Episode 5 of AMC’s The Night Manager found Jonathan Pine/Andrew Birch (Tom Hiddleston) having to get his hands dirty so his cover would not be blown. Executive producer Stephen Garret talks about key scenes in our weekly postmortem.
Pine puts on quite the display for the buyer of Roper’s weapons. How much of that was practical?
Probably 10 percent of it was practical, and then 90 percent of it was CGI. It’s very hard to do that stuff live, not to mention dangerous. Interestingly, it’s another element in that journey of how to illustrate the “worst”-ness of Roper being the worst man in the world. Right at the very earliest stage of our script-writing process, we decided we needed a scene which we called the “fireworks party.” That was before it really existed. We’ve all seen war movies or demonstrations of weapons where it’s just explosions. It needed to be a scene where, in some way, without actually having a real war or a real battle, the true horror of weaponry and what arms could do was on display. That needed to be a juxtaposition — of the devastating impact of those weapons and the casual way in which he was selling them to Barghati, but also of a slightly, almost picnic quality to the event. Although happening at night, they were drinking and smoking and cracking jokes. I think that combination of the horror of what the weapons can do and their relaxed, casual banter further illustrates just how far Roper is from conventional morality.
Where was that filmed?
That was about half an hour outside Marrakesh from the hotel that we turned into The Nefertiti, where Pine was the night manager. That whole Roper camp was a complete build. There was no CGI in that. The actual hill fort was quite scary. It suddenly felt like a madman’s private army base.
My favorite line in the entire series may be whenever Sandy wants to pour champagne for their mercenaries and Roper tells him, “Don’t be a tit.” Was that scripted or a line Hugh Laurie came up with on set?
I can’t remember how that was scripted. It’s possible Hugh gave it a particularly Hugh-like spin. But it’s a lovely moment, because Roper can sense his world is starting to crumble. He’s starting to think that anyone around him might be the spy in his house. Turning on Sandy in that way, publicly, was a wonderfully cruel and spine-tingling moment.
Pine had to kill Corky, who’d figured him out. Were you sad to say goodbye to that character?
It was painful for all of us, really. As monstrous, in a way, that Corky is, he’s also completely lovable. A world without Corky seemed a lesser, diminished place. But clearly, in his role as fool to Roper’s Lear, he knew too much and had to go. In the book, he doesn’t die. That was another change we made to the book. But it was felt that it was just implausible to have him continuing to be a presence, continuing to have suspicions that were growing, for that somehow not to have an impact on Roper. But that twist — whereby, through Corky’s death, Pine is somehow able to confirm to Roper that Corky was the spy — just buys Pine a bit more time, taking him to Cairo, and not allowing Roper to properly realize what Pine is up to.
We have to discuss that scene with Tobias Menzies’ character showing up at the home of Angela Burr (Olivia Colman). As a viewer, you’re thinking, “He’s not really going to hurt a pregnant woman.” But anyone who’s seen Menzies on Outlander knows he’s not afraid to go to extremely dark places, so you’re still on the edge of your seat. What was that like to film?
I remember that night. We were filming very late, just on the edge of the River Thames, south of the river. It had been raining. It was a deserted street. It was scary, even as we were doing it. Tobias is such a great actor. Again I think, as with so many of the best moments in the show, it’s what he doesn’t say that is more terrifying and resonant than what he does. That very simple thing of, “I wouldn’t close the door on me if I were you,” and you think, “Oh, my God” — it’s terrifying. Of course she does close the door, and she lives to fight another day. But you can tell, really from the velvet lapel on his coat, that he’s not a man to be messed with and clearly is scarily well connected. I agree: I think that whole scene is oozing menace and threat to this, by now, very pregnant woman.
The Night Manager airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on AMC. Come back after each episode for a postmortem with executive producer Stephen Garrett.