative journalist Eileen Fitzgerald thought she would find herself is Alaska. But after a fall from grace, it seems The Daily Alaskan in Anchorage is the only place that will have her—and a rare place where the writer can find her true north.
From Tom McCarthy, who wrote and directed the Oscar-winning film Spotlight, comes yet another drama that shines a light on the lives and work of journalists, exploring their personal and professional challenges. McCarthy’s producing partner is series star (and fellow Oscar-winner) Hilary Swank. “When Tom mentioned what he was wanting to create, and after reading the pilot, I was all-consumed,” says Swank, adding she had no hesitations about making a return to television. “It is the material that matters. It seemed like a great opportunity to be able to really dig deep into stories that matter and dig deep into characters and their backgrounds.”
The impetus for McCarthy in creating the series was telling a story about the Indigenous community in Alaska. “One of the reasons I decided to set the show in Anchorage was a piece of reporting by Kyle Hopkins that took a hard look at the missing and murdered persons crisis,” says the screenwriter. “I felt like, to set a journalism show in Alaska and not take some time to examine that would be almost negligent. It was a terrific opportunity to put such an important topic onto mainstream TV and maybe start a conversation with the ‘Lower 48,’ as the Alaskans like to refer to [the rest of the United States], on this topic.” CTVFor Swank, playing a character that perseveres through adversity was the driving engine for her involvement. “I love the underdog, and I love what makes us all one person. Everyone wants to be seen, and everyone deserves justice. I think a lot of the roles that I choose have that theme in one way or another,” she says. “Eileen Fitzgerald is a truth seeker and she wants to make sure that justice is done.” When she read Hopkins’ article, “Lawless,” Swank felt like McCarthy had discovered a winning recipe. “To me, when you can learn something while you watch something, you can be entertained and you can relate to something, then it’s the best of all worlds,” she says.
While the storyline could appear as Swank’s character coming in as a white saviour, her — admittedly involuntary—collaboration with Indigenous colleague Roz (Grace Dove) forces both to think about their preconceived notions. “There’s a lot of distrust,” says Dove. “As an Alaska native, we see a lot of people come in and bring up these stories for the attention, but not actually put in the work that it’s going to take to support Indigenous peoples.” As the show goes on, both women achieve a better understanding of why their boss paired them up. “I think it takes both of their strengths in order to get the job done,” says Swank.
Dove, a Secwépemc actress from the Canim Lake Indian Band in British Columbia, sees this as an opportunity to bring important issues to the screen. “We have been facing this for a very long time,” she says. “I grew up along the Highway of Tears, Highway 16, in northern British Columbia, so to see this go on to network television, it’s incredible. I think that a lot of people are hopefully going to be curious and open and see it from a different lens.”
The cast of Alaska Daily is diverse in every way, but filling the fictional newsroom with mainly female reporters was not just an aspirational move from McCarthy. “That’s a trend in newsrooms around the country right now and, specifically, it was a trend in the Anchorage Daily News,” he says. “Because of Kyle’s reporting, I travelled to Alaska and met the Daily Alaskan newsroom. Just to be clear, The Daily Alaskan is not the Anchorage Daily News, but we look to those guys as inspiration. That newsroom did have a lot of really fantastic female reporters—the majority, actually. I thought that was interesting, so that’s a piece I grabbed for our show.”
What may, in the current political and news climate, be more aspirational than gender parity is convincing some viewers that journalists are still the good guys. That is the audience, according to McCarthy, that the show is trying its hardest to reach. “Ultimately, what we [want] people to take away, regardless of what side of the aisle they’re on, [is that] in most cases, journalists are hard-working, overworked, underpaid and well-meaning members of their community,” says McCarthy. “Let’s try to open this up and really understand these people and show not just how the sausage gets made but how they see everything in their lives through the lens of their craft and their passion. I think how we reach people is through great characters and a great story.”
Alaska Daily premieres Thursday, October 13 on CTV & ABC