How BBC1’s Our Girl was filmed… in South Africa

In series two, Two Section are posted to Kenya - but Michelle Keegan only went as far as Cape Town

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Our Girl is back on BBC1, except this time the heroine is Michelle Keegan instead of Lacey Turner.

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Keegan plays Georgie Lane, a Lance Corporal sent on a humanitarian mission to the Kenyan-Somalian border. In real life, though, the ex-Corrie actress found herself following in Turner’s footsteps in more ways than one.

Although the first series was set in Afghanistan  not Kenya  both were shot in South Africa.

“We filmed both series out of Cape Town,” explains Executive Producer Caroline Skinner. “And yet it looks so different on screen because for the first series we used the mountains of the wine region, which are very similar to Helmand Province for Afghanistan.”

This time around, the cast and crew decamped to dustier, desert-like just terrain 20 minutes outside of Cape Town.

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“South Africa is an incredible place to film,” says Skinner. “In recent years, it’s been used a lot for both film and television. It’s partly the landscape: the sense of scale and beauty. Obviously it was really hot and very sunny, which is exactly what you want when you’re trying to recreate Kenya. 

“And one of the things I love about it is the extraordinary light – it’s the same kind of light you get if you’re filming in LA. It just makes everything look really magical.”

As for the Kenyan refugee camp, it’s actually a township and the extras are all locals. “It was a real interaction between the community and the film crew, so it felt very special.”

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When Lacey Turner was filming series one, she admitted to finding the going tough. So how did Keegan and the rest of her squadron cope with the heat?

“It was a challenge. They were in full army kit doing really physical activity in a very exposed environment, which is no mean feat. We had some brilliant army advisors who were with us throughout the shoot, one of whom is Colonel Nigel Partington who used to run the Royal Army Medical Corps. They were there for military accuracy but also to support the cast through the physical demands.”

“We did a couple of weeks of boot camp. They did a week in the UK where our military consultant and his colleagues put Michelle and the boys through their paces and taught them the different army drills. And you could tell as the week went on that they became a unit.

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“Then we moved over to Cape Town a couple of weeks before we started shooting and did another week of boot camp out there so they could acclimatise to the heat, to the environment and to wearing a uniform in that kind of weather. Michelle was so brilliant, such a trooper. She really seemed to enjoy it and was leading that unit by the time we got onto set.”

Not that it was all fake blood, sweat and tears, says Skinner.

“The guys had a great time filming out there because it’s such a beautiful city. Most of them had apartments near the waterfront in Cape Town, which is probably one of the best views in the world. So it’s a good place to relax at the end of a really hard filming day.”

Our Girl continues on BBC1 on Wednesdays at 9pm


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