Interview: Hugh Laurie talks The Night Manager | Virgin Media
Interview: Hugh Laurie talks The Night Manager

Interview: Hugh Laurie talks The Night Manager

19/02/2016TV

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Feeling lost after War & Peace? Panicked by the end of Deutschland 83? Fear not – if you’re looking for your next fix of brilliant Sunday night telly, BBC One has got you covered. New series, The Night Manager, is a gritty spy drama packed with more big names than an Oscar after-party.

Starring Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie, Olivia Colman and Tom Hollander, The Night Manager is an adaptation of John Le Carré’s 1993 novel of the same name, and is the first show to ever be co-produced by both the BBC and AMC (the folks behind Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead and Channel 4’s Humans).

Set during the 2011 Arab Spring, the show focuses on former British soldier Jonathan Pine (Hiddleston), who finds himself plunged into the dark underworld of arms trading and government corruption. Tasked with infiltrating a crime circle, Pine must work with MI5 operative Burr (Colman) as they look to bring down the two men at the centre of the nefarious enterprise – Richard Roper (Laurie) and Corky (Hollander).

To celebrate the start of the show, we chat to Hugh Laurie about his love of Le Carré and being the bad guy…

The Night Manager

Hugh Laurie is the spy who didn’t come in from the cold.

So Hugh, you’ve been interested in The Night Manager since it was first published. What’s the appeal?

Hugh Laurie: “‘Interested’ doesn’t really cover it. I’ve been a devoted lover of John Le Carré since a very young age, and have since consumed all the George Smiley novels. Within five chapters of reading The Night Manager, I actually resolved to try and option the book in a role as producer. Back then, I rather arrogantly dreamed of playing the character of Jonathan Pine, and have had to sit back and watch Tom Hiddleston be virile and charming, which is a rather galling task.”

Naturally. Your character is described very early on in the first episode as “the worst man in the world”. How do you even go about playing such a character?

“Villainy is a much-represented characteristic in all good storytelling and a very well-trodden path in many films and TV series. The original character of Richard Roper had always been very vivid in both the book and the script, but to describe someone as ‘the worst man in the world’, what does that mean? Does it mean with intention? There are a lot of villainous people out there in the world who are capable of evil but incapable of executing it – they are incompetent villains. What is most scary about Roper is his competence, his intelligence and daring. These are the qualities that make him dangerous.”

How did you work on developing the character of Roper?

“From the first moment of reading about Roper I knew who he was, I could hear him and see him. I could sense his evilness and also his weird sentimentalities with things such as the way he is with children. I also imagined he would be the sort of man who would be very kind to animals, be brought to tears by a dog being hit by a car, yet could watch unspeakable cruelty being visited upon a human being. Playing Roper was a daunting prospect because the novel has meant so much to me for so long.”

Are we to believe that there are Ropers in the real world?

“I didn’t meet any Ropers in the lead-up to the show, as the show’s legal team told me it could result in them suing. If you’ve read the original novel, you will know that Roper was originally selling arms to the Mexican Cartels, and it felt like somewhat of a far-fetched idea. However, while we were filming, one of the Mexican Cartels downed a government helicopter filled with arms and the Mexican government admitted they were at war with the Cartel, who were receiving weapons from an undisclosed source. In this problem hung the future of Mexico, because somewhere in it all there was a Roper who was selling missiles to the Cartels. So, even though we relocated, it showed it could be happening anywhere in the world right now.”

Are you worried people will possibly like your character? He is quite charming…

“Not to the degree that they will say, ‘Mother, I want to be an arms dealer’. At the same time I don’t think there’s any harm in acknowledging that the devil has good tunes, and if the devil had ‘Devil’ tattooed across his head then everyone would run away. He has a sort of superficial charm, otherwise he’d be a pretty useless devil. But no, I don’t worry for the moral soul of the audience. I think people will see Roper’s true colours as the show goes on.”

You’ve been off the small screen for a few years now. Will you do more?

“Yes, definitely. One is drawn to a script for the chance to work with certain people as much as anything else. But yes, I love it here and I would love to work here more. Oh goodness, I’m sounding like someone who isn’t from here, aren’t I? Anyway, yes you go wherever a script or a story will take you."

Don’t miss a minute of The Night Manager

Make sure you don’t miss this thrilling drama. Set the Series Link on your V+ or Virgin Media: TiVo® Service box and it will record every episode for you. Here’s how

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