Simon and Stephen Cornwell, the producing partners of the film and TV adaptations of their father John Le Carre‘s renowned novels including “The Night Manager,” return with yet another twisting, turning, globe-trotting thriller “The Little Drummer Girl.” Starring Florence Pugh (a BAFTA Rising Star nominee from last year – she lost to Daniel Kaluuya), Alexander Skarsgard and Michael Shannon, “Drummer Girl” is a BBC/AMC production that looks to continue the success of “The Night Manager.” While it does share some traits with that Golden Globe and Emmy winner, it has an entirely different storytelling DNA thanks to director Park Chan-Wook (“Oldboy”).
“The intensity and grittiness of this show is different from ‘The Night Manager.’ We thoroughly embraced making it as different as we could,” says Simon. “The success of ‘The Night Manager meant that we had to up our game, of course. It also paved the way for us to make some bold creative choices with ‘Drummer Girl.’ But we also had to up our game because of the overall qualities of television shows coming into the market.”
“You really have to work for your audiences very precious time,” admits Simon. And, adds Stephen, “the really wonderful material and talent from Le Carre breeds a lot of interest from even more wonderful talent when it comes to adapting these works.”
When it comes to casting, they had their pick. “In all of our projects, we have had our top choices of actors and actresses respond invariably well to the material and so we’ve always been very narrow in terms of who we think would be right for the role, because we are lucky enough to be able to think like that – because of the interest the material garners. Talent breeds talent.”
“Florence is brilliant in this show,” says Stephen. “We saw her in ‘Lady Macbeth’ and were involved in ‘Fighting with My Family,’ [a Stephen Merchant movie to be released next year] too, which featured her, so we were familiar with her exceptional talent. In the inception of the project, as the script came together, so many qualities of the character [Charlie] were qualities that Florence had as an actress; strength, cleverness, vulnerability, dynamism. She was always our dream Charlie.”
This was lucky for them, then, as Park Chan-Wook (making his television debut) had one stipulation when it came to doing this. As Stephen explains, “Park said that he had this actress he really wanted for the role of Charlie but that we’d probably never heard of her. It turned out he was thinking of Florence Pugh just as we were. It was perfect synergy and it cemented the visions that we shared for the show and the character. And Florence is phenomenal.”
“I think we couldn’t sit in this interview and not say that Florence’s performance is amazing,” agrees Simon. “It’s something very fresh, contemporary, relevant. It’s a very instinctive performance but, at the same time, very carefully studied, too. It’s a wonderful performance from Florence.”
They think Shannon “is the best he’s ever been” as Martin Kurtz – “the heart of the show and the cynic but also the passionate believer of his cause, a beautifully-balanced performance.”
And they raved about Skarsgard’s ability to handle both the low-key, brooding charisma he is known for as well as the more demonstrative, emotional moments his character is involved in, too. “Becker goes through an emotional journey and there you’ve got a performance from a guy who does so much with so little. It was almost scary on set as to whether Alexander would be able to convey the depth of Becker’s feeling with the subtlety of gesture that he went about, yet he does it extraordinarily well.”
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