Rochenda Sandall on The Rig: ‘It’s about human nature as well as Mother Nature’

Those of us who spend our lives on dry land will find it hard to imagine the isolation of life on an oil rig. The enveloping darkness, the ever-present threat of the sea, and the creeping knowledge of just how many nautical miles there are between you and the next nearest person…

Prime Video’s The Rig makes good use of this eerie remoteness by using an oil rig in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland as the setting for a dark and spooky thriller.

Starring Line Of Duty’s Martin Compston, Schitt’s Creek’s Emily Hampshire, Game Of Thrones’ Iain Glen and Small Axe’s Rochenda Sandall, The Rig follows the crew of the Kinloch Bravo who, while waiting to change shifts and head back to the mainland, find themselves enveloped in a mysterious, dense fog that makes even simple communication with the outside world impossible.

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From there, things get stranger and stranger, as an unknown force beyond the crew’s wildest imagination takes hold, pushing them to their limits in terms of trust, loyalty and endurance – and issuing a stark warning about the impact humanity has had on the planet. “Everything that happens is about the planet biting back,” explains Iain Glen, 61, who plays Magnus, the Kinloch Bravo’s offshore installation manager – “kind of captain of the crew”.

Martin Compston as Fulmer in The Rig. Picture: PA Photo/Amazon Studios.Martin Compston as Fulmer in The Rig. Picture: PA Photo/Amazon Studios.
Martin Compston as Fulmer in The Rig. Picture: PA Photo/Amazon Studios.

“Particularly over the last few decades, humanity has been doing quite a bit of damage. And the globe feels like it’s telling us, it has been for some time, that we have to stop doing some of the things that we’re doing because we’re causing an imbalance.

"So in our drama, which is obviously about carbon fuel and the oil industry… it’s kind of saying, what would happen if the planet tried to speak back and react?“

To truly understand the life of the crew on an oil rig, the cast were connected with real-life offshore riggers who performed the same roles as their characters, helping them to make their performances – from the plot structure to the vernacular used in conversation – as realistic as possible.

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“There’s tonnes of research material they had for us, and (we) got to speak to people in similar positions – I got to speak to my dad, which was lovely, and some of my friends now who are still offshore, just to get your head around some of the terms and all the acronyms and all that kind of thing,” says Compston, whose father, like that of writer David Macpherson, worked on offshore rigs. The 38-year-old plays communications officer Fulmer.

The isolation of life on an oil rig makes it an ideal setting for a thriller, particularly as things start to unravel and the crewmates need to rely more on each other than they ever thought possible: as Grimsby-born Rochenda Sandall puts it, “it’s about human nature as well as Mother Nature”.

“It’s claustrophobic before you add anything else – it’s really tight spaces, it is a dangerous environment,” adds Compston. “It’s a dangerous job. That’s why it’s a high reward for paid stuff and very skilled work.”

The Rig comes to Prime Video on Friday, January 6.

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