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Zero Chill: Secrets from the Set of the Netflix teen ice hockey drama - Dakota Benjamin Taylor, Grace Beedie and Jade Ma reveal all
We hear from the cast of Netflix’s teen drama Zero Chill about the making of the ice skating series, which was filmed in Sheffield.
From the team behind Netflix hit Free Rein and starring an international cast, Zero Chill looks destined to become the next big thing in the world of teen dramas.
A coming-of-age tale set in the world of ice hockey and figure skating, Zero Chill is a series about family, siblings, the irrepressible dreams of young sports stars and the joy, drama and beauty in performing on ice.
BT TV caught up with the show’s stars Dakota Taylor and Grace Beedie, who play brother and sister Mac and Kayla MacBentley, and Jade Ma, who plays Sky Tyler, a young skater forced into early retirement, to find out how they brought the magic of the ice to life.
The actors can really skate
“My agent texted me and said, ‘remind me what your skating experience is?’ I was just floored. As soon I got that text, I said, ‘if there is a role where you have to skate, that is mine, I need that!’
Rising Canadian star Grace Beedie began skating aged three and competed professional between the ages of 12 and 15, so not surprisingly she jumped at the opportunity to strap on the skates again for this Netflix series.
The producers wanted actors with genuine skating talent to bring an authenticity to the series that CGI trickery couldn’t manage.
Beedie and her co-stars were packed off for a nine-week training programme before filming, where they all spent every day either on the ice or in the gym.
Exec producer Angelo Abela said: “They also got to try each other’s sport out, so the figure skaters did some ice hockey training and vice versa. By the end of it they had been so supercharged by the training programme that you just had to sit back in awe at the physical feats that the figure skaters were able to perform and the sheer speed, energy and power of the ice hockey players.”
Beedie’s co-star and fellow Canadian Dakota Taylor grew up playing ice hockey and was happy to embrace the bumps and hard-hitting action of the sport all over again.
“I had to put hockey to one side a bit to pursue acting, so for that to come full circle is absolutely insane,” said Taylor.
“There were a few little bits and pieces that we weren’t allowed to do – for the figure skaters it was the jumps – but the hits in the hockey were allowed. I took a lot of hits!”
Jade Ma was quite emotional to get the chance to return to the ice for the series, after cutting ice skating career short due to injuries.
“I started skating when I was about three years old and skated until I was about 11 competitively, but then I got a lot of injuries because I was training so much,” she said.
“Having the opportunity to come back to skating was incredible because I’ve always had the voice at the back of my head about ‘What if you had continued?’. There was always a part of me that always missed it, so getting back on the ice was really special."
Food glorious food
A recurring theme that Zero Chill fans will notice is the mouth-watering food and snacks. From banana bread and blue slushies to pizza parties and burgers at the MacBentleys' house, there is rarely a seen where the cast aren’t enjoying some snacks.
The cast admit that their eyes initially let up when the food was brought onto set, but things quickly changed as they realised that they had to eat the same food in every single take.
“In episode 2, there is a scene at the MacBentley house where they are all having pizza and it’s a really long scene with lots of the cast, so we had to spend a long while shooting it,” recalls Ma.
“And we had to eat all the time, which at the beginning, we thought, ‘this is awesome, we get to eat pizza’. But then it got towards the end of the day and I thought, ‘If I ever see a pizza again in my life, I will cry’.”
Zero Chill - Fun Facts
- The international cast came from Canada, Sweden, Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Croatia, France, Slovenia, Canada and the UK.
- The cast’s favourite off set activity was playing video games together, especially Resident Evil
- Sarah Jane Potts, who plays Kayla and Mac’s mum, got on the ice (“I’m no good at skating at all”)
- Dakota Benjamin Taylor plays guitar bass and drums and sings in the band Midnight Answers
- Jade Ma is trained in martial arts and is also a skiing and snowboarding instructor
Beedie added: “Once you establish you’ve eaten something in a take, you must then do the same amount of eating in every single take.
In Taylor’s bedroom, they had all the pizza boxes and the pizza boxes were stacked taller than me and in columns and columns. There was constant pizza in the house.”
Taylor said this wasn’t the only food scene he had to suffer repeatedly in filming, recalling a moment where ice hockey star Mac gets covered in ketchup.
“We had to do that scene a few times. We had to get that right, or at least that’s what they told me!” he laughs.
“I’m not sure if even the cameras were rolling for the last five takes. They just kept squirting it at me.”
Filming in the Steel City
After a meeting Team GB’s figure skating coach David Hartley in Sheffield, the producers were offered the opportunity to use Sheffield’s ice arena to film the show.
Hartley joined the team to help with the skating and local ice hockey stars the Sheffield Steelers also consulted and helped as coaches.
“Sheffield was so much fun,” says Canadian star Taylor.
Beedie said that the Yorkshire locals were welcoming to all the cast and showed them all the best local coffee shops.
“We would come into training and see all the pro figure skaters training and then the Sheffield Steelers doing their thing,” said Beedie.
“It was an amazing source of inspiration for us.”
Ma added: “Where we were staying was right in the city centre, but it had a real small-town feel with a tight-knit community and it was a great place to go hang out after a day shooting and get to know each other as a cast.
“We came from all around the world - Canada, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Germany - so it was a great place for us all to come together.”
It takes the viewers out onto the ice
The executive producers of Zero Chill used their experience on Netflix drama Free Rein to bring the magic and energy of ice skating alive for viewers.
Rather than offering a static shot of the action and big wide shots of stunt actors pulling off tricks, the producers insisted on getting as close to the actors on the ice as possible.
“When we were making Free Rein it was really important that the audience feel what it was like to actually be on the back of a horse riding over hills and dales and we wanted a similarly visceral feeling here, said exec Abela.
“But how could we achieve the feeling that you weren’t outside looking in, but actually on the ice with the skaters? It was the biggest challenge. We decided to shoot in two different ways: with the figure skaters we went for very elegant, long tracking shots on the ice.
“We put cameramen in rickshaws and had them pushed on the ice alongside the skaters.
“Then, with the hockey scenes, it became much more handheld camera work, filmed behind Perspex screens on the ice.
“I directed the first block of filming myself and it occurred to me that we were actually inventing a whole new method of filming. It was very exciting.”
Watch Zero Chill on Netflix now