BBC - British Broadcasting Corporation

12/02/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 12/01/2023 18:16

Vigil cast and creatives discuss the 'twisting and turning ride' of series two

Published: 2 December 2023

Following multiple unexplained fatalities at a Scottish military facility, DCI Amy Silva (Suranne Jones) and DI Kirsten Longacre (Rose Leslie) are tasked with uncovering the cause. Entering the hostile and closed ranks of the air force, the pair must face the deadly warfare of tomorrow as they fight for their own future.

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Cast and Creatives

Cast

DCI Amy Silva - Suranne Jones

DI Kirsten Longacre - Rose Leslie

DSU Robertson - Gary Lewis

Air Marshall Marcus Grainger - Dougray Scott

Acting Squadron Leader Eliza Russell - Romola Garai

Daniel Ramsay - Amir El-Masry

Sutherland - David Elliot

Captain Sattam Abdul Kader - Oscar Salem

Callum Barker - Chris Jenks

Wes Harper - Jonathan Ajayi

Colonel Ali Bilali - Nebras Jamali

Sabiha Chapman - Hiba Medina

Firas Zaman - Tommy Sim'aan

DS Paul Townsend - Noof Ousellam

Derek McCabe - Steven Elder

Abdullah Ghazali - Khalid Laith Nicoel

Nicole Lawson - Shannon Hayes

Colin Dixon - Anders Hayward

Mutaz - Kamal Mustaffai

Poppy - Orla Russell

Chapman - Alastair Mackenzie

Creative team

Writer, creator and executive producer - Tom Edge

Executive producers for World Productions - Jake Lushington and Simon Heath

Executive producer for the BBC - Gaynor Holmes

Commissioning Executive for the BBC - Stephanie Fyfe

Producer - Marcus Wilson

Associate Producer - George Aza-Selinger

Directors - Andy De Emmony and Joss Agnew

Further writers - Maryam Hamidi, James Smythe and Ryan O'Sullivan and Matilda Wnek

Production Designer - Mark Leese

Costume Designer - Kate Carin

Hair & Make-up Designer - Laura Hill

Editors - Richard Cox, Mark Elliot, Michael Harrowers

DOPs - Matt Wicks, Nic Lawson

Casting Director - Kahleen Crawford

An introduction by writer, creator and executive producer Tom Edge

In the first series of Vigil we saw DCI Amy Silva venturing into the hidden world of Vanguard-class submarines and their decades-long mission to provide Britain with a Continuous At-Sea Deterrent. Our second series finds Amy and Kirsten (Amy's partner in both senses of the word) exploring another shrouded aspect of British military operations - that of Britain's arms dealing, drone weapons development, and its partnerships in the Middle East.

The British military has worked in this region for decades, providing training and operational support. We are all familiar with past joint operations against ISIS, but these relationships go far deeper than that, and they often involve complex partnerships between the military and the private sector.

These operations also raise fascinating questions about how we define Britain's "national interests". When the prospect of British-made weapons, serviced by British personnel and fired by British-trained foreign servicemen can end up causing civilian casualties, questions are inevitably raised as to whether Britain can honestly disavow any responsibility for these kinds of foreign military operations.

These are the grey areas - and in Vigil 2 we explore a world of moral and political compromises, ethical disagreements and clashing institutional priorities. As with the first series, the meaning of "loyalty" is a major theme. To whom or what do we owe our loyalty? Our loved ones, our conscience, the institution we serve, our country? How do we approach the duties that derive from these loyalties? And which legal and ethical boundaries might we have to transgress in order to fulfil them? These themes are made intensely personal for our protagonists, as Kirsten's pregnancy places pressure on every aspect of their decision-making. How far can each of them afford to go, in the pursuit of justice? And what price might loyalty to principles exact from them?

With a brilliant cast, led by Suranne and Rose, and a fantastic team of creatives behind them, we hope that Vigil 2 provides a twisting and turning ride into the heart of these questions.

Interview with Suranne Jones (DCI Amy Silva)

Where do we find Amy at the start of series two?

We left series one with Amy and Kirsten picking up Poppy after the trauma of the submarine and we saw that they decided to give their relationship a go. In this series, Kirsten is pregnant, they are very happy together and very much in love and Poppy is now living with them. So we see Amy really happy and in a very secure place in her life.

Can you tell us about the story in the new series?

I was honestly quite surprised and excited about how they were going to do Vigil series two because the first series was so specific and such a ride. Tom Edge and the writers have done a brilliant job at putting a new world together for the second series. Rather than the navy, which we saw in the first series, we're now in the world of the air force. It's clever as we stay in the 'Vigil' world and we have a blueprint of this police officer - my character - who has got form about investigating the military. At the start of this series, there has been an awful incident involving 'malfunctioning' military drones killing multiple people at the Dundair Air Base and, due to her work on the submarine, Amy is called in to investigate whether these drones really have malfunctioned or have in fact been used to attack their own.

We've got four returning characters - Amy, Kirsten, Poppy and Gary Lewis back as Robertson - which is quite unusual to jump into a second series with because usually you meet more characters again, but it feels very fresh and exciting, and fully grounded in the world that we know from the first series - albeit with a brand new story and a brand new mystery for Silva to unravel

Would you say series two has lots of twists and turns, as the first series did?

Yes, absolutely! I think the magic of Vigil is that Amy is the audience in a way. In series one on the submarine, she kept pointing a finger at different people but every time she had a lead, that person had something but it wasn't the main crime so it led her to something else. We've managed to do that again in this series. There are lots of ways that Amy could go with the investigation and it leads her to meet various characters in Wudyan, which is our fictional country in the middle east and the secondary world in this series - similar to how the submarine was the secondary world in the first series. We shot the Wudyan scenes in Morocco which was really fun. Even that is still kind of sticking with the blueprint of the first series, one that World Productions and Tom Edge, our writer, really found exciting. The first series was of course land and sea and this series sees Amy go to two different worlds within the same investigation. I think that in itself sets Vigil apart from anything else on TV. I also think it's brave to tackle the issues and ask some of the questions that you see in the series, certainly as we come into the later episodes. It's done in a way that keeps you in a populist, blockbuster entertainment show but is really quite intelligent and thoughtful about what's going on in the world and I think they've done a really good job with that.

What can you tell us about Amy's relationship with Kirsten in this series and what it's been like working with Rose again?

One of the pulls to come back to Vigil was working with Rose again. We got on so well in series one so to come back and then have our relationship, both on and off screen, be more settled was such a joy. We could dive straight back into it and just assess where we were at. Rose was actually pregnant while we were filming which was lovely, though perhaps not for Rose on many occasions - it must have been really tiring! It was lovely though as she really had the bump that we see in the series. Even when Rose had to go and have her real baby, the sound department did this wonderful thing where they recorded Rose's dialogue so when I had the phone calls with her, they would then play Rose on the phone so it felt like she was there for the whole shoot.

In series one, Amy had some big challenges to face in the submarine - one of them being claustrophobia - were there any challenges for this series?

One of the things I love about Vigil is the stunts. In series one, Amy was picked to go and do this extraordinary thing that she would never normally get to do; involving her landing on the submarine and having to quickly assess the situation and face her own fears. It was a very unusual and extreme situation.

This time, we have another extraordinary situation where Amy ends up in a place where she shouldn't be because her investigation has taken her there. She is so out of her depth but the maverick in her allows her to beat the system she's in and I love that about her. There are some brilliant stunts and - spoiler - some brilliant fight scenes this time.I had four great stunt women for this series as we were in different locations. All of them allowed me to do as much as I could and we had a lot of fun with it - I ended up with lots of bruises, but they were so worth it! That's the fun part for me, that I get to do that as well as portray the brightness and intelligence of Amy's character.

What are the universal themes of this series and how do you think the audiences will react to it?

I'm really hoping the second series will be a nice surprise for viewers in many ways. There's a big expectation of a show that attracted so many viewers the first time round, it won an International Emmy and was nominated for a BAFTA, so these are quite big shoes to fill. It wasn't a worry of mine particularly as you do the job the best you can and enjoy. Now that it's all put together, I think it'll be a real gift for the audience. The characters have moved on and they feel very settled. It's a story of two very strong-willed women who have come into a relationship and have a child - they both don't want to give up what is part of them which is their calling and independence, yet they both want to look after each other. Kirsten is now pregnant so Amy wants to make sure Kirsten is looking after herself and the baby but Kirsten still wants to be a copper - so before you even touch the surface of the drones, deals, politics and warfare and all the things we're not supposed to really know about or are privy to the intricacies of - I think they've come up with a pretty good show and I think it's quite fascinating. It certainly was for Rose and I to play too.

There are exciting new additions to the cast this series. What was it like working with Dougray and Romola?

I love Romola Garai, I always have. So when I found out she was cast I was so excited and we just got on straight away. Romola plays Eliza Russell, the Squadron Leader in Wudyan, who Amy goes to see as part of her crime scene. Eliza is assigned to help Amy out, which no-one wants to do as she's infiltrating their world and works in a different way to them. Romola and I managed to have a laugh somehow, amongst the quite traumatic and full-on scenes.

Dougray is fantastic and, as with Romola, I was so excited when I heard he was cast. Dougray plays Air Marshall Marcus Grainger and he is one of the first people that Amy meets. He seems to want to help her on the face of it but, as any good investigation goes, Amy digs deep and he wants rid of her. However, he allows her to go to Wudyan but he knows that is going to bring up some problems so, by signing Amy up to do that, it actually causes him a world of pain.

We have such a brilliant cast and I managed to work with almost everyone across the six episodes and see how they work. I spoke to some of those who had just started out in the business which was very fulfilling for me to see from their perspective what they're about to get into. It was a really thrilling and varied job. On the submarine in the first series, I was mostly on the submarine and with those characters whereas in this series Amy gets to go everywhere so it feels like a really busy job.

Interview with Rose Leslie (DI Kirsten Longacre)

What can you tell us about Vigil series two?

This series has a brand new, exciting set-up as Police Scotland are helping the military investigate a nasty situation where a deadly military drone has started murdering soldiers on the ground at an airbase during a training exercise. Police Scotland are pulled in to figure out how this happened and, if it's not an accident, exactly who's behind it. That than leads to my character, Kirsten, staying in Scotland and continuing the investigation in this particular place while Suranne's character, Amy Silva, flies out to our fictional middle-eastern country, Wudyan, where the investigation takes her. Across the series, we see the two of them continue their dual investigations thousands of miles apart to try to solve the mystery of the original attack.

What's Kirsten's relationship like with Amy in the second series?

This time we see them more established, settled and embedded with each other. They are very much in love and committed to one another and have decided to raise a family together - not only to have Poppy in their fold, but to share a child together as well. They are fully fledged in being that unit.

You were actually pregnant while filming and the team adapted the script to add that into the story. Were you aware of that or part of those conversations?

I genuinely didn't know the ins and outs of it! I told World Productions that I was pregnant even prior to my first trimester being over purely because I wanted to give them as much time as possible to adapt the storyline into the script that was already written. They were fantastic and continued to be incredibly supportive throughout - particularly shooting me in the first seven weeks of filming. Once I told them my very happy news via zoom, they were great and their first response was to sit with it and see how they could incorporate it into the script. I'm therefore oblivious to what the original few episodes were, prior to me telling them I was pregnant. But, they've really weaved it into the plotlines seamlessly as it almost echoes the first series whereby Amy departs to investigate and Kirsten stays put to work on the investigation on the ground.

You work a lot with Gary Lewis in the series. What is it like working with him and what's his relationship like with Kirsten?

Working with Gary is a dream because from the very beginning he sets a lovely warm and welcoming atmosphere, and he has that innately within himself. I love working opposite him because he's not just a fantastic actor, he really lightens the mood. He's brilliant to have on set.

With regards to his character Robertson and Kirsten, obviously the hierarchy is there but there's a mutual respect and equality between the two. He's above her within the rungs of the ladder but he will listen to her and she will take his advice. There's a mutual understanding between the two of them and I think that shows in the writing and Gary just makes it so much fun.

Amir El-Masry's character also works very closely with Kirsten, can you explain their relationship and what it was like to work with Amir?

Amir is playing a new character called Ramsay, an MI5 agent who gets slotted within Police Scotland. There are questions about why he has suddenly been placed amongst us in Police Scotland, so there's a little bit of antagonism between them because suddenly he's on Kirsten's turf. However, that slowly begins to fade and they start to have a respect for one another as they share the same values and desires within the case; resulting in them rather quickly becoming a team.

You're from Aberdeenshire, how has it been for you filming in Scotland?

It's been lovely. I loved working in Scotland for series one so I loved coming back again. Spiritually, it's my home and it's been lovely to be closer to my parents and be back here.

What are the universal themes of series two that will appeal to audiences?

Series two is very much a high-stakes, utterly fascinating thriller. There are thrills, suspense and action. We also see the way that Amy and Kirsten's relationship has developed since we last saw them two years ago. There's motherhood and family themes going on - so there's a bit of everything!

Interview with Romola Garai (Acting Squadron Leader Eliza Russell)

What can you tell us about your character, Eliza Russell?

If Amy has a guardian on the base when she gets to Wudyan, it's Eliza Russell. Eliza has had to step up into the position as her immediate boss has mysteriously flown back to Scotland at the beginning of the series. So we see her suddenly having to step up into this position of power and she's struggling in that position somewhat; trying to keep the squadron together after this terrible incident where some of their colleagues have been killed. To an extent, she's suspicious of Amy - as she's an outsider coming in to investigate this crime - but at a certain point in the story we also see them turn to each other for help. They're both very strong women in positions of powers and they clash at times, but I think there's definitely a comradery between them as well.

What was it like working with Suranne?

It's amazing working with Suranne, I don't think I've ever worked with an actor who is so hard-working and prepared. Every single scene of this series involves her and she comes to set everyday knowing exactly what she's doing and understands the story, which can often be very confusing when you're playing a part and not often shooting in sequence - it can difficult to know where you're at in the story. She's really fun, clever and brilliant to work with.

Can you tell us a little bit more about the relationship between Eliza and Amy?

I think Eliza is quite a tricky character to pin down. She's definitely quite sour to people that she feels have been promoted a bit too quickly and she's trying to hold onto her power which can come across quite domineering, rude and abrasive at times. Amy definitely sees that side of her character too. However, I think Eliza also has a very strong affinity for the men and women that she works alongside, so she has an intense loyalty and emotional side, which Amy also sees and understands that she's quite a multi-layered character.

Series one of Vigil had lots of twists and turns - would you say this series continues that?

Yes. I would say that if you have decided that somebody is the baddie, there's a chance you haven't got to the end yet! It's very much a case of the story constantly taking the viewer down a particular, utterly compelling path only to then surprise us and present is with something else and (hopefully) prove assumptions and predictions wrong. It will keep you guessing!

In series one, we of course took to the seas to follow Amy's investigation, but things are different this time around...

I filmed most of my scenes in Morocco, which is where we filmed the storyline set in the fictional country of Wudyan. We were in Casablanca and then Rabat so there's a completely different aesthetic to the first series. We've got these vast desert landscapes of openness and heat haze, people disappearing into a massive horizon - rather than being locked up in a tiny submarine, as we saw in series one. It's a totally different experience for the viewer as we explore a different world within the military.

Did you do any research for this role?

I read a couple of books because I don't know very much about the air force and with this role I was particularly interested in the roles and perspective of women in the air force. I read a good book titled, 'An Officer Not a Gentleman' which has, I think, my favourite title of any book. It's written by a woman and it's about her time in the air force. That was really helpful to understand, particularly as a woman, that you can become obsessed with flying and with planes, being part of a society in the military which is almost always made up of men and the intensity of a role in the military and how it really becomes your life. For a character like Eliza, she's willing to break almost every social code to prove her loyalty to her superiors in the air force, which I think shows her emotional connection to that kind of framework.

Did you speak to anyone from the air force on set?

We had people working with us who had been in the military and they came on set. This series, there's a focus on drone warfare so although they're pilots, the action sequences of the series sees the air force inside the control room operating remote devices. It's completely different from perhaps traditional warfare, as we understand it, where you picture soldiers running through trenches and having to make decisions in the heat of the battle.

Interview with Dougray Scott (Air Marshall Marcus Grainger)

Can you tell us a little bit about Grainger?

Grainger is an Air Vice Marshall, a very patriotic and proud member of the British military and the air force and he's responsible for many of the arms sales to countries like Wudyan, our fictional middle-eastern country in the series. At the start of the series Grainger organises this 'show and tell' military display of the drone weapons to some of the authorities from Wudyan, and that's where we're first introduced to him. Things don't go quite to plan, and we then see him try to navigate the issues that arise on that particular day. Grainger is a pragmatist and very geo-politically aware, so he sees the intricacies of selling arms to countries in precarious positions in the world.

What's his relationship like with Amy?

Their relationship is testing to say the least! Grainger sees Amy as someone who of course has a job to do so he respects and admires that, while also being quite annoyed at her relentless investigations.

What's it been like filming in your home country?

It's been great, I've loved filming in Glasgow. I spend a lot of time in Scotland and I love being here, the crews have been fantastic.

Did you do any specific research?

I watched a few documentaries, there's so many about arms sales, weapons and British government involvement and the British military. It helped to get an overall view of the military, the weapons and how it all works, as well as understanding the governments of the world, the money involved but also the importance for a government to get a foothold in these very precarious regions. From their perspective, they think it's incredibly important to have an economic relationship that is significant in order to have a political relationship in these territories, to gain some sort of influence and information.

How do you think the audiences will respond to the second series?

It's very different from the first series, which of course was set in the close confines of the submarine, and I think that's a good thing. It's still Vigil and an intelligent, entertaining mystery thriller but the parameters are a lot wider in this series, in terms of the political ramifications of this story. It's about fictional international relationships between countries and governments, the management and politics of that as well as the implications of controversial arms deals.

Interview with Gary Lewis (Robertson)

Can you tell us a bit about Robertson and where we find him in series two?

As with the last series, my character once again sends his intrepid staff into dangerous and extremely perilous conditions with international geopolitical implications.

Robertson basically came through the ranks of police service so he's got a lot of experience and he's a principled man and a man of integrity - his job is to be a good cop and that's very important to him.

Can you tell us how Kirsten and Robertson are involved in this series?

Kirsten's pregnancy is very much a part of this series. Robertson is acutely aware of that and as the pressure builds for Amy and Kirsten, her wellbeing becomes a matter of great concern for Robertson. So much so, that he attempts to cut her involvement somewhat in the investigation but she's very strong willed and so both of them get into their deep dark water. Robertson is aware that her willingness to see through the work could also jeopardise the pregnancy and her wellbeing. That leads to yet more tension, and there's already a lot of tension!

What are the themes of this series?

I would say a central theme is integrity. I remember someone asking me if I've seen Titanic and told me to watch it again and think about what I would do in that situation or who would you be on the boat. I had that in my head when I was reading the scripts, what would you do? In this series, I also asked myself how people made these types of decisions where they perhaps think they're doing the right thing, but there are huge implications. One false move and you're in the wrong place. That applies to so many characters in the series too. Robertson actually says to Kirsten, 'gather the evidence, test it, build a case', so I'm looking at it from that perspective. I also look at it from the script and what people are doing from that perspective, you don't have any choice whatsoever or you have to make very difficult choices and often in a small amount of time.

And there are plenty of surprises in store…

Vigil series ones was always much more than a whodunnit drama and the same applies to this series. There are massive twists and turns. It touches on things that are similar to things we may have read about or seen in the news but the series gives a new perspective which is quite probing, so much more than a whodunnit. You will undoubtably be asking yourself those questions but also about the motive behind those actions and what are the underlying reasons - they could be personal but they can also be geopolitical. There are really big stakes. So if you enjoy a good whodunnit, you will love Vigil series two and if you're prepared to go through much more than that, you can watch the series on repeat! It's got a lot to offer.

After the first series, I had so many people say they have family in the navy and that things they saw on Vigil aren't real. To that, I say 'Spiderman isn't real, this is a drama.' My advice is therefore to get the kettle on while watching this and try to enjoy the ride. Don't go on the internet and say 'that drone wouldn't have xyz' and spoil it for yourself. Having said that, there is such incredible attention to detail in this project from the art and design department, for example - there's a picture on the wall in Robertson's office of what's called in Glasgow the Highlandman's Umbrella, it's a bridge in Central Station and I thought it was really interesting that the art department had put that and another particular photograph on the wall. People who came from the Highlands to Glasgow for work would gather there to meet each other to communicate, a lot of men from the Highlands became policeman. So maybe Robertson's lineage and family relate to that photograph, so it pays homage to them.

Interview with Amir El-Masry (Ramsay)

Can you tell us a bit about your character, Ramsay?

Ramsay is a confident, cocky MI5 intelligence officer. Brought in by MI5 essentially as a co-investigator but also to annoy the hell out of Kirsten and Amy. But perhaps that's a by-product of him being so self-assured and confident in what he does. He still has to earn his stripes to be included in that dynamic; and especially by Kirsten who takes a disliking to his initial involvement. But Ramsay takes it in his stride and actually enjoys having to be on the constant charm offensive with her.

What I love about Ramsay is that he puts his own work relationship politics aside for the greater good of the task ahead, and in doing so gets the respect of everyone around him because he starts to go above and beyond his job description and pay grade.

What is Ramsay and Kirsten's relationship like?

Like cat and mouse! He seems unbothered by Kirsten's initial disdain towards him purely because he secretly enjoys being on the case alongside her. Eventually the pair grudgingly build respect for each other and as the investigation moves forward, Ramsay also starts to think Kirsten might be right about some things and relinquishes the urge to be in control. When things start to heat up during the course of the series, and people's safety is on the line, he really does start to actually care about her as more than a work colleague but as a friend.

Do you have any memorable moments from filming?

If I start naming every single person who made a positive impact on my experience we'd be here all day! There are a few honourable mentions - Rose and Suranne are a delight to work with. They shared the stage so generously. Besides just being a really lovely person, to be working alongside Rose as someone who was also several months pregnant and seeing how incredibly powerful she is, essentially doing two jobs at the same time, I was in awe! From the start of the initial process - getting an email from casting director Dan Jackson about the project and working with him and one of the directors Andy De Emmony, during the audition process already felt like we were working in the rehearsal room together. The care and attention to detail I felt really made me feel empowered. Producer Marcus Wilson, and the whole production team, were all hands on deck. Having Joss Agnew come in for the second block seamlessly and know everything about our characters and their backstories was also incredibly helpful. And another honourable mention goes to all the runners! They were exceptional.

Ramsay works for MI5, do you think you'd make a good MI5 agent?

As a kid I was always intrigued by that world. I do think Ramsay and I share a lot of similar qualities, but I'll leave you to decide when you watch…

What do you think audiences will enjoy about this series?

The show just screams big blockbuster quality. I've seen some shots and I am in awe. I think just like the first season, expect to see some high-octane drama and action scenes. I think the duality between myself and Kirsten will be very fun to watch also.

Interview with Chris Jenks (Callum Barker)

Can you tell us about your character, Callum?

Callum is troubled - he's suffering from taking part in what he thinks is a morally questionable military operation. He isn't afraid to make his dissatisfaction known and rail against authority. As the series progresses, we see that he is trying to keep a secret from the world and we get to see a softer, more intimate Callum.

What's the dynamic like between Callum and Eliza? Similarly, what does he make of Amy Silva?

The dynamic between Eliza and Callum is tense. He sees her as being unnecessarily bureaucratic after the attack that opens the series, undeserving of her position and lacking emotional understanding. Callum's gone through the ringer himself and isn't in the best position to be pals.

With Amy, it initially starts as wearying interviews just after a very traumatic event. This then progresses to an alarming interest as her investigation soon turns towards him. Callum would rather be left the hell alone, and has his own secrets which he doesn't need Amy raking through. Their relationship develops in ways you wouldn't initially predict from these earlier scenes…

Do you have any memorable moments from filming?

Filming on an airbase in Morocco whilst Hercules jets took off on a neighbouring runway felt a bit '007'.

We see your character play some basketball in his downtime, are you any good at basketball yourself?

I'm bad, I'm like a Labrador on a trampoline - all bounces at the wrong moments. I much prefer kicking a ball.

What do you think audiences will enjoy about this series?

I think they will enjoy moments of high tension, from the first episode the drama is cranked up and up, to a really thrilling level. That along with a classic mind-bending whodunnit mystery and really intimate relationship moments. It's going to be a treat.