Who says spies can’t find love?
This September, IGN is featuring the best TV coming your way in the 2018-2019 season. Today we’re spotlighting The Little Drummer Girl, an upcoming AMC limited series based on the 1983 spy thriller from novelist John le Carré – the second AMC adaptation of the author’s work, following 2016’s The Night Manager. The Little Drummer Girl stars Florence Pugh as Charlie, a British actress who falls in love with a man named Becker (Alexander Skarsgård), only to discover she’s actually being recruited into a complex plot to hunt down a Palestinian terrorist. Little Drummer Girl is also notable for serving as the TV directorial debut for acclaimed Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook. We were able to talk with showrunners Simon and Stephen Cornwell about the new series, why it’s as much a love story as a thriller, and why Park was so eager to participate in the show. Scroll down to find out what they had to say and to see exclusive photos from the upcoming series.
The Night Manager proved to be a major critical hit for AMC, and the Cornwells told us that both they and the network were eager to push forward with another adaptation of their father’s work. (Le Carré is even set to cameo in the series this time around.) As Simon explained, “We were looking for something to follow up The Night Manager that sort of shared the same scale and ambition and scope, but at the same time was completely different. We looked at Le Carré’s work, and Little Drummer Girl was the one stood out as a huge, compelling thriller and love story and a great book. So hopefully it’ll be something audiences appreciate and enjoy.”
We also learned that it was a mutual admiration for Little Drummer Girl that drew Park to the project. Stephen said, “Director Park is a very big fan of John le Carré and has been a long-standing fan, and particularly has had a long-term interest in Little Drummer Girl as a story that profoundly resonated for him. In a sense, we both reached out to each other, with interest specific to the book title and a very general desire to work in the same space and toward the same ambitions. Because of those things converging, Director Park not only engaged in what we were trying to achieve in the story, but he also agreed to make this his first journey into TV.”
Check out our first look photos from The Little Drummer Girl in the gallery below:
Stephen continued, “And when you actually look at Director Park’s work, there’s a lot in it that speaks to the same themes as Little Drummer Girl in terms of conflicted loyalty, conflicted love, the kind of fusion of a love story in a thriller context and sort of divided identity and divided loyalty all seem to run deep through. And also female empowerment… He’s really built fascinating female characters in his narratives.”
The Little Drummer Girl was previously adapted into a 1984 film starring Diane Keaton, generally regarded as one of the weaker Le Carré adaptations. The Cornwells indicated that this project served as an opportunity to do right by the source material, and made a point of disregarding the previous film once they began the process of putting together the TV series.
Stephen said, “Quite frankly, the feature film is something that lived in its own time and space and its own way. It’s not actually something we referenced at any point in our process, really. We went back to the book and we were looking, as Simon says, for the next project that we felt would be a great piece of television – a story that would unfold over that length of time. We were looking for a central character that would really resonate in the present. And the character of Charlie, who’s the Little Drummer Girl at the center of this narrative, is a character who, even though the story is set in the past, we really felt resonated and was relevant to today. And those were really the motivating factors for telling this story, and telling it the way we’ve done it and with the scope and scale the limited series form allows, which is really what the story always deserved.”
While Skarsgård and Michael Shannon are well-established actors, Pugh is a relative newcomer. Though as it turns out, both the Cornwells and Park independently came to the conclusion that she was the ideal actress to play the role of Charlie.
Simon related the odd coincidence, saying, “There’s a story behind it, which is that when we were talking about Director Park taking this on, and he was sort of exploring how it all might work, he kind of came to us and said, ‘I’m going to do this, there’s really only one actor want to work with. She’s not well-known. You guys probably don’t even know who she is.’ And we said, ‘Yeah, who’s that?’ And we were worried. He said ‘it’s a woman called Florence Pugh.'”
Simon continued, “We burst out laughing at that point, because we had just finished shooting a film called Fighting With My Family, which will come out next year, in which Florence plays the lead. So not only have we heard of Florence, but we’ve actually backed her first big commercial movie. We certainly shared his view that she’s an extraordinary emerging talent with a breathtaking career ahead of her.”
Simon praised Pugh’s performance, saying, “In many ways she is Charlie. One of the strange things about Little Drummer Girl is that, although it’s a story set 40-odd years ago, the lead character is an incredibly contemporary-feeling young woman, someone who is really out in front. She’s finding her place in the world. She’s grappling with issues of identity and purpose the way that we all do. When we began talking to Florence about the role, time and again it just felt like you were talking to the Little Drummer Girl herself.”
The Little Drummer Girl will premiere on AMC on Monday, November 19 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, with all six episodes airing over the course of three consecutive nights.
Jesse is a mild-mannered writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter, or Kicksplode on MyIGN.