From World Productions, the producers of Line Of Duty, The Pembrokeshire Murders, Save Me, and Bodyguard
When a crew member is found dead on board the Trident nuclear submarine HMS Vigil, police in Scotland are called in to investigate. The catch? The UK’s nuclear deterrent must remain unbroken, so the submarine stays on patrol and Detective Chief Inspector Amy Silva (Suranne Jones) must go aboard to begin an investigation.
Although the death was written off as an accidental overdose, Amy suspects foul play. But when the crew close ranks in the face of Amy’s questioning, a new threat overshadows her inquiry.
Vigil (6x60’) is written and created by Tom Edge, with episodes by Ed Macdonald and Chandni Lakhani, and based on an original idea by George Aza-Selinger. It is directed by James Strong, and Isabelle Sieb. Vigil is produced by Angie Daniell, executive produced by Simon Heath and Jake Lushington for World Productions, Gaynor Holmes for the BBC, James Strong and Tom Edge.
Vigil is set and was filmed in Scotland, and is supported by the National Lottery through Screen Scotland. International distribution is handled by ITV Studios.
Suranne Jones - Amy Silva
Rose Leslie - Kirsten Longacre
Shaun Evans - Glover
Martin Compston - Craig Burke
Paterson Joseph - Newsome
Adam James - Prentice
Connor Swindells - Hadlow
Gary Lewis - Robertson
Lolita Chakrabarti - Branning
Anjli Mohindra - Tiffany Docherty
Daniel Portman - Gary Walsh
Lorne MacFadyen - Doward
Stephen Dillane - Shaw
Lauren Lyle - Jade Antoniak
An introduction to Vigil, by writer Tom Edge
In April 1969 the Royal Navy launched Britain’s Continuous At-Sea Deterrent (CASD) in response to a perceived strategic weakness - our vulnerability to a pre-emptive nuclear strike. By placing ballistic missiles on submarines, and by ensuring that a submarine was always at sea, this threat could be countered with the promise of an unstoppable reprisal.
The day-to-day operation of the CASD rests on the shoulders of ordinary men and women. When they go on patrol, 130 people leave their regular lives behind to live in cramped conditions, with no privacy, foregoing daylight and cut off from almost all communication with the outside world. During a three-month patrol the only news from home is a short, heavily vetted weekly message from a designated sender. No bad news is allowed to be included, in case it destabilises the recipient. If a crew member’s spouse was killed in a car accident while the crew member was on patrol, the first they’d know about it is when the Coxswain takes the crew member aside after they dock.
The sacrifices made by these crews are substantial, as are the stresses incurred as their duties are performed. Perhaps it’s unsurprising then, that in recent years several scandals have rocked the Navy, from crew members failing drugs tests to on-board affairs between officers and junior ranks.
For the most part what helps keep people on a level is regularity. Sleep, work, relaxation, rotating in a fixed pattern. Meals on a weekly schedule so that ‘curry night’ grounds your sense of time passing. Drills help to keep people sharp, and studying or training fills the gaps.
Crews work hard to support each other and to limit interpersonal conflict. A successful patrol is one in which nothing unexpected happens.
A few years ago, development producer George Aza-Selinger pitched me the idea of the unexpected happening.
The premise he offered me was a sailor being found dead during an active patrol, with an additional problem so far as the Navy is concerned: the death occurs while the submarine is inside British territorial waters, making it a matter for the police. A compromise between Navy and police is reached, and a single detective is flown by helicopter to join the submarine on its patrol.
(Operationally this is of course hazardous and undesirable - the submarine ought to stay hidden - but it does sometimes happen, most commonly when a seriously injured or unwell sailor needs medevac).
The promise of the premise was really clear. A locked-room mystery, in which the detective must work and sleep alongside the antagonist they’re pursuing. A detective forced to work without all the things that usually support them: colleagues, forensic tools, access to information and records. The tensions created by an outsider disrupting the crew’s cohesion.
But just as appealing was the mythic feel of these giant vessels. These are boats designed to vanish beneath the waves, to cross thresholds. I started to think about the kind of character who might need to be swallowed into the belly of a whale.
DCI Amy Silva was born from those considerations. Her history makes the claustrophobic environment a tough test for her psychologically. Questions that she has grappled with in her civilian life are complex and deep running, sometimes submerged, sometimes becoming visible in a way that makes her feel vulnerable. Problems she had communicating with her ex-partner find new form in the one-way signalling between land and submarine; Amy can listen, but can’t talk back. There is no safe place for Amy to retreat to. All she has to hide behind is the thin curtain pulled across her bunk. Thrown into a highly charged situation with no time to prepare, she faces a reckoning with her most fundamental fears and desires. I’m incredibly grateful that Suranne agreed to play Amy - she does it brilliantly.
In creating the show’s antagonist I again thought about these submarines - how they remain hidden, trying to evade detection, but always hold within them the capacity for sudden violence.
And we went from there. I was joined by a host of talented writers and producers, directors, cast and crew. There aren’t many companies who have World’s experience making twisting, turning thrillers and they assembled some world-beating talent, on and off-screen, to bring Vigil to life. We hope you enjoy it!
Tom Edge, August 2021
An interview with Suranne Jones (DCI Amy Silva)
Please describe Vigil to us.
In a nutshell, there's a missing Scottish trawler and a mysterious death aboard a submarine, HMS Vigil. Because of where the submarine was when the death occurred, the Navy have to bring in the police to investigate. They bring in my character, DCI Amy Silva, who has to go on to the submarine to investigate the death. It's a double investigation, with myself, as Amy, aboard the submarine at sea, and DS Kirsten Longacre, played by the brilliant Rose Leslie, investigating on land.
Amy's supposed to be on Vigil for three days, but she uncovers lots of other things and becomes trapped down there for longer. Due to Navy protocols she has no way of openly communicating with the land investigation - the only way Amy and Kirsten can contact each other is through (heavily monitored) telegrams. But that's why Amy chose Kirsten for this mission - because they have a history, and she asks Kirsten to put hidden messages about elements of the land investigation that may impact her underwater investigation.
Do Amy and the Vigil crew get on well?
When she gets down there Amy and the crew clash, because they don't know who actually has the authority out of the Navy and the police. The crew think they do, because Amy's in their world and aboard their ship, but actually Amy's holding a criminal investigation. So there are no clear rules as such, and no one has control over the other, which is really interesting.
How would you describe Amy?
Complex, and not afraid to show who's boss. Amy is a complicated, modern, quite vulnerable - when we first meet her - police officer. She's single (having broken up with Kirsten), and she is concentrating on work. That's all she has in her life at present.
To say she feels claustrophobic and caught in a boy's world when aboard Vigil is an understatement. I think she does really well. She has anxiety and depression, and usually she's on medication and exercises a lot to cope with her condition. But when she's down on the submarine she loses all of that. She doesn't have enough medication, she can't exercise, so that impacts her a great deal as well.
When she gets the call at the start of the series we follow her on to the submarine. It's at this point Tom Edge does something really clever; Amy is trapped under the water and she has time to look at her life. So during the criminal investigation there's another investigation going on, which is Amy looking at who she is and what she's been missing. It gives her time to really take a look at who she is and what she needs to do. I don't want to give too much away, but at that point we, as viewers, learn about two key personal relationships in her life, one being her relationship with Kirsten, and another from before that. And she does this at the same time as trying to solve a murder. As you do!
What do you think sets Vigil apart from other dramas?
I think what the team has tried to do is really modern. Because we've got a real, old-fashioned boys-y thriller, in the fact it's set on a submarine and it's a police investigation. And they've put two female leads at the heart of it, which I think is brilliant and modern and refreshing. And there's also a love story between these two leads that we're uncovering at the same time, but it doesn't clash in any way with the thriller elements of the plot.
What's brilliant is Vigil teaches you about what goes on under the water aboard a submarine, and also it's political enough without taking away from being an entertaining, mainstream TV show. I think that's what Tom Edge has done really well - and World Productions obviously do really well with Line Of Duty. It touches on relevant and important subjects, but still keeps the entertainment value. And on top of all of that there's the love story of a woman - Amy - who falls in love with another woman - Kirsten - in the midst of all this, and is struggling because it's the first woman she's ever fallen in love with. It makes it super complex, but Vigil has managed to do it and I think it's a really special piece. Rose Leslie is one of the most glorious human beings I've ever met, as is Shaun Evans. I was just blessed with those two people.
Because it's set on a submarine, the tension of the show is already written into it. Plus it has some brilliant shots, with the technology we have now for FX. It's amazing - some scenes, when we filmed them they didn't look anything like the finished product. I was hung above a car park on a rope at one point, but it looks entirely different and much better in the show!
Is it true you did your own stunts?
I did. When I first read the script I was like "oh my god this sounds amazing - I get to do all these stunts!". But I forgot how old I was. I thought I was 23 when I was reading it, and that's not true anymore! So I had to do a lot of working out just to build up my strength in order to do those scenes. And then we had a gap partway through filming because of lockdown, and anyone who had a bit of lockdown belly will know it's quite hard to get your strengths up after that. Most of the stunts were when we were coming back after the break, so that was quite hard to build myself back up.
I got whiplash, I put my back out a couple of times, I was covered in bruises. Every time I went home my husband was like, "what the hell have they done to you now?". It was fun to do and I watch the finished series and go "Oh, Amy's great!". But I was hobbling home and having Epsom salt baths during filming!
Over the series we learn more about Amy's earlier life and what she's been through, don't we?
When we first meet Amy she's in a place of loss, grief, guilt, and trauma from a decision she made. You learn more about that as the series goes on. Amy is coping - she has all the things in place to have her life functioning, but whether she is enjoying her life is another thing. And work has taken over. And then she meets Kirsten, and Kirsten brings life and soul and brightness back into her life. Kirsten makes her laugh, and just fills her life with everything she'd been missing. Only she's a woman, and that confuses Amy.
What's beautiful is we have the complexity of a woman who has fallen for another human being and now has to realign who and what she thought she was. I guess she's also struggling with what other people will think of that new relationship. I did some research and spoke to a lot of women, and it can be a really tricky time for someone who has previously been straight, to adapt to those new feelings and to understand them. And so there was a relationship between Amy and Kirsten, but it stopped. When we first meet Kirsten and Amy they're in a state of anger and confusion. There's a lot going on in this piece! Both that and the criminal investigation will hopefully keep people on their toes.
As well as Amy's scenes on land with Kirsten, you spent a lot of time on the submarine set. How was that?
The set just blew my mind. The size of the subs in real life are extraordinary - they're like four floors, with a bomb shop and missile room. The details that the designers put in is quite something, especially as they couldn't get blueprints of real submarines to work from, because you're not allowed to have them. So they had to be talked through what was there by people who had first-hand knowledge of submarines, and then come up with their own design off the back of that.
Filming on the Vigil set was great. It was claustrophobic. I mean, the beds alone. There's a great scene where Amy tries to get in her bunk bed. I'm quite tall and not of small build, and the director was like "can you get up there a little more gracefully?" Because I just couldn't do it, because they're so small.
What other research did you do?
I didn't want to do too much research into the submarine life, because I wanted to discover it with Amy across the course of the series. But I did go and see a detective. The first thing she said was "What?! They wouldn't send you down there, it would have to be extreme circumstances for that to happen!" And I said: but it is an extreme circumstance. It's a submarine that needs police investigation but can't come back to dock - I have to go to it, and they have to drop me on to it from a helicopter in the middle of the sea.
I spoke to her to learn more about the work of a detective, and I've played a couple of detectives before so I knew the lingo. I'm not a fan of doing lots of detective lingo because my brain shuts off (laughs), because it's not easy to speak! I trained for the stunts, too. So it was a case of preparing myself for the police side and then training for the stunts, and then I found out the sub stuff as I went along, like Amy does.
I happen to have had experience with anxiety and depression myself, and have been on medication, so my life research was enough for that. It's a really modern theme and I'm glad that we're covering it in the way that we are, and putting it into a mainstream show that covers it within entertainment. Because I think things talk to an audience when they're being entertained. I think that's the best way we get interested in stuff. Think how many times you have watched a show and been on google looking subjects up that are covered. Sometimes we discount it as 'it's just a TV show', but actually I think it's a really important way of educating people.
What attracted you to Vigil?
I think I was attracted to Vigil because of what it was trying to do. It was trying to be something different. It was trying to have a different voice in the landscape of TV. It's a boys-y show, a boys-y thriller with two females at the heart of it. And a complex storyline about sexuality. You put all of that together and I think what they were trying to do with it really spoke to me and I thought, this is the way we should be going now. It shouldn't be unusual for a show to have all those elements in it. It should just be a TV show, and a really really bloody good one. So that's what attracted me at first. And the stunts! And then I realised they were hard (laughs).
An interview with Shaun Evans (Elliot Glover)
Please tell us about Glover.
Elliot Glover is the coxswain on HMS Vigil. It’s a role that sits and liaises between the highest-ranking officers on board and the rest of the crew, so Glover has to straddle both worlds on the submarine. At the beginning of the series someone aboard the ship - and I won’t say who - needs disciplining, which is a job for Glover, and then a couple of hours later that person is found dead. As a result, a detective (Amy Silva, played by Suranne Jones) is flown aboard the submarine to investigate. The subsequent investigation by her unearths a whole world of simmering tension and hidden agendas.
In terms of Glover’s personal life, there’s not a lot I can say without ruining a few twists for you, but it’s safe to say he’s got a secret! When we meet him at the start of the series he’s onboard Vigil working away from his family - his wife and child - for 90 days, which could potentially turn into 180 days.
What made you say yes to the role?
Three things, really. I liked the script - it’s fast-paced, has loads of scale, and Tom Edge and the team have done a terrific job. The concept is so interesting, it’s essentially a locked-room murder mystery, in a way that we’ve not seen done before.
Additionally, I’m a big fan of the shows World Productions make, and I’d really admired James Strong’s work previously and knew him socially a bit, so was keen to work with him. Any one of these things would have been enough to get me interested, but all three combined meant Vigil was something I really wanted to be a part of.
As you say, Glover’s job sees him spend months on end aboard the submarine away from home. Could you cope?
I could not think of anything worse! Freedom is the best thing, right? The freedom to go and take a walk, get a cup of coffee, get away from people. The idea of not being able to do that or to even step outside to get a breath of fresh air? It is my idea of hell.
Did you do any research?
I spoke to some guys in the Navy who put me in touch with some submariners - one of whom was a Coxswain - and I spent a good bit of time chatting to them, to find out what their jobs entailed and what was required. Plus, importantly, to find out what kind of person is attracted to that role, because I think if you’re doing it 24/7 then there must be certain common traits or qualities required to do it well. I was intrigued by what the common elements might be, and I think the key one is that you really do have to get along with people.
For the coxswain especially, you have to be available to others - to be friendly, upbeat, able to rub along well with others - and definitely not a loner. There’s a real diplomatic quality required as well, in order to be able to straddle both worlds and liaise regularly between all ranks on board.
The submariners I spoke to were just really fun, interesting guys, and by speaking to them I got a sense of the camaraderie between them, and what it must be like to do that job.
I was really struck by the pride they all take in the work they do, too. The job they fulfil is not taken lightly, and I’m always interested in people whose life is vocational, whether artists or armed forces, for instance. I was really struck by that. Plus what it takes to be away from your family for that amount of time, voluntarily. You can miss so much while you’re away at sea - your kids being born, loved ones passing away, major life events.
On set we worked with an ex-submariner who would advise on the practical elements, such as where we’d stand. There has to be some artistic licence of course, but at the same time accuracy was taken seriously.
What was HMS Vigil set like to film on?
Incredible! The designer had done a terrific job, because it was huge in scale but the details were so incredibly specific and intricate. Working on it was fantastic. And, bearing mind that we started filming before Covid, by some miracle and a lot of hard work from the team we were still able to film on the set after filming resumed, in a way that makes it look like we’re still confined to tiny corridors with a huge crew.
I’ve really got to pay tribute to James Strong and Isabelle Sieb for that too. Having an amazing set is great, but you have to be able to shoot it in a way that’s imaginative and interesting, and they both did that. The idea that you can get a crane shot on a submarine is wild to me and I was so impressed. I was blown away by every department, but the design of the ship is extraordinary.
It was a fun place to work in every day, a real laugh. Everyone really bonded as a team in the same way that you’d imagine we would on a real submarine, without watering down their personalities. And that’s all of us across the cast, from the established actors to the younger ones early on in their careers. I was blown away with their enthusiasm. So yes, the design was absolutely terrific, but it’s also about how you shoot and inhabit the set as well. It’ll look great on screen.
Finally, why do you think people should watch Vigil?
It’s a fantastic story, well told. Simple as that!
An interview with Martin Compston (Craig Burke)
Please tell us about Craig Burke.
Burke works aboard HMS Vigil, monitoring the sonar. We first meet him at a time when he's becoming a bit conflicted in his job - he's becoming more and more aware of the world, and his politics are developing to be those that maybe don't quite mesh with what he does for a living.
He also has his misgivings about Vigil and how it's been run - there've been previous incidents aboard the submarine that have shown a bit of a cavalier attitude towards safety from some of his crewmates, and that's all starting to come to the front of his mind. As a result, he's becoming more and more vocal with his concerns to his superiors, and that's causing a lot of friction between him and members of the Vigil crew.
What made you say yes to the part?
World Productions, the BBC, James Strong, and the fact it's a fantastic cast they've got together for this one. Suranne Jones alone is someone I've always wanted to work with, and when World come calling for me... it's a very strong relationship we have, and everything they do is so good, so I'm delighted to be involved. And the fact that Vigil is a Scottish story that was being filmed about 30 minutes away from where I grew up in Greenock - that was all really appealing too.
Burke's job involves spending months away at sea - could you cope?
I don't think I could. It's got to be such a claustrophobic job, and you've got to be a certain type of person, which I don't think I am. The way the world is at the minute, combined with the nature of my job and travel schedule, means I've had to do quarantine a few times now, and after a week it drives me mental. I know this is a very different situation, because you're around other people and you've got a job to do, but being stuck in that one environment for months on months is really not for me. Humans are not designed for that.
I think it can be a very tense place too - if there was somebody you didn't like on that boat then that tension would just ratchet up again and again. The Navy has got a very strict code of discipline to keep things in check, but the tension aboard a submarine must be unbearable at times. It certainly gets that way on Vigil.
Burke has a technical job and you look like you know what you're doing. Is that the result of research?
Well, I grew up on the mouth of the Clyde so submarines are a daily occurrence where I'm from. You see them constantly. There's a naval base, Faslane, across the water from where I grew up so it was always normal to see a submarine. You're very aware of them around you, and I’m surprised there hasn't been a drama about it on this scale before.
When it comes to the technical side of things, it's nice of you to say that, but it's purely acting because I am absolutely useless at anything with my hands. Anything that requires it - house maintenance, car maintenance, DIY - I'm no use at all. I'm very lucky that my wife is brilliant at that stuff and can carry me through. I'm utterly useless, so that submarine would have no chance if I were working on it for real.
The huge submarine set you filmed on must have helped too...
Absolutely - it was brilliant, and as an actor it's such a wonderful help when the sets are so good. When you just feel it's all real and you can walk from different bits of the sub to the other and it's all there for you - you really get a sense of the claustrophobia and how 'close quarters' it is aboard a submarine.
On my first day on set in the control room I felt a bit like I was on Star Trek. It was all going on - orders being shouted, all of us at our stations being led by our Captain, Paterson Joseph. There's one particular scene early in the series where I get in trouble and am dismissed to my bunk, and that whole walk from the control room to the bed was one continuous walk for me, because they'd built so much of the submarine. It just kept going on and on!
Finally, why do you think everyone should watch Vigil?
It's got a wonderful cast and fantastic scripts that make for a truly original thriller. With all the lockdowns taking their toll, new television on this scale has been a little less common so far this year. Everyone's been desperate for new and original content, and they're certainly going to get that with Vigil.
An interview with Anjli Mohindra (Tiffany Docherty)
Please tell us about Tiffany.
Lieutenant Tiffany Docherty, aka 'Doc Doc', is the ship's doctor. She cares deeply for Vigil's crew, she is the go-to person for the personal and mental issues that can come as an occupational hazard being aboard a submarine, lonely and isolated from life on land, for such long stints. She has grafted incredibly hard to get where she is. She was selected as part of the Navy's Medical Training Grant Scheme, who sponsored her degree in medicine.
She is hugely respected by all onboard Vigil, but she definitely knows how to let her hair down during the land-breaks that the crew get every now then.
Did working on Vigil teach you anything that surprised you?
I knew they weren't on the roomy side, but I hadn't realised quite how small and compact submarines are. The bunks are tight allowing just enough room to clamber in sideways. There are often nine bunks to a dorm that is usually no bigger than a small double bedroom, and that space includes the showers too. You can't smoke, get mobile or WIFI signal or natural daylight during the weeks, if not months, spent under the water. The missions out to sea are long ones. There are submarines stealthily creeping along ocean beds right now as we speak, ready to launch missiles should they need to!
The series paused filming for more than five months due to lockdown. How was it coming back to the role after that long away?
It was strangely great to have the time to let the character and the story marinate further during the time off - of course, there was no certainty we'd be able to return, but it gave us all a chance to take stock of the first half of filming and modulate as we went along! At first it was strange getting used to all of the PPE and testing, but we were all so grateful to be back that we soon got into the new rhythm of things.
Please tell us about that incredible HMS Vigil set.
The set was mind-blowingly detailed. It felt very real. During a particularly thrilling scene, I launched myself down one of the vertical fireman's pole-esque staircases in a half-stunt / half-accidental trip, and it made the final cut. Things certainly felt real at that point!
Were there any especially memorable moments from filming?
There were some real naughty glinty-eyed castmates among us - the kind whom you can't look at for too long in a scene because you wouldn't be able to stop yourself laughing. I won't name any names! But we all fell about laughing quite a bit when words would come out wrong or technical spiel accidentally sounded euphemistic! Those moments are some of the best on set. The laughs become addictive and you have to get them out of your system so you can move on and complete the day.
Finally, please describe Vigil to us in three words.
An interview with Connor Swindells (Simon Hadlow)
Please tell us about Hadlow - who is he, and what does he do?
Hadlow is the chief engineering officer on HMS Vigil. Young and, at times, out of his depth, he keeps a very well kept lid on the catastrophic events that take place during our time aboard. For any Star Trek fans out there, he is the Wesley Crusher of the HMS Vigil crew.
What made you want to be a part of Vigil?
The main thing that drew me to the project were the scripts, both fascinating and bold. Intersecting storylines that kept me enthralled. Working with Suranne Jones, who I’m a super fan of, as well as the rest of the brilliant cast, was a great learning experience for me. Our lead director James Strong is also a delight, and meeting him in the room with wonderful casting director Kahleen Crawford sold it for me.
Did working on Vigil teach you anything that surprised you?
The main things that surprised me about being on Vigil is the responsibility that lies upon submarine crews. I wasn’t aware that submarines hold a nation’s nuclear weapons. What a scary reality for those on board. I also learnt how claustrophobic I am, as our sets were pretty incredible and very truthful to the real deal. They were tight to navigate, to say the least.
We had an ex-submariner advisor on set, who kept us all in ship-shape, and was a tremendous help. Especially to me as, in relation to the specific knowledge, most of the time I had no idea what to say or do.
Do you think you’d be cut out for the submarine life yourself?
There is no part of me that wishes to be a submariner. It’s tough work. Period. My biggest respect to those who do it, but sorry. Not for me.
Were there any especially memorable moments from filming?
The whole process was funny - we are a bunch of silly and neurotic actors. We often didn’t know what we were talking about, and that dealt out some brilliant moments between us. We actually started filming the first three episodes without knowing who our culprit was. It became a rather exciting guessing game between us, as to who was guilty and who was not.
An interview with Adam James (Mark Prentice)
Please describe Prentice to us.
So to give him his full title of Lt.Commander Mark Prentice, he is basically the XO or second in command of HMS Vigil, a nuclear class submarine.
On first appearances he appears to be very officious, does things ‘properly’ and by the book, a stickler for the rules and how the boat should run and nothing should frankly get in the way of that, least of all Suranne Jones’ character DCI Silva, who has been helicoptered onto the sub to commence her investigation into the death of a crew member. So he gives her initially pretty short shrift.
Do you think you’d get on with Prentice in real life?
I personally am never very good with authority and the people that wield it, so I don’t think Prentice and I would potentially see eye to eye on all things. However, his sense of duty and loyalty to both his men and the job are commendable. I’d describe him as firm but fair, ultimately.
Did you have any especially memorable moments during filming?
I think the first couple of days on set were properly jaw dropping, as the scale and detail of the submarine set that had been built was very impressive. It was simply enormous! It took up the entirety of the sound stage we were working on, and it gave us such an immediate and accurate feeling of what it might be like to be on an actual sub. It left very little to the imagination (such was the detail of set), which in that kind of environment was so helpful to be able to perform and work in - all the excitement of being on a sub, but without any of the actual difficulty or discomfort of having to be on a real one!
The crew of HMS Vigil is away at sea for months on end, with hardly any contact with their loved ones. How do you think you’d cope with that?
Weirdly, it might be like going back to boarding school for me, where you were ushered away from your friends and family for a period of time. So maybe not too badly, but in truth I know that need to have many other distractions in my life, and the lack of real light and air would definitely take its toll eventually. I take my hat off to those submariners that do this. It’s a hell of job, and requires a very particularly type of person and mindset to do it successfully.
Finally, why should BBC One/BBC iPlayer viewers watch Vigil?
If you like blockbusting thrillers then look no further! Especially as this is the same production company that brought you both Line Of Duty and Bodyguard.
Set both on land and at sea, audiences will get a rare glimpse into this subterranean world and the unique ecosystem of life on a sub. As the conflict grows between the police, Navy and the British Security Services, so does the level of drama, and audiences will find Vigil is full of brilliant and surprisingly unexpected twist and turns throughout, fully realised by an exceptional cast from Suranne Jones and Rose Leslie, to Stephen Dillane, Martin Compton and Shaun Evans.
And if you’re a fan of the cliff-hanger, then I recommend you watch it live and avoid any spoilers as the series goes out... you’ll be kept second guessing right up to the very end!
An interview with Gary Lewis (CS Robertson)
Please describe Robertson to us - who is he, and where do we meet him?
Robertson is a Chief Superintendent with Police Scotland. We first find him responding to a death onboard HMS Vigil in Scottish waters, assigning his best detective to the investigation. He is supportive, loyal, and sensitive when it comes to his team.
What made you want to play him and be a part of Vigil?
I once met somebody who told me about a high-ranking police officer who could have retired very comfortably, but he loved his work, was very principled, kept fit and looked after his team. With Robertson, I wanted to explore and build upon that.
How did it feel to be filming Vigil in Glasgow?
Glasgow, my home city, is a great place. I love it even more with its developing diversity and big warm heart. It's a joy to film there. Ask Brad. Or Tom. Or the Clooney fella.
There are lots of crime and detective dramas on TV - what is it about Vigil that you feel sets it apart?
Vigil’s scope and depth sets it apart. I suppose folk will use the word 'depth' a lot in relation to Vigil. But there you go. Depth.
Did you have any especially memorable moments and/or highlights during filming?
I filmed a lot of my scenes with Rose Leslie, who plays Kirsten. When Rose told me that she was pregnant, Robertson may have developed a bit more protectiveness towards her. But she is very strong and can look after herself. So I kept it in check.
Finally, why should BBC One/BBC iPlayer viewers watch Vigil?
As well as cast members that you know and love, you'll see a host of terrific young actors working on an engrossing script. The talk around Vigil won't just be 'whodunnit' - there is so much more to take in and enjoy.
An interview with James Strong, lead director
How did you first become involved with Vigil?
As a director I’m especially drawn to things I’ve never done or seen on screen before, and reading the opening scenes from Vigil I quickly realized this was both! A bold, strikingly original premise and full of huge directorial challenges from the off. So when I was approached by World Productions and the BBC to be lead director on the show in summer 2019, I jumped at the chance. I love stories set within real contexts and with the nuclear deterrent being still very much a ‘live’ issue (especially in Scotland) - it seemed a perfect fit.
What were the main things you set out to achieve with the series?
With Vigil I wanted to create something different. To create a world you’ve never see on screen before and are fascinated to explore. I also wanted to deliver scale and spectacle along with authenticity and veracity. So it’s not just a gripping story, but always set in a credible world.
What were the biggest challenges of making Vigil, for you?
Ha! Take your pick! The biggest challenge for any director setting up a show is to 'build the world’. To set the visual approach and work with the team to execute this. And with Vigil there was a lot to build! First of all a there was a Trident submarine - the setting for the majority of the show. I like to shoot on real locations - but for obvious reasons this was largely impossible, so we had to create a big enough space to contain the action and be big enough to work in and yet retain all the claustrophobia of a real submarine. Creating HMS Vigil was an enormous endeavour, brilliantly carried out by designer Tom Sayer and his team. It looked incredible, was a great place to shoot and yet always felt utterly real.
But the creative challenges were somewhat overshadowed by larger global challenges beyond our control… namely a global pandemic! Shooting was suspended for six months last year - and it’s a testament to our incredible cast and crew that they returned after months away and seamlessly completed the shoot. We were one of the very first productions to come back up after the lockdown and I was humbled by the dedication and professionalism of everyone to work to the best of their ability and keep everyone safe around them.
Without giving too much away, is there a particular moment or element of Vigil that you’re especially proud of?
I’ve been fortunate to direct some big sequences in my career, including the assassination of JFK and the battle of Waterloo, but I can honestly say the opening 20 minutes of this series were the most audacious, complex but exciting I’ve ever had to shoot. We had to film the sinking of a boat in the middle of the North Sea and then helicopter our hero onto a moving submarine 200 miles off the Scottish coast. It took months and months of planning, breaking it down shot by shot and deciding how to do each frame, utilizing all the different cinematic tools, kit and techniques available. It was a monumental effort from all the departments involved and I’m truly thrilled with the end results.
What do you think sets Vigil apart from other TV dramas?
Vigil is different in a number of ways: it’s about a real thing, its premise is fascinating and one most people don’t really know anything about. Britain’s nuclear deterrent has been operational for over 50 years and yet is shrouded in secrecy, and so it is a mystery to the viewer - therefore it's the perfect place to set a drama. It’s also a truly genuinely gripping mystery, populated by great characters, so in every way it’s simply unlike anything else on our screens right now.