Vigil - BBC Media Centre
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!