Oscar Salem Ascends: Confronting the Shadows of Drone Warfare in ‘Vigil’ Season 2
Joining the acclaimed cast of the high-stakes, thrilling BBC drama ‘Vigil’ for its second season, actor Oscar Salem, known for his roles in HBO’s ‘House of the Dragon’ and ITV’s ‘Des,’ teams up with Suranne Jones, who reprises her role as DCI Amy Silva.
We recently caught up with the incredible Oscar Salem to chat about his latest role in the BBC’s intense drama ‘Vigil’. Trust us, it’s a series you won’t want to miss!
1 – Your career has showcased a diverse range of characters, from House of the Dragon to Des and now Vigil. How do you navigate the transition between such distinct roles, and what drew you to the character you portray in Vigil?
I think when transitioning from one role to another, for me, the process always begins with trying to find the character through a healthy amount of research. I like to investigate as deep as possible into their background and their environment and learn all I can about what kind of person they are. The script is also an incredibly helpful tool, as soon as I have it I try to mine it for as much detail as possible and piece by piece, start building the character. Trying to find a way in to the character is really key for me. I look for as many similarities as I can between myself and them as a ways of connecting and bringing my own truth to the role which hopefully ends up with an authentic, truthful performance.
Its also an ever evolving process, sometimes the final details don’t fall into place until I’m on set and in front of the other actors.
As far as Sam goes, what I love about him is he is a complicated representation of a middle eastern man. So often we see the stereotype of what a middle eastern man may be, but he has the complications and contradictions that all human beings feel.
He’s a man with deeply held personal secrets that get uncovered which compromises his position and loyalty. Whats more is he exists within a place where he cant truly be himself. With everything going on, he’s desperately trying to keep himself together. It was a very exciting and challenging role to play.
2 – Vigil Season 2 introduces a gripping storyline involving drone warfare and unexplained fatalities. Can you share some insights into the challenges your character faces in this high-stakes environment, and how you prepared for this unique aspect of the role?
Sam is very much a product of his environment and its through tragedy caused by the devastating collateral damage of drone warfare that he starts to see that he doesn’t really fit and agree with it. As a result, his morals quickly become at odds with his obligation and duty and indeed his superiors. He’s trapped within a circumstance where he really has very little control, there’s so many parts in play that oppose both his goals and his values that he has to navigate, which for him, given his environment, was a huge high-risk undertaking. A lot of his story arc reminded me of spy craft and espionage so I did spend some time researching those elements, understanding them and finding ways to connect to them personally.
3 – Working alongside Suranne Jones, who reprises her role as DCI Amy Silva, must have been an exciting experience. Can you tell us about the dynamic between your characters and the collaboration with Suranne on set?
Working with Suranne was amazing. I feel incredibly lucky and grateful to have had the opportunity to do so. She’s such a brilliant example of how to be a leading actor – leading with kindness, professionalism and a great sense of humour! There was so much to learn from her, she’s a wealth of knowledge and experience and an incredibly generous scene partner. A laser accurate listener so every scene together felt very alive and fresh.
4 – The first trailer for Vigil Season 2 suggests intense on-screen chemistry between the characters played by you and Suranne Jones. How did you work together to build this chemistry, and what can viewers expect from the interaction between your characters?
I think Suranne and I can both be very analytical when it comes to extracting as much detail from the script as we can. I remember prior to filming our scenes together, there would always be a conversation that took place along side rehearsals to make sure we were on the same page. From there, it was a case of exploring the scenes, playing around with things and finding our path through the work and I’m honestly really proud of what we achieved.
Sam and Amy’s relationship is certainly an interesting one. They’re two people who ultimately want similar things and they share the same goals, but due to the environment they have no control over, they’re forced to go about achieving those goals in very different ways. This definitely leads to complications between the two of them. I’m excited for the audience to see how that conflict plays out.
5 – Vigil takes a deep dive into the world of drone warfare, offering a unique and timely perspective. What kind of research did you undertake to understand the intricacies of this subject, and how did it influence your portrayal of the character?
Its very significant topic. I think most peoples exposure to the subject of drone warfare is what we’re shown in the media – we hear about it often, particularly over the past 10 years but we’re so far removed from the reality of how devastating and destructive it is simply because we’re viewing a fraction of it on a TV screen. Its a subject thats integral to Sam’s story and I was keen to do as much research as I was able to try and put myself in the shoes of someone who operates one of these machines. A thought I kept coming back to was just how easy it is to essentially press a button, miles away, from relative safety and have that one simple action cause so much destruction. What kind of toll does that take on someone? Particularly someone who’s fighting so hard for good, to protect their loved ones and striving towards living in a more peaceful world. Asking and exploring these questions definitely influenced Sam and the complexities and conflict of them really are at the core of his motivations throughout the series.
6 – With roles in high-profile shows like House of the Dragon and Des, and now joining the cast of Vigil, how do you see these experiences shaping your career? Are there particular moments or milestones that stand out to you?
I would honestly say that every experience that I’ve been fortunate enough to have across my career so far have all been integral to my personal development as an actor and human being. Im so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with such talented, kind and influential people – and I’m not just talking about my fellow cast, but directors, crew, producers. Everyone has all brought their love and passion for the work in a very inspiring and influential way that both leaves me in awe and also pushes me grow. I’ve worked with such amazingly experienced creatives, in every project I’ve worked on, there’s always been something new to learn and something new to discover and thats really one of my favourite parts of the job – I always want to be learning, growing and getting better. And aside from my love of this craft, it really is down to the people who’ve been so giving, who have made my experiences what they were.
Its hard to find specific moments that stand out but standing on the side of a cliff in Cornwall getting beaten up by Matt Smith was certainly a surreal moment for me. And actually one of the show runners and writers of House of the Dragon, Ryan Condal – I’ve been a fan of his work for such a long time, he wrote one of my all time favourite scripts. Getting the chance to just nerd out with him on set is definitely right up there. Also what actor doesn’t want to walk slowly away from a burning car they’ve just blown up? Definitely a bucket list tick right there!
7 – Vigil seems to balance intense drama with thrilling investigative elements. How do you approach a project that combines these different genres, and what aspects of the storyline do you find most compelling for the audience?
It definitely has a really exciting combination of different genres. Whenever I get a script, the first thing I try and establish is the tone. There’s so many clues that can be find within scripts that can help inform actors of this and what exactly the writer is trying to get across. I feel that writing is the most important aspect of any project and you have to treat it with the respect it deserves. Of course, if you’re aware of the genre going into the project, its hard not to be reminded of other work that shares that same space. This can be useful to draw from for sure, even by simply watching other works of thriller or crime – reading them as well, just to remind me of the ‘feel’ of the piece.
Ultimately I think one of the most valuable things I learned how to do as an actor is to understand the process of being a writer. I really believe if an actor can analyse and interpret a writers intention, understand what they’re trying to achieve with each scene, it helps you do your job with more precision. I have so much respect for writers and I feel like they know best as its their work that you’re signing onto. Of course actors can have their own interpretation and opinions on the work but thats really when the process of collaboration starts for me. The more collaboration and dialogue between all the creatives involved, the better and more honest the work.
I think what the audience will find most compelling is what makes thriller and crime stories so engaging and addictive: brilliantly written, relatable characters, gripping drama and a lot of twists and turns. This season is going to keep the audience on their toes and always keep them guessing throughout, I’m really excited for everyone to experience it.
Vigil’, is now streaming on BBC