Starring Oscar-nominee Michael Shannon (The Shape of Water), Emmy-winner Alexander Skarsgård (Big Little Lies), and BIFA Best Actress-winner Florence Pugh (Lady MacBeth), period spy thriller The Little Drummer Girl starts at 9pm on Sunday, 28 October.
The 6-part drama, from the team behind The Night Manager, is an adaptation of John Le Carré’s 1983 novel of the same name. On the surface it’s set in the same world of low-level, grass roots espionage as Tom Hiddleston’s hit 2016 drama series, but The Little Drummer Girl is actually operating at another level entirely.
It tells the story of Charlie, an idealistic young actress (Pugh), who gets drawn into a high-stake, undercover mission with the Israeli secret service. She’s recruited by Becker (Skarsgård), a mysterious stranger, to infiltrate a Palestinian terror cell wreaking havoc across Europe. Shannon, probably the best character actor working in Hollywood today, is Kurtz, the Mossad handler leading the operation.
Hear the cast introduce the story in their own words below…
While its opening episode doesn’t quite match up to the nail-biting first instalment of Bodyguard in terms of dramatic tension (but then again, will anything ever?), it’s clear from the outset that The Little Drummer Girl is some of the best television 2018 has to offer.
It’s directed by Park Chan-Wook
Acclaimed director Park Chan-Wook is making his TV debut here, and has directed all six hours of The Little Drummer Girl.
The filmmaker responsible for Old Boy, Stoker, and The Handmaiden is the perfect fit for the meticulously plotted tale, and he brings a sense of style and precision to the complex tale.
It’s clear he’s a directors actor, with all three principal leads singing the praises of the South Korean filmmaker (watch the full video below).
“For months and months and months director Park lived, ate, breathed, slept, everything for this project,” Shannon tells Yahoo Movies UK.
“He has an eye for detail that doesn’t miss anything.”
His fingerprints are all over The Little Drummer Girl from the colour of the costumes to the minutely detailed sets: This is clearly the work of a master filmmaker, that will bear up to repeat viewings.
“You watch any of his films, and I can say that every single thing in that shot has had a conversation [behind it],” explains Pugh.
“Him doing The Little Drummer Girl was perfect, because I think you need someone like that to do a storyline like this.”
It’s stunning to look at
The colour palette of The Little Drummer Girl is sure to inspire a hundred style think pieces over the coming weeks, and with good reason. Rooted in the bold colours of the show’s 1970s setting, The Little Drummer Girl is awash with huge swathes of primary hued costumes, vehicles, and furniture – it like like no other show before it.
“The palette was incredibly important to [Park Chan-Wook],” explains Skarsgård.
“I was quite mesmerised by that. The green jacket was slightly off, it wasn’t quite the right colour, and when you see it, it makes sense because he would explain to us ‘I like the jacket, but can we go a slightly darker green because Florence will be in this yellow dress and I want that to contrast nicely, and there’ll be a red back drop’, and that all comes across when you see it, because it’s so vibrant.”
Becker gift Charlie a yellow dress at a pivotal moment in the first episode, and when the characters reach the acropolis in Athens, all the colours come together to create one of the most visually stunning TV scenes of the year.
The cast is incredible
The Little Drummer Girl, co-produced with AMC in America where it will air in November, boasts an all-star cast that makes Bodyguard look like an episode of Casualty in comparison.
Michael Shannon is on superb form as the idiosyncratic, chameleonic Kurtz, as is Alexander Skarsgård. The Tarzan star’s rangy, simian frame makes him an imposing undercover operative, and he’s never been better playing the duplicitous Becker.
But it’s Lady Macbeth star Florence Pugh, who really steals the show. As Charmian Ross, the crusading liberal luvvie who has just as many poses and disguises as the spooks, Pugh lights up the screen, effortlessly going toe-to-toe with her more experienced Hollywood co-stars.
It helps that they’ve got a great script to work with too. Written by relevant newcomers Michael Lesslie (Assassin’s Creed) and Claire Wilson, there’s no spoon-feeding of the plot, and it really only becomes clear what the bigger picture is by the second episode.
From top to toe, The Little Drummer Girl is must-watch TV of the highest order, and it arrives at 9pm on Sunday nights on BBC One. Watch a trailer below.