In AMC’s “The Night Manager,” British thesp Tom Hiddleston portrays Jonathan Pine, the titular soldier-turned-hotelier who becomes embroiled in a plot to bring down an international arms dealer (Hugh Laurie) who is frequently described in the series as “the worst man in the world,” for reasons that soon become apparent.
During a For Your Consideration event for the six-episode limited series, Laurie revealed that he’d done some research into the deadly world that his character, Richard Onslow Roper, inhabits, telling the assembled audience, “I was immediately instructed by the corporate lawyers that I was not to discuss who this character might be based on, because if it ever came to their attention that ‘the worst man in the world’ was based on them, being sued by them would be the least of our problems … This is not fun and games, this is an enormous industry involving astronomical degrees of violence. There’s a lot at stake, and these are not people you want to cross lightly. I discovered that much.”
Hiddleston’s research process proved to be a little more civilized. “It was much easier for me to go to Night Managing school, I think,” he joked. “I’m not likely to get sued by the Night Manager that I shadowed at the Rosewood Hotel in London.”
In preparation for his role, Hiddleston spent the night managing the upscale hotel, which he compared to working in the theatre. “There is an upfront and a backstage, and it’s chaos backstage and it’s infinitely less glamorous, and the whole thing is being run so precisely in a way that I never could’ve conceived,” he said. “There was a wedding going on in the ballroom in the basement and there were people on the first floor complaining about the music, and myself and the Night Manager had to keep both parties happy. They keep notes on everybody, and everybody’s got a psychological profile — truly. If somebody asks directions to the bar, you say ‘allow me to escort you,’ as opposed to ‘up the corridor and turn right.’ It was a very surreal night.”
According to executive producer Stephen Garrett, once they were on set, Hiddleston had “learnt his trade so effectively that when we were filming the scenes in episode 1 [in the Egyptian hotel] … we were way back, preparing for a wide shot — and this was a real hotel that was still alive that we were filming in — and people kept trying to check in with him. Over the course of the night, eight people approached him and were rather irritated that he was unable to check them in and show them to their rooms.”
Hiddleston admitted that during the course of filming in Egypt, a few guests did come back from dinner and request their room keys, and he was happy to oblige them. “The real Night Manager behind the screen didn’t notice,” he laughed.
Pine first encounters Roper through his job as a Night Manager, but Hiddleston said, “as much as Jonathan Pine is a hotelier, he’s also a former soldier, and [it’s] so much a part of the engine that motivates him.”
To research that aspect of the character, Hiddleston turned to stunt coordinator called Julian Spencer, who previously served as a British paratrooper. “I remember asking him for very specific training, and you’ll see that [Pine’s] soldiership comes into play later on in the series, and I was fascinated by the duality… he’s a man who is in hiding and concealed behind the anonymity of uniform – the uniform of a solider, the uniform of a Night Manager – and those skillsets were transferable in some way,” Hiddleston noted. “Going under Julian’s tutelage and the way he trained me, I learned things I never would’ve learned: the capacity to improvise in a situation which is physically dangerous. I found that fascinating.”
“The Night Manager” premieres Tuesday, April 19 at 10 p.m. on AMC.