Connor Swindells has said that prepping for his upcoming role in Steven Knight’s drama SAS: Rogue Heroes involved ‘a lot of marching around in the sand’ in the heat of Morocco.
The Sex Education actor stars in the six-part series following the creation of the world’s most renowned and ruthless Special Forces unit.
Connor is part of a starry cast, which includes Dunkirk star Tom Glynn-Carney and The Crown’s Dominic West, all lifting the lid on what life was like for members of the SAS.
The 26-year-old said he felt ‘very grateful’ having had the chance to film in the Sahara desert for the BBC series, which was directed by Tom Shankland.
‘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.’
Conor added that the desert felt like ‘a character in itself’ as it was something the crew ‘had to wrestle with’ but he’s thankful for how ‘tough’ it was because it made their performances ‘much better.’
The show meets Connor’s character, eccentric young officer David Stirling, in hospital after a training exercise went wrong.
He creates a radical plan that flies in the face of all accepted rules of modern warfare and fights for permission to recruit the toughest, boldest and brightest soldiers for a small undercover unit that will create mayhem behind enemy lines, following his assertion that traditional commando units do not work.
Speaking about preparing for the role, the actor said reading David’s autobiography gave him a ‘really great insight’ into his mind and it was ‘informative’ reading books about people’s perspective on him.
He continued: ‘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.’
He said the bootcamp involved ‘lots of marching around in the sand,’ but described it as ‘a real bonding experience’ for all.
The actor stars alongside Jack O’Connell and Alfie Allenin the BBC series, with Game of Thrones star Alfie saying he actually ‘loved’ the gruelling training process, two days of heatstroke and food poisoning combined aside.
‘I’d say the one day that really sticks in the memory for me was in episode three when me and Mike Sadler (played by House of the Dragon star Tom), meet. That day was 53 degrees Celsius, it was super-super-hot.
‘The environment we were working in definitely lent itself to a kind of forced method acting.’
He described the experience as ‘a test of physical and mental endurance,’ due to the ‘insane’ conditions, but understands it would’ve been ‘way, way more to deal with’ back during the war.
Adapted from Ben Macintyre’s best-selling book, the series offers a dramatised account of how the SAS was formed during the Second World War, having been granted access to secret SAS archives.
SAS Rogue Heroes airs on October 30 at 9pm on BBC One and iPlayer.