How the makers of BBC’s ‘SS-GB’ turned London into a dystopian Nazi-occupied zone

In new BBC One drama SS-GB, World War II is over – but Hitler won and he’s occupied London. Executive producer Sally Woodward Gentle explains how they transformed the city into a dystopian Nazi nightmare for the show

Did you draw on any real-life plans the Nazis had for London?

“We didn’t actually see any real ones. But we researched what type of bombs were dropped before and after the Battle of Britain. So we spent quite a long time thinking which buildings would still be standing if they’d won the Battle of Britain.”

How did you stop people freaking out about seeing Nazi symbols while filming?

“We tried to minimise the use of swastikas in public as far as we possibly could. We got hyper-neurotic about it, even down to the pennants on the front of cars or a little bit of embossing on the top of a pillar.”That must have been so difficult to manage…

That must have been so difficult to manage…

“We didn’t want anything to cause offence because it’s such evil imagery. We didn’t want to be playing with it, and we didn’t want to expose anyone to it either. When there were German soldiers on set, in between takes we covered them in ponchos.”

What kind of changes did you have to imagine?

“Our production designer’s view was that the Nazis would’ve taken things that were quintessentially British and rebranded them. So the red telephone boxes become yellow. The map symbol for the tube would’ve changed.”

Why do you think that people have the appetite for stories like this now?

“I’ve been developing this for a few years, and I didn’t think there was an appetite. I think what’s happened since is that we’re now living in an alternate world, with Brexit, Trump and Boris. We know, as well, that fate can turn really easily. It’s terrifying.”

SS-GB starts Sunday February 19 at 9pm on BBC One