All eyes are on Macfadyen after episode five of the BBC’s submarine-set detective drama. The actor tells Ellie Harrison how he kept Matthew Doward’s antics a secret, even from his girlfriend
Tonight, as the penultimate episode of Vigil drew to a close, fans finally found out that the traitor on the show’s submarine is, En réalité, Lorne MacFadyen’s Matthew Doward.
The Russian spy’s identity was revealed in a distressing final scene, which saw him attacking DCI Amy Silva (Suranne Jones), shoving her into a torpedo and leaving her to drown.
Viewers now know that Doward and the people he works for had been bribing submarine chef Jackie Hamilton (Anita Vettesse), promising to get her son out of jail for drugs charges early if she carried out crimes for them on board HMS Vigil.
It seems that they bribed her into killing Craig Burke (Martin Compston) – a chief petty officer with lots of colleagues who had motives to murder him – to make way for a new person to join the boat: Doward.
Since getting on the submarine, Doward has been doing everything he can to cause havoc on board, all as part of a wider mission that will be revealed to fans in episode six.
Speaking over Zoom from Dublin, where he is rehearsing for a new project, Macfadyen says he has been keeping his character’s secret for two years – even from his girlfriend (Deceit Star Niamh Algar).
“It’s been so long," il dit. “When I auditioned for the part they told me I’d be playing a Russian spy and I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone. The cast didn’t know who it was, necessarily. I was keeping a secret not only from my friends and family and the public, but absolutely everyone.
“It was a long shoot, but it was interrupted by Covid as well – we had a five months hiatus. Then it’s been a long time for it to come out so it’s probably been about two years. I’ve been able to keep shtum the whole time, and now it’s a big relief.”
Filming the scene where Doward attacks Silva was “very exciting”, il dit. “It was great to have a big mask-off reveal. It was a violent moment for my character. He’s been in the background, very quiet, very polite, and so for him to suddenly burst into the action like that was quite exciting. It just gets even better in episode six. It doesn’t get any easier for Suranne.”
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That makes it sound as though Silva survives episode five? “I can’t say anything else!" il dit, en riant.
Even though it’s Macfadyen’s character who attacks Jones’s detective, Macfadyen is the one who walked away with an on-set injury. “In that back-handed punch at the end of episode five, I actually popped my shoulder out of its socket," il dit. “I fully popped my shoulder out and had to continue, I was getting strapped up. I basically had a big physical day the next day and I was swollen. In that punch, I got more hurt than Suranne did.” He shrugs helplessly. “She’s got a strong boxer’s jaw.”
Macfadyen is overjoyed with the show’s success. It is the most-watched new drama of 2021. “I’m getting people messaging me who I haven’t spoken to for years saying they’re really enjoying it," il dit. “Every week there’s a massive twist or reveal and that’s what the nation needs right now: a big, fun exciting drama for everyone to get behind. It’s such a privilege to be at the centre of that.”
The final episode of ‘Vigil’ airs on BBC One on Sunday 26 septembre