What Oscar Salem loves most about south west London

What Oscar Salem loves most about south west London

The BBC actor tells us about his roles in Vigil and House of The Dragon, and his life in south west London

Main image (c) Eric Frideen

When BBC drama Vigil hit our screens back in 2021 it had us gripped. So too, actor Oscar Salem. He’s a big fan and he was thrilled when he got the role in the second season as Captain Sattam Abdul Kader.

Series one saw Suranne Jones take on the role of DCI Amy Silva, who is sent to investigate a suspicious death onboard a nuclear submarine. The second season, which landed on our screens in December, moves to drone warfare and sees Silva brought in to uncover the cause of fatalities at a Scottish military facility.

On release, Vigil became the most successful drama in the UK for three years. Some pressure then for the second series. Oscar did a lot of preparation for the role. “I got in touch with my old acting coach Geoff Colman who used to teach me at drama school, and I worked with him on building out the character and finding as much detail in the script as possible.”

Oscar says of the cast and crew: “There is great teamwork and wonderful collaboration. Everyone has a real sense of ownership of the work.”

Oscar in Vigil (c) BBC

Previously, Oscar has been in TV mini series Des, based on the true story of serial killer Dennis Nilsen. “I played Juan, who was the lover of Brian [Masters], Nilsen’s biographer, played by the amazing Jason Watkins. He is such a lovely guy and amazing talent. I learned a lot from him and the other creatives.”

He has also worked on House of the Dragon, a dream-come-true for the self-confessed ‘fantasy nerd’, where he played Ser Addam. “It was amazing. HBO is a well-oiled machine and everyone is at the top of their game. I am a big fan of Game of Thrones and when I found out I got the role in House of the Dragon, it was a big moment for me. It still hasn’t sunk in really so I’m glad it is immortalised on screen.

“The show operates on such a grand scale, it is hard not to stand and gawk while you are on set.”

Oscar’s fantasy fix isn’t yet satiated and he adds he’d love to do more. He’d also love to do stage work professionally. “My training background is in theatre. It’s a totally different beast to TV and it would be great to be on stage again.”

He’s inspired by actors such as Tom Hardy, Robert Pattinson, Meryl Streep and Jessica Chastain. “I guess it is a cliched answer but I love their work. Tom is such a raw and honest actor and Robert is one of the greatest talents of this generation.”

Growing up, Oscar didn’t really consider a career as an actor, even though he loved taking part in school plays. “At school, I wasn’t academically inclined but there was a great drama department which championed everyone involved. When I was leaving, I wasn’t sold on pursuing acting as a career. However, I had a music teacher who encouraged me to audition for a youth group – after the first rehearsal, I was hooked and realised I wanted to do this seriously.

The actor, who grew up in Battersea, attended Harrodian School in Barnes – a time he describes as his formative years. “Before that, I was in the British boarding school system. It wasn’t for me and I was very homesick. When I was 14, I went to Harrodian and it was very different. I loved it. It felt like it was where I belonged.”

He has moved around but pretty much stayed in south west London. “It has always felt like home. I love the vibe and energy of it. I have very fond memories around the King’s Road and Sloane Square. One of my favourite restaurants has  always been Oliveto on Elizabeth Street – a tiny Sardinian place with the most incredible food.

“I also love the bars around south west London such as the Little Blue Door in Fulham.”

As well as describing himself as a fantasy nerd, he says he is a ‘gaming nerd’ and a ‘tennis nerd’. “I love playing tennis. It keeps me sane and grounded. It’s like therapy. I also love watching the tennis championships at the Queens Club – it’s very local, small, and you feel up close with the players.”

And his love for video games? “When I was younger it was more a distraction from school, but after becoming an actor, I have a lot of respect for it and realised games can be a whole new medium of storytelling.”

As for work, he says he’ll be keeping busy. “I hopefully have some things coming up in the new year but I’m not allowed to talk about them yet…” Watch this space…

Watch Vigil on BBC iPlayer