Vigil is a new BBC drama which started last Sunday and here’s one of its stars Martin Compston talking about it…
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.
Feeling Conflicted Vigil is a new BBC drama which started last Sunday and here’s one of its stars Martin Compston talking about it… 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
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