The Ger­mans won the war and Bri­tain is un­der oc­cu­pa­tion. That’s the idea be­hind new TV drama SS-GB – and its dystopian vi­sion is ut­terly chill­ing

Daily Mail Weekend Magazine - - NEWS - Ni­cole Lam­pert

Sam Ri­ley on why the BBC’s in­trigu­ing mur­der mys­tery SS-GB – set in a Bri­tain un­der

Nazi oc­cu­pa­tion – will give you goose bumps

was Jewish, and it was re­ally emo­tional for both of us, so fright­en­ing. And when you see it in the con­text of a Bri­tish civil­ian it re­ally makes you think about things.’

The story is told en­tirely from the point of view of Archer. Sam, best known for his films Con­trol – play­ing Joy Di­vi­sion singer Ian Cur­tis – and Maleficent with An­gelina Jolie, dom­i­nates al­most ev­ery scene. Al­though off-screen the York­shire-born ac­tor is sur­pris­ingly awk­ward, on-screen he’s mes­meris­ing. Iron­i­cally, Sam now lives in Ber­lin with his Ger­man ac­tress wife Alexan­dra Maria Lara and their three-year-old son, and says he lob­bied hard for the role when he heard it was be­ing di­rected by ac­claimed Ger­man di­rec­tor Philipp Kadel­bach.

Kate jokes they nick­named the di­rec­tor ‘The Horny Hun’ be­cause of the sex scenes. But Sam in­sists he re­fused to pre­pare for to­p­less scenes. ‘My ambi- tion was not to have a six-pack,’ he smiles. ‘Which I achieved. But I did get to wear a very nice suit and trilby.’

SS-GB will in­evitably be com­pared to Ama­zon’s hit show The Man In The High Cas­tle, which is set in a 1960s Amer­ica that’s un­der joint Ger­man and Ja­panese oc­cu­pa­tion, but it’s grit­tier and closer to what could ac­tu­ally have hap­pened. The re­cent pop­u­lar­ity of dra­mas set dur­ing the war – ITV’s The Hal­cyon is an­other – comes at a time when fas­cism and racism are on the rise across Europe. ‘It’s very easy for those ideas to come around again,’ says Sam. ‘Once you start blam­ing a type of per­son for your prob­lems, it can quickly slide into some­thing very fright­en­ing.’

The fear of liv­ing in a fas­cist coun­try – where one mis­placed word or stupid ac­tion can re­sult in in­stant death – is pal­pa­ble from the start. Part of that was achieved by us­ing doc­u­men­tarystyle hand-held cam­eras which make you feel like you’re part of the ac­tion. In one scene Archer’s sec­re­tary and lover Sylvia mucks about on a ho­tel bal­cony wrapped only in a Nazi flag

af­ter a night of pas­sion. Then the phone in the ho­tel room goes and the ter­ror of who it might be, what it might mean, crosses both their faces.

The Bri­tish Re­sis­tance are al­most as ter­ri­fy­ing as the Nazis. ‘Many of them are fun­da­men­tal­ists who’ll do any­thing to bring Amer­ica into the war,’ says Sam. ‘It’s fas­ci­nat­ing.’ He ad­mits it made him won­der how brave he’d be if he’d been placed in that sit­u­a­tion. ‘Archer speaks flu­ent Ger­man af­ter study­ing it at Ox­ford, and the Ger­mans use him as a totem. Peo­ple are sus­pi­cious and even his own son asks if he’s work­ing for the Gestapo. Mean­while the Re­sis­tance are try­ing to threaten him into join­ing them. Archer’s a wid­ower with a young son and as a par­ent you’re so much more vul­ner­a­ble. That’s how it started in Ger­many; they ter­ri­fied peo­ple. It was hard to stand up to them, es­pe­cially if you have a lot to lose. I’d like to think I’d stand up to it, but who can say for sure?’

SS- GB will start on BBC1 later this month.

Sam Ri­ley as de­tec­tive Dou­glas Archer and (far left) Kate Bosworth as US jour­nal­ist Bar­bara Barga

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