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5 reasons we’re excited for The Little Drummer Girl

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Hannah-Rose Yee
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It might be the show that will fill the Night Manager-shaped hole in our lives.     

We truly are living in a golden age of television.

Ever since Bodyguard premiered back in August, it’s as if as a week hasn’t gone by without us queuing up a stellar drama on iPlayer. First there was Killing Eve, then The Cry, then there was Informer and, from Sunday, The Little Drummer Girl.

Based on the 1983 John le Carre espionage novel of the same name, it tells the story of Charlie (Florence Pugh), a young actress drafted into the Israeli secret service by a mysterious spy Kurz (Michael Shannon) and her holiday fling Becker (Alexander Skarsgard). Double, triple, quadruple bluffs abound and everyone’s allegiances are called into question as, all around Charlie, men fight to get her on their side.

Sumptuous and sensual, this mini-series adaptation looks like it might finally be the show to fill the Night Manager-shaped hole we’ve had in our lives since that show aired in 2016. Here are five reasons we can’t wait for The Little Drummer Girl to premiere on Sunday. 

1. Many have called the book John le Carre’s best novel

It’s almost impossible to choose a favourite book from espionage author John le Carre’s back catalogue. Of course, we love the compelling Smiley series and The Constant Gardener with all its twists and turns.

But The Little Drummer Girl might be the best of the lot. As one of le Carre’s only books centered on a female lead (and what a female lead Charlie is! Inscrutable and independent and totally kickass), it has the edge on his other male-centric stories. 

Plus, according to le Carre superfan John Grisham, a man who really knows his way around a thriller, The Little Drummer Girl is the author’s best book. “I reread John le Carre’s The Little Drummer Girl every five years or so, just to remind myself what brilliant suspense sounds like,” Grisham told Entertainment Weekly in 2015. 

Florence Pugh and Alexander Skarsgard in The Little Drummer Girl

2. It’s from the team behind The Night Manager

Has there been a better spy television series than The Night Manager? We don’t think so, but The Little Drummer Girl certainly looks set to give it a run for its money.

Happily, it is being produced by the Emmy and BAFTA award-winning team behind that 2016 show (also an adaptation of a le Carre novel), so we know we’re in good hands here. They seem to have borrowed that first series’ winning formula of knife-edge tension, slow-building suspense, mysterious tall hunks plus a great sex scene or two for The Little Drummer Girl, and we’re not complaining. 

A scene from The Little Drummer Girl

3. Two words: Florence Pugh

The character of Charlie is one of the juiciest lead roles an actress could hope for. Even though she’s young, just 21-years-old at the start of the novel, she’s no innocent naif. Charlie is forthright, demanding and more than capable of going toe-to-toe with the string of spies who try to manipulate her over the course of the story.

In the 1984 film adaptation of the novel, Diane Keaton played the title role but in this BBC mini-series Charlie will be played by British acting supernova Florence Pugh. It’s been just over a year since the 22-year-old exploded onto screens in the indie drama Lady Macbeth. 

Since then, Pugh has earned rave reviews in Netflix’s Robert the Bruce biopic Outlaw King and is currently in Boston to play poor little proud Amy March in Greta Gerwig’s Little Women remake. We’re calling it: Pugh is a serious acting talent and The Little Drummer Girl will cement that. 

Hello, Alexander Skarsgard

4. Two more words: Alexander Skarsgard

Lest you think we were neglecting the rest of The Little Drummer Girl’s cast, here are a few things we want to clear up right now. The supporting cast of The Little Drummer Girl is superb. Michael Shannon, who plays the terrifying spymaster Kurz, is almost unrecognisable with a mop of curly hair and Seventies-era moustache. Menacing and manipulative, he’ll make an excellent bad guy.

And then there’s Alexander Skarsgard, fresh off his Emmy and Golden Globe-winning turn in Big Little Lies, back again as some feckless man we would all do better without. As Becker, Skarsgard plays the gorgeous man Charlie picks up on her holiday for a little fling before realising that he’s also an Israeli spy and trying to control her. (The Seventies, right? Completely lousy with spies! You couldn’t go to a beach in Greece without picking one up.)

We know he’ll be great in this role, his back catalogue from Diary of a Teenage Girl to What Maisie Knew is full of men like this. Plus, in the mini-series’ stunning, washed-out retro costumes - think: mustard corduroy, emerald green turtlenecks and one gorgeous chartreuse maxi dress for Charlie - he has never looked better. 

5. The director

South Korean film director Park Chan-wook is a true visionary, beloved for the chilling Snowpiercer or 2016’s sensual lesbian romance The Handmaiden, winner of Best Foreign Film at the 2018 BAFTAs. Judging from the trailer alone The Little Drummer Girl will be the perfect combination of his poetic filming style with the high drama and tension of his interior thrillers like 2013’s Stoker.

The Little Drummer Girl premieres on BBC One at 9pm on Sunday 28 October. 

Images: BBC

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