Canadian historian's book sparks Discovery miniseries

First aired on Airplay (08/01/13)

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Historian and biographer Charlotte Gray only found out from a newspaper article that her non-fiction book on the Canadian gold rush, Gold Diggers: Striking It Rich in the Klondike, was being turned into a Discovery channel miniseries. 

She was reading a newspaper some time before the December holidays when she noticed the announcement, Gray told Airplay's Dave White. "I had to read it three or four times," she said. "This had come completely out of the blue."

Well, to be fair, the development wasn't completely out of the blue. Gray had already signed an option with a production company, Scott Free Productions, headed by Oscar-winning director Sir Ridley Scott. But, as Gray was well aware, only about five to 10 per cent of option signings ever move into development, so she wasn't completely convinced anything would come of it.

Gold Diggers was already gathering a lot of positive feedback for its compelling characters and strong narrative. Gray chose to follow six people involved in the Yukon gold rush from the time it started until everyone left to try their luck in Alaska. She studied their memoirs and letters, quickly realizing her six characters mentioned each other in their documents. The book became a jigsaw puzzle, with Gray weaving their stories together.

charlottegray.jpgShe's curious to see who the producers will cast -- and has her secret hopes for who will fill the roles -- but isn't sad to give up control of the story. "It's not as though this was a novel ... It is based on real people and I don't make stuff up and these lives happened and I don't own them. I put the story together in a very particular way and that's what the production company has bought," she said. "It's rather like, you know, I sent Gold Diggers off into the world to make its own way, and its doing just fine, doing what I expected and hoped it to do."

Filming for the mini-series will start in northern Alberta in March, and it is scheduled to air in 2013. While Gray hopes to see some of the filming and maybe catch a sneak peak of the series, she will be busy as one of the panelists for Canada Reads, defending Jane Urquhart's Away.

Based on the very strong contenders and the other panelists, Gray thinks the competition will be a lot of fun. "It's a weird collection of champions ... An actor, a comedian, an athlete and Ron McLean from Hockey Night in Canada."

And, of course, Gray, a Canadian author whose book will come to life on television later this year.

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