Vincent V. Severski: Nielegałowie are the elite of the spy world [WYWIAD]

Vincent V. Severski: Nielegałowie are the elite of the spy world [WYWIAD]

NORBERT ZASKÓRSKI: Probably not all readers know who the title Illegals are?

VINCENT V. SEVERSKI: Illegals are intelligence officers who live under the adopted identity of another nationality, just like Travis in the novel, who is a Pole of Belarusian origin, but pretends to be a native Belarusian. This is the most difficult part of the work of spies on both the technical and psychological side. You have to reliably embody a different identity. Illegal risk their lives. Most often, when they are exposed, their homeland does not admit to them. Therefore, they are exceptional people with extraordinary psychological and intellectual predispositions. Illegals are the elite of the spy world.

What did the adaptation look like? How did your cooperation with CANAL + begin?

CANAL + came to me because the potential was discovered in my books. It was an interesting experience, because I did not write these novels for possible film adaptation. I didn’t know if anyone would read them at all. However, a certain depth and drama was discovered in this story that can be told. In addition, we have not had a spy series in our country for a long time. This is how great cooperation with CANAL + began, which I estimate at five on a five-point scale.

As a former intelligence officer, did you serve your experience on the set of this production?

I can start by saying that it’s fully my series. I was with this project from the very beginning, on the script work, when the producers, directors and the cast were selected until the last day on the set. While filming, I did not try to go too far and interfere in the work of the crew, because it was the work of the director and actors, but I suggested some technical issues. Here I must say that Andrzej Seweryn was a very grateful listener. The master approached the character creation with great attention, which is an incredible honor for me.

It is often the case with adaptations of the novel that this source material is very trimmed or processed. In this case, can you say that this is the most faithful adaptation that could arise?

I wouldn’t call it an adaptation. Rather, the production was based on the motifs of my novels. I don’t think these books can be translated into a series. They are so written that it is absolutely impossible. Some threads had to be shortened. The time of reading a book is not the time of the series, so it was necessary to properly cut this material. I can say that the atmosphere of the original, the character of the characters I created, the specifics of their relationship, the world, language and main themes have been preserved. This stream of events is very authentic. In this respect it is a good emanation of my first two novels. I take full responsibility for this and I can say that the writers created something that I would like to write if I had the competence.

What did you think when Grzegorz Damięcki became serial Konrad Wolski? Was this exactly the hero in your imagination?

I approached it with positive emotions because I liked his role in. I also saw some of his theatrical creations. He is a great actor who has all the skills. Visually, he is similar to Konrad Wolski and it soon turned out that he can also play this character. When I saw the first shots with his participation, they were very good. He approached the building of this hero accordingly.


I can’t ask you one question. What do you think of yourself as a former intelligence officer when you watch Hollywood spy movies, full of action, explosions and shootings? It is known that the work of a spy is sometimes very tedious and arduous work.

I love watching Bond movies because they are very good productions. In these shows, only one thing is true, the occurrence of good and evil. Indeed, in the work of an intelligence officer it is so that these two aspects are clearly defined, although people are not necessarily one-dimensional. However, very often, unfortunately, it happens that I watch some high-budget series and there are some strange moments. I only survived until the fifth episode. One thing was disarming here, namely the main heroine of this production has mental problems. An intelligence officer cannot have them in the real world. I know that in the series such a thread is ok. I do not advise anyone because it is very well done, but this aspect was irritating to me. However, it is brilliant. Of course, this is still a Hollywood production, but the content of this story and dialogues are paramount. Even at the CIA, at some point there was an investigation who could consult this project. I also recommend.

And Argo?
Very good movie, neatly made. I like the design of his story. Besides, I will honestly say that the cover of my book is just inspired by this production. As you remember at the beginning of the film, children submit cut documents from the American embassy. This is a great procedure when creating a story.

Did you start writing at all to bring readers closer to this real, spy world without a bit of coloring? How it was?

This tetralogy was written to encourage hearts. I wanted to give satisfaction to colleagues in the intelligence service who are often mistreated by the media and politicians. I wanted to show what we really are and let us know that our citizens can be proud of us. We serve the country’s security for everyone, those from PiS and PO, those in prison or working in corporations. I also wrote these books for a positive hero to appear in Polish pop culture, because all Western countries have a figure in the service of the homeland security. The British have Bonds, Hamilton Swedes and Bourne Americans. I decided that why we should not have such a hero, we are not worse than them. After writing these novels, I received a very positive response from readers that they are proud.

Recently, television producers have begun to reach strongly for the work of Polish writers. What do you think it results from?

We just have these series in paid commercial stations. It seems to me that the viewer has turned away from television in recent years and is looking for something better. Honestly, I can no longer watch any TV news, I prefer to read. I already have some allergy to this. People are fleeing to the series, and the development of technology and internet offerings creates new possibilities, also financial for production.