The best family films to watch in the BT TV PlayerJul 21 | 2 min read
Connor Swindells is not your typical actor. Coming from a working-class background of labourers and farmers, he’s had no formal drama school training, and only became an actor after a friend dared him to audition for a am-dram play local to him in Brighton. He got the role, and has never looked back.
Born in Lewes, East Sussex, and growing up near Horsham in West Sussex, Swindells dreamed of becoming a boxer until serious injury ended his boxing career. He soon looked for work elsewhere - namely acting. “I was never a naturally gifted boxer but I worked hard at it,” he told ScreenDaily. “I figured that, possibly, I could do that with acting.”
He got his first major acting gig just four years ago, playing - of all things - a boxer in the gritty Brit flick, VS. But it was his breakout role in Netflix’s Sex Education in 2019 that put him on the map. Roles in The Vanishing, Vigil, and Emma followed.
Fans are eagerly awaiting his turn as David Stirling in SAS Rogue Heroes, coming soon. Next year, you can catch him on the big screen in Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, alongside Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling - who he previously called his “acting idol”.
In his personal life, he’s a patron of Bowel Cancer UK, a charity close to his heart after his mum died of bowel cancer when Swindells was just seven. He’s currently dating Peaky Blinders star Amber Anderson, and previously dated his Sex Education co-star, Aimee Lou Wood between 2018-2020, after meeting on the show.
Here, we round up Connor Swindells’ five must-watch TV and movie roles.
1. SAS Rogue Heroes - David Stirling
SAS Rogue Heroes isn’t even out yet, and there’s already a huge amount of anticipation around its release, not to mention Swindells’ lead performance as David Stirling - founder of the SAS, the world’s first and greatest Special Forces unit.
Stirling was an eccentric young officer who created a radical plan to form the SAS, flying in the face of all accepted rules of modern warfare at the time.
Speaking about joining the cast, Swindells said: “Portraying such an interesting man is incredibly exciting and I feel very lucky to be able to do so. It’s going to be an amazing ride.”
SAS Rogue Heroes has been adapted from Ben Macintyre’s bestselling book by Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight.
SAS Rogue Heroes begins at 9pm on Sunday 30 October on BBC One, with all episodes then available on BBC iPlayer
2. Sex Education - Adam Groff
Playing Adam Groff in Sex Education was without a doubt Swindells’ breakout role, with his social media following exploding after the show was released in 2019 - not to mention the countless strangers coming up to him in the street afterwards.
And it’s no wonder. 40 million subscribers watched the British comedy drama in its first month, putting it in the top ten most-watched Netflix shows in the UK that year.
Adam Groff has had something of a transformation across the three seasons, going from the hated school bully, to a character with real heart, that audiences care for. Part of this character arc has come from Groff’s exploratory relationship with Eric (Ncuti Gatwa).
Speaking to Fashion Beans, Swindells revealed that the pair's off-screen dynamic was “odd” at first as “[Ncuti] thought I hated him”. He explains: “I was just really nervous about starting and I’m very quiet… He did not get me whatsoever.
“He was very anxious about doing intimate scenes with someone who wasn’t putting themselves out there. That left really quickly though, and we became very close.”
Sex Education seasons 1-3 are available on Netflix. A release date for Sex Education season 4 has yet to be confirmed.
3. The Vanishing - Donald McArthur
Swindells got a major acting gig in the 2019 psychological thriller film The Vanishing, in which he replaced actor Joe Alwyn to appear alongside Hollywood stars Gerard Butler, and Peter Mullan.
The film, which was originally called Keepers, follows three lighthouse keepers (Swindells, Butler and Mullan) struggling to survive on a Scottish island, and has an impressive 85% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Swindells told Time Out that he was starstruck by his co-stars at first, but they soon made him feel part of the cast.
“On the first day, I was like, ‘That’s mad. It’s the guy from 300 – I grew up on that film'", he said.
"By day two, it was ‘Oh, it’s Gerry.’ And Peter is like a father figure now.”
The Vanishing is available to buy on Prime Video and the BT Store.
4. Vigil - Lieutenant Simon Hadlow
Swindells starred alongside Martin Compston and Suranne Jones in submarine thriller Vigil, produced for the BBC by the makers of Line of Duty. He played Lieutenant Simon Hadlow, the chief engineering officer aboard HMS Vigil.
He told the BBC that the scripts and cast appealed to him, but confessed that he's not cut out for the submarine life himself. “There is no part of me that wishes to be a submariner. It’s tough work. Period. My biggest respect to those who do it, but sorry. Not for me.”
It’s not been confirmed whether Swindells will return to Vigil for its second season, which was announced by the BBC in March 2022.
Catch up on Vigil on BBC iPlayer. A second series is confirmed.
5. VS. - Adam
In 2018, Swindells played Adam Watson, a troubled teen from foster care who uses his scathing word skills to become an unlikely rap battle champion.
“He’s self-destructive and thinks the world is against him,” says Swindells of his character. “My mum passed away when I was young so I knew what it was like to grow up without a maternal figure. I knew VS. would bring up a lot of buried stuff. It was daunting but also thrilling.’”
In a four-star review for The Guardian, film critic Peter Bradshaw called the film the “UK version of 8 Mile”, describing it as “a movie with flair and force... [and] real storytelling punch”.
VS. is available to buy on Prime Video and the BT Store.