A crew on trapped on a rig off the Scottish coast, a mysterious fog that could easily kill you, and one life-or-death disaster after another. What more could you want? Thankfully for us, Prime Video's latest original series The Rig has it all. As the new kid on the Kinloch crew block, Heather Shaw is still finding her feet in a man's world. FILMHOUNDS sat down with actor Molly Vevers to find out more about the show's epic process.
So this is very exciting — a Prime Video original. It's blown up, people are really enjoying it. Does being a part of this process feel like everything you were hoping for?
Yeah, I think so. It's a funny one because we filmed it so long ago. Early 2021. So obviously, the excitement of auditioning for the job, and then getting the job and then getting to film it was such a buzz. There was such a long wait for it to actually come out, partly because there's just loads of CGI and special effects and things like that. And so it's been exciting to finally get to see it and get to talk about it.
Talking about the sort of length of the process there… What was it like going for the auditions to getting cast and then leading into filming?
I think I heard about the show from another Scottish actor, because there's a network of Scottish actors. If you hear of something happening, it's “Oh, have you heard about this? And how about this?” So I knew it was being made. I asked my agents about it, not really thinking anything would come of it necessarily. But then I got an audition, did a self-tape and then sent it off, and you just send it off and try to forget about it. Then it was the Christmas break, so then there were two or three weeks of not hearing anything. So by that point, you're like “Oh, definitely gone.” And then they said they wanted to meet for like a recall, but that was still quite a strict COVID time, so we couldn't really meet in person.
When I finally got told, I was buzzing. Sometimes I don't always tell my family and friends about auditions because you don't want to equally get their hopes up. But as it got closer I told my family and close friends. I remember speaking to my dad — he's a postie. He was in his van and started manically honking the horn. That was very cute.
What was it about the character of Heather that drew you to her?
I think the whole premise and the world of a rig were something I didn't know anything about. And so I was off the bat quite interested in what this character might be like. Especially as a younger female in that environment. It's all very male-dominated. So I was intrigued about what makes you that person, where she finds that inner strength and confidence. She's an interesting character because I think she does have that and she's good at what she does. She does have that belief, but then I think when it comes to having her own voice and knowing her place amongst this group, that all takes a bit longer to develop. There's that nice journey during the series. By the end, she's found that a bit more, and she's become much more integral to the group.
When I auditioned, I didn't know that because we only had the first two scripts. You just have an idea of what you think it might be like. When we actually started filming, they would release maybe episode three, and then in the next few weeks, episode four. Each time you'd get a script, it was like “Please don't die. Come on.” Any time she'd walk into some sort of perilous situation, I was like “Stay out of it.”
Do you have to do any research to find out what it is like to be on a rig? Because I feel like if I was in that situation, I'd just have absolutely no idea what was what.
No, I didn't either. When I got the audition, it said Heather was a roustabout on the rig. And I was like “Rousta-who?” So I had to Google what that meant. Once I got the job, the director John Strickland sent over lots of documentaries, to watch and books to read. We were also linked up with someone in the industry who does a similar job to your character on the rig, and we could ask them questions. On set there was this great guy Derek who was a former OIM — so the job that Ian's character does — and he would wander around the set and keep an eye on stuff. If he thought that something wasn't accurate, we wouldn't do it. It was great to have him there because obviously you want it to seem as authentic as possible while still making it like an exciting, gripping drama. There are things like you can't go outside without your hard hat and your gloves on, so it was good to have someone there who was keeping it accurate.
Like you said, there's a lot of CGI, there's a lot going on in terms of the visual spectacle. How much of that are you actually working with? How do you film those really visual-heavy scenes?
We filmed it all in the studio. All the sets are built, and then it's blue screen around you. So anytime you step outside, it's that's all added CGI afterwards. But then to be fair, there were other elements like the fog or the ash that falls from the sky that was all really there in the studio. You'd get blown with these big wind machines. When there are tremors, things along shook so much, we had to then ham it up. That helps when you feel like you've got the stuff there. But then there are other times where, if there's some big visual effect like an explosion or something happening out the window, in reality, you're just looking at someone from the visual effects team holding a sign that says “Fire.” You have to use your imagination. Then it's only when you see the finished episode you're like “Oh, I should have done more of this.”
You all have such great chemistry. What was it like working with the rest of the cast?
Everyone was lovely. Because the story and the setting are that we're all stuck on this rig together, we all got to know each other really well because we all had scenes together. So it was a really nice kind of close-knit group. And we were also all staying at the same hotel together in Edinburgh the whole time. So when we started, it was still a quite strict lockdown. There wasn't even anywhere to just hang out in the hotel. There are lots of people in the cast who are brilliant and really well-known, and I was definitely a bit apprehensive before my first day. As soon as you sort of meet everyone and start to feel settled in it was all good.
One of the things I really like about the show is that it's sci-fi, and then there's a lot of supernatural stuff, but it's also paced like a thriller. There are a lot of different genres all coming together. Is it satisfying to tackle something that's dipping into a little bit of everything?
Yeah, definitely. I think it's a good one in that way because it's got all those elements. It appeals to people for lots of different reasons. Even if you're not someone who usually likes sci-fi, then you kind of get that workplace thriller thing as well. Because we got the scripts one or two at a time, even we didn't really know what the mystery was when we started. It actually works quite well because you're like “What is going on?” alongside your characters. By the time you get later into the series and things have gone absolutely mental, then that's always really fun to act that epic scale of completely out of the ordinary, which I'd never done before and was really fun.
If you found yourself in this situation — you're on a rig, on a remote Scottish shore, there's loads of mysterious fog. Do you think you'd be trying to, communicate with the Ancestor? Would you be trying to make sacrifices or would you just be like “I'm out, over to someone else?”
I feel like I would probably not be on the sort of “Let's try and communicate and record with the Ancestor” hype. I'd be like, “Let's run.” But yeah, I don't think in general I would be particularly good in a survival situation. I'd just crumble.
I think I'm exactly the same. One last question — not wishing to tempt fate, but obviously a Season two and beyond would be amazing. Is there anything you'd like to see happen in potential instalments of the show?
I feel with the way it's set up to be left in episode six, it could go anywhere. So I suppose one thing would be, if it was going to happen, ending up in some really cool location, ideally tropical like Hawaii or somewhere warm.
A great place to end up.
I don't feel like that's where it's heading, but you know, you can hope.
The Rig is now available to stream on Prime Video.