Suranne Jones as Detective Chief Inspector Amy Silva in a scene from Vigil. Picture: M-Net
Suranne Jones as Detective Chief Inspector Amy Silva in a scene from Vigil. Picture: M-Net

A murder puts everyone on high ‘Vigil’ in M-Net’s new high-octane, espionage thriller

By Debashine Thangevelo Time of article published Oct 7, 2021

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If you have a proclivity for high-octane, espionage thrillers, “Vigil” is not to be missed.

The six-part mini-series on M-Net ticks all the boxes for thrill-seeking viewers, especially if you’ve been a fan of shows like “Line of Duty”, “Bodyguard” or “Secret City”.

Already celebrated for being the most-watched BBC drama in the UK in the past three years, “Vigil” has been getting rave reviews.

The series opens with a dead crew member aboard the Trident nuclear submarine, HMS Vigil.

The Scotland Yard police are brought in to investigate. Although the death is written off as an accidental overdose, Detective Chief Inspector Amy Silva (Suranne Jones) senses something amiss, more so when the crew close ranks on her.

Suranne Jones and Shaun Evans in a scene from the mini-series. Picture: Supplied

In a recent press junket, Jones explained: “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.

“Duty 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.”

In peeling back the layers of character, Jones added: “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.”

What’s interesting is the fact that Amy, while overseeing the investigation, also finds herself doing a deep dive into her personal woes, too.

The actress shared: “Over the series, we learn more about Amy’s earlier life and what she’s been through. 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,” she continued.

“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.”

Suranne Jones with Rose Leslie. Picture: Supplied

Shaun Evans, who is cast as Warrant Officer Class One Elliot Glover, the coxswain of HMS Vigil, is the bridge between the highest-ranking officers on board the submarine as well as the crew. He also helps Amy in reducing the hostility to her being on board.

Of course, viewers will remember him from “Endeavour”.

He shared: “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 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.”

Evans didn’t require any arm twisting when it came to the role.

He admitted: “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.”

On what kind of research he conducted, Evans revealed: “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, I think importantly, 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.”

He went on to sing the praises of the set designer as well as directors James Strong and Isabelle Sieb.

He added: “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.”

Why should audiences tune in?

He said: “It’s a fantastic story, well told. Simple as that!”

“Vigil” airs on M-Net (DStv channel 101) on Monday, October 11, at 8.30pm.

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