SAS Rogue Heroes – Connor Swindells interview

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SAS Rogue Heroes is the new BBC drama, starring Connor Swindells, charting the founding of the secretive UK military forces unit.

The Special Air Service was set up during the second world war and had always had a special place in the hearts of UK citizens.

The BBBC’s new drama takes us all the way back to the beginning and the unlikely heroes who first wore the first badges of the SAS…

Connor Swindells told us all about the new series and playing founding SAS leader David Stirling…

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Connor Swindells as SAS Founder, David Stirling.

What is SAS Rogue Heroes?

SAS Rogue Heroes is a show about how the SAS was formed during WW2 in North Africa. It’s about a bunch of rag tag fellas who took matters into their own hands because they felt that the controlling forces weren’t capable of doing it themselves.

What drew you to this story?

A main thing was the people involved. Tom Shankland, a fantastic director and a wonderful person, and someone who I knew would collaborate with us all. 

The writing is phenomenal, Steven Knight is a genius so it’s brilliantly written. The characters are flawed, they’re humans as much as they are heroes. 

There was too much that drew me to this project to turn away from it.

Can you talk about the dynamic between you, Alfie and Jack?

I think it’s an important bond between the three, and it was as the story tells. We’re three guys who love each other dearly. 

It was an amazing bonding experience to do a job that was so physically and mentally demanding.

Did you do any preparation for the role?

There was a big prep period for this and I’m really grateful that I got to do it. We had a big rehearsal period before filming which was really helpful for all the guys to really get to know each other and just hash out key scenes in person. 

The bootcamp was intense – we would start at about 7am when it was already about 30 degrees in Morocco, so you could easily burn and get sun stroke even at that time of day. 

It was hard – lots of marching around in the sand – but it was fun and a real bonding experience. Reading David Stirling’s autobiography gave me a really great insight into his mind, and reading books about people’s perspective on him was informative.

Can you talk about the characters going rogue as the desert claims them?

As the show goes on and the arcs continue there’s a real degrading process that happens with all of them physically and mentally. They all become these desert pirates who live off the land and learn to read it very well. 

That’s shown in the make-up and the wonderful costumes that we have. I feel very lucky that I was able to work with such an amazing team who provided support and it was great to have people so good at their jobs who really took pride and care into everything that they did. 

Everyone was really passionate about this job and it really showed, and wow did we need it when we were out there in that heat. There was a real kind of morale felt between everyone.

Do you have a favourite moment from Morocco or a favourite scene?

One of my favourite scenes was doing the convoy opening shoot from episode one. This crazy sandstorm blew in which wasn’t uncommon, and we were on this incredible salt flat. 

Now I look back and think of how incredible it was, but at the time you’re so focussed on work that you can’t comprehend the scenery around you. It was a fantastic moment in my life – being somewhere that big and feeling so small in the middle of it was really quite special.

I think ultimately they’re fighting for something that’s bigger than themselves, even though there is a lot of ego involved, narcissism and neurotic behaviours, but they are fighting for a cause that is bigger than themselves and they do so very effectively.

Can you tell us about working with Tom Shankland?

I think if it wasn’t for Tom I wouldn’t have been able to play David Stirling at all. I think he feeds off the chaos and because of that always keeps morale, even when it’s really hard. 

I think on face value Tom Shankland wouldn’t have been the guy to do this job, but ultimately when you meet him he’s the most extreme adrenaline junkie, Hawaiian-shirt-wearing, sweet-talking dude who is perfect for this kind of experience. 

There is a version of this story that you could tell – a superhero version where no one has any emotions – but this isn’t that. 

This is a version that features the flawed nature of all of these characters too. These are the things Tom and myself really wanted to dive into, and what I think is going to make this show so special.

How hard was it to shoot?

It was so hard to film out there in the Sahara in those conditions, but it brought a real truth to it that you couldn’t have cheated in any other circumstance. 

I feel grateful for that. It is a character in itself and was something we as a crew had to wrestle with. I’m very grateful for how tough it was and I think it will influence our performances and make it that much better.