Elizabeth debicki night manager

Elizabeth Debicki: ‘We fought about how sexy I should be ’

A number of competing bars have been built into the outer bulwark of the National Theatre in London, and when she emerges from rehearsals one night in September the Australian actor Elizabeth Debicki – animated, adamant, 6ft 3in – hesitates. Which bar? We circle the building together, scouting options, dismissing one place for being too quiet, another too busy. Debicki has heard a rumour about a secret actors’ drinking den hidden deep within the theatre complex. Finally, we wind up back at the quiet place, where she orders a glass of red wine. “I love that in England the choice is only ever ‘medium’ or ‘large’,” the 26-year-old says, taking a swig. Then again, she adds, who is she to talk. “In Australia, we fill swimming pools with this stuff.”

Chatting at the bar, I can understand why, whenever Debicki does a job (playing a warlord’s mistress in The Night Manager, opposite Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddleston, a party girl in Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 adaptation of The Great Gatsby, or an alien in the upcoming superhero sequel, Guardians Of The Galaxy) she is affectionately known as “Debicki” on set. “My first name never lasts longer than five minutes.” There is an unstuffy and clownish energy to this actor, who doesn’t like to let a sentence rest if there’s a quip to be added and who, when she talks, waves her hands about as if she’s drowning. She chews gum and fiddles constantly with her short, bleached hair, now tugging it upright, now flattening it sideways. Her exuberance might be amplified by the fact that she’s only just been let loose from a rehearsal room after nine hours’ work on a new play, but Debicki says she’s always had “an ingrained intensity, a little bit of madness”, and she puts this down to her ancestry: Polish on her father’s side, Irish on her mother’s. When I ask about the most tiring part of rehearsing, Debicki flattens her hair to one side and says, “It’s a David Hare play. The words.”

There’s not a lot more she can say about the production, she says, beyond the fact that it’s called The Red Barn, is set in 1960s New England and co-stars Mark Strong – a “psychological thriller with Hitchcockian elements”. I ask if she can give me a little preview of her New England accent. “No. Noooo. No way.” The hair gets dragged into clown-like puffs. “No.” Debicki has signed a number of non-disclosure agreements recently, she explains, mostly related to her work on Guardians Of The Galaxy, and this has made her paranoid about saying anything about anything. “You start to worry there are snipers on the tops of nearby buildings.”

We talk instead about The Night Manager, safely in the can, safely broadcast, safely praised and garlanded. Overnight, while Debicki was asleep in her rented place in London, many of the cast and crew came together in Los Angeles. The series was up for some big awards at the Emmys, including nominations for her co-stars Hugh Laurie, Olivia Colman and Tom Hiddleston. In the end, the show’s Danish director, Susanne Bier, won.

With Tom Hiddleston in The Night Manager: ‘I miss them,’ she says of the cast. Photograph: Des Willie

Debicki woke up to an inbox full of fuzzy photographs of the gang celebrating. “I miss them,” she says. “In my experience as an actor, it was probably the most unified group I’ve ever worked with. It’s rare you come out of a job and everyone you worked with, you want to see them again.”

In The Night Manager, adapted from John le Carré’s 1993 novel, Debicki played Jed, a chilly beauty who has been “bought”, in the character’s words, to be the girlfriend of globetrotting arms dealer Richard Roper (Laurie). Jed gets muddled up in her allegiances when a former MI6 officer (Colman) commissions a taciturn spy (Hiddleston) to bundle in and mess with Roper’s schemes. Over its six episodes, there was a good deal of betrayal and sex and murder, as well as a lot of checking in and out of swanky hotels. There were clunky moments (Debicki’s character to Hiddleston’s: “Everyone’s attracted to you: who are you?”), but even so it became that show – the one you’d better watch, as a matter of national imperative, in order not to be left out of conversations the whole time.

“I love the idea that everyone was sitting down on a couch in front of it on a Sunday,” Debicki says. “That’s old-fashioned entertainment, isn’t it?” Her commutes to and from the theatre have been interesting, post-Night Manager. If she hasn’t showered or done her hair, she says, she’ll generally pass unnoticed. And, sometimes, “there’s a very British thing, where people have a very quiet but still slightly audible argument as to whether I am actually the woman in The Night Manager. It’s usually the husband or boyfriend looking over and saying, ‘No. Not her.’”

Tom Hiddleston reads from John le Carré’s The Night Manager

She was delighted that Bier, the first woman Debicki had been directed by, won the Emmy. On the set of The Night Manager, “we used to fight a lot about how sexy Jed had to be”; Debicki thought less, Bier thought more. A shower scene from episode two had to be tried a few times because, as Debicki remembers, “Susanne thought I was drying myself off like a football player in a locker room. She wanted Jed to be, not an object, but very feminine.” Bier helped her to understand the difference.

Most importantly, Debicki says, she responded to Bier’s refusal to praise her just for showing up. “Sometimes you work with directors who are very vocal, very complimentary. And I probably looked to Susanne for that, at first, like a deer in the headlights.” What happened? Debicki does an impersonation of the way the director spoke to her – eyes rolling, Scandinavian accent set to full-stun sarcasm: “You’re wonderful, you’re amazing, you’re the best actress in the world.’” She grimaces and mangles her hair. “It was freeing, to be made terrible fun of. I stopped looking for her approval.”

Debicki was born in France, the oldest of three children. Her parents were ballet dancers who met in Paris while performing in a show together. They relocated to the suburbs of Melbourne when Debicki was five. At her new school, “I remember desperately wanting to assimilate. It was probably the beginning of my acting career.” She spoke fluent French. “But kids are sensitive, right? I decided I wanted to fit in and I wouldn’t speak the language any more. My parents were appalled. Can you imagine? You have a little child who’s bilingual and then one day goes, ‘Nope.’”

Jumper, by Dion Lee, from netaporter.com. Shirt (in main picture), cosstores.com. Photograph: Gustavo Papaleo/The Guardian

The family weren’t well off. When her parents’ dancing careers timed out, Debicki’s father took a job working backstage at a theatre. She remembers “it was all a big relief” when she won a scholarship to an otherwise pricey school. Somewhere under Debicki’s quippy top layer there’s something firmer, and I get a sense of this when I ask an incautious question about how she won her scholarship: a recital, a dance? “Sat an exam,” she says, flatly. “I can write, too.” Debicki explains: “When your parents are ballet dancers, they teach you to be really fucking tough.” Physically? “They deal with a lot of physical pain, but no. Dancers are the toughest people I’ve met on a psychological level. It is so much more brutal than acting. Your expiration date is more definite, you work so much harder for your place along that barre or in that chorus line or whatever. My parents – who were very good at what they did, and had a sneaking suspicion early on that they were going to raise at least one child who would turn out to be a thespian – they really instilled a lot of toughness in us.” She remembers being told, often: chin up.

But she ever so slightly broke their hearts, Debicki says, when at the age of 17 she got into law school (“They were overjoyed”) and chose instead to take up a place to study drama. At the University of Melbourne, Debicki’s training was almost exclusively theatrical. “We had one week of film and TV classes. I remember having to hold up fake bottles and say: ‘Buy this Coke!’ I never expected to work on screen.” Her first job as a graduate was on the stage, playing a bereaved mother in a drama with the Melbourne Theatre Company: “I had to cry a lot.”

This was an odd time in her life. Just as the weepy play was about to start rehearsing, Debicki went to a screen test in a Melbourne hotel, where an agent was assembling tapes of unknown Australian actors for Baz Luhrmann’s perusal, on the off-chance the director might want them in his new adaptation of The Great Gatsby. Debicki’s tape caught Luhrmann’s eye. “I got an email that said, ‘Baz liked your test.’ It was incomprehensible.” She was flown to Los Angeles, a 36-hour trip, where she did another test. Back in Melbourne, she didn’t hear anything for a month. “I started to assume I’d been hit by a bus and dreamed the whole thing.” Then she was walking to rehearsals one day when Luhrmann called her mobile and said, “Would you like to be part of our little play?”

In Gatsby, which was filmed in Sydney in late 2011, Debicki played Jordan Baker, a glamorous society cynic, vaguely catalytic in the doomed affair between Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jay Gatsby and Carey Mulligan’s Daisy Buchanan. Of her state of mind during the shoot, Debicki says, “I had just finished school. I felt about 12 years old.” She was good in the movie, though: lofty, composed, holding her own as the notably unfamous one in a cast composed of established or rising stars. Debicki knows that Luhrmann (“my fairy godmother”) took a chance on her. “He casts on instinct. And I guess with this he decided, ‘I have big actors in it already.’”

She was working in another play by the time Gatsby premiered at Cannes in 2013. The Maids, starring Cate Blanchett and Isabelle Huppert, had Debicki as a wealthy woman who visits her frustrations on her servants. After a run in Melbourne, the play transferred to Broadway, where Debicki was singled out for praise (the New York Times called her “smashing”; Time magazine found her “tall and delicious”). Between the Melbourne and Broadway runs, Guy Ritchie cast her as a baddie in his Man From UNCLE movie, and Justin Kurzel, who’d seen The Maids, made Debicki his Lady Macduff in a big-screen Macbeth with Michael Fassbender. By the time these films were on release, Debicki had already lobby-hopped through posh hotels in Switzerland, Marrakech and Mallorca, filming The Night Manager.

Silk shirt, by Equipment, from netaporter.com. Photograph: Gustavo Papaleo/The Guardian

Which brings us to what might be called her non-disclosure period. After the David Hare thriller at the National, Debicki will appear in a mysterious space drama called The God Particle, playing an astronaut, and then in the Guardians Of The Galaxy sequel, playing a “fabulous” alien about whom she can say very little. I ask her to give me something about the Marvel Studios film – anything – and she says there was lots of green-screen work. Anything else? She leans forward and seizes my knee: “There is probably someone from Marvel – wearing a tweed cap – pretending to be an audience member at the National – spying on me right now.”

She adopts a roughly similar policy of banterish deflection when prodded, mildly, to talk about her romantic life. “Have I got a boyfriend-slash-girlfriend? That’s very liberal of you. I don’t want to say anything. I’m really private.” What she will say is that it can be unnerving, hopping from job to job, rental to rental, and that she’s glad her parents trained her in the tradition of iron, ballet-dancer toughness. “As an actor, you’re nomadic. You never settle. And that can be very trying on the sense of self, when who you feel you are shifts all the time. It drove me nuts as a kid, all that ‘Chin up’ stuff, but now I’m grateful for it.”

Jacket, by Valentino, from harrods.com. Trousers, by Victoria Beckham, from harveynichols.com. Photograph: Gustavo Papaleo/The Guardian

The quiet bar at the National gets busier (an evening show is about to start) so we step outside, where Debicki registers mild surprise that she managed to finish her big glass of wine after all, and slings on a backpack to head home. On the set of The Night Manager, she’s reminded, Hiddleston used to quiz her about the meaning of Australian slang words such as “dag” and “daggy”; she points a thumb at her backpack, a cumbersome, canvas thing: “This is daggy.”

We set off together, heading for the same station. Like Debicki, I’m tall (I have a couple of inches on her 6ft 3in) and we probably make a bit of a sight, striding along the river. Oncomers take a good look, then look away. I know from experience that it’s hard, if not impossible, to engage someone in interesting conversation about being tall, though every day people try. I’m not eager to bring up the subject unless she does.

“I can’t remember the last time I met someone who was taller than me,” she says.

We compare notes. Has she had that one where an old lady in the supermarket asks for something off the top shelf? (Yes.) The one where an overwhelmed young child bursts out crying, spontaneously, at the sight of her? (Not yet.) Debicki says she’s come to think her height might be the source of some of her unusual energy. “People often say I seem very confident. If I have to present an award, or it’s the first day of work somewhere, I have this veneer of being totally au fait. I wonder if it’s from having been different from a young age. I was always aware that people were aware of me. Maybe I tried to overcompensate.”

She’s too sarky and self-aware not to point out, while saying this, that nobody is about to start “playing the violin” for a “tall-y”. And she can hardly blame strangers for being attentive to physical distinction, because “rare’s rare, you know?” Even so, height is something you don’t get any choice about and can’t switch off; it’s a strange and unrepresentative thing to be defined by. So don’t make the whole article about me being tall, Debicki suggests, before we shake hands goodbye. I tell her I’ll put it in somewhere at the end.

• The Red Barn is at the Lyttelton Theatre, London SE1, until 17 January

• Styling: Melanie Wilkinson. Hair: Ben Talbott at the Galleon east Dulwich, using Charles Worthington. Makeup: Emma Day at the Wall Group, Using Dior Fall Look and Capture Totale Dreamskin Cushion. Fashion assistant: Billie Brand

Meet the cast of The Night Manager

BBC1 spy thriller The Night Manager continues this Sunday 6 March at 9pm on BBC1. Starring the best and brightest of British talent including Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie and Olivia Colman, the story is an adaptation of the novel by John le Carré. Find out more about the cast and characters below.

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Jonathan Pine – Tom Hiddleston

Hotelier, night manager, former soldier, dogsbody to the rich and famous: Jonathan Pine is a complicated man who keeps his secrets hidden beneath a surface sheen of grace and discretion.

Pine has been recruited by intelligence officer Angela Burr to spy on suave British arms dealer Richard Roper. Having ‘saved’ Roper’s son in a staged kidnapping, Pine is close to penetrating Roper’s inner circle. But no everybody believes he’s all that he seems…

Tom Hiddleston has a promising 2016 lined up. Dystopian fantasy High-Rise is soon to be in cinemas, there’s Hank Williams biopic I Saw The Light also set to come, and he’s currently filming for the lead role in King Kong origin story Kong: Skull Island. When you combine the clout of a Shakespearean actor with the fan appeal of a Marvel arch-nemesis, you know you’re onto a good thing.

Even better, however, is that he seems intoxicated by the world of espionage. “A spy must possess an almost unnatural ability to dissimulate, to hide in plain sight, and a capacity for self-effacement and self-invention, which in itself is dangerous,” he says in a piece for Radio Times. What will Hiddleston himself ‘invent’ in The Night Manager?

Richard Roper – Hugh Laurie

Dapper, posh, perfectly poised, and according to those in the know, “The worst man in the world”. Richard Roper’s public persona is that of successful businessman and philanthropist, but behind the scenes the Brit has built up a ruthless arms dealing network. Roper will back any side – as long as the price is right.

Hugh Laurie, like the character he plays, has many faces. Best known for decades in Britain as the bumbling fool in Blackadder or Stephen Fry’s long-time comic collaborator, he reinvented himself in 2004 when he took the part of Dr Gregory House in long-running US medical series House. He’s since been a series regular in political satire Veep, but this is his first British TV role for 13 years.

He’s been desperate to play this part, even going so far as to scout out real-life arms dealers to help research for the role. Unfortunately, the BBC weren’t so keen: “I was advised that not only would that possibly make us legally liable but it may get worse than legally given the kind of world these people operate in,” he revealed. “These are deeply frightening people and you absolutely don’t want to get on the wrong side of them.”

Angela Burr – Olivia Colman

In the original novel, this character was a man, Leonard Burr. But, in author Le Carré’s own words, “Did we really want this in 2015? One white male middle-aged man pitched against another white middle-aged man, and using a third, younger, white middle-aged man as his weapon of choice?”

No we didn’t, so Angela Burr was born, a no-nonsense secret service officer desperate to make Roper pay for his crimes. And Jonathan is going to help her do it.

Olivia Colman is the third key element in this enviable British cast. Like Laurie, the Bafta-winning actress flits easily between drama and comedy, having moved from her breakout role in Peep Show to heavyweight performances in Broadchurch, Accused and film Tyrannosaur. Series three of Boradchurch is set to start filming in May. Fun fact: after she was given the part of Angela, Olivia discovered she was expecting her third child and her pregnancy was written into the script.

Jed Marshal – Elizabeth Debicki

The girlfriend of Richard Roper, Jed believes she has found a safety in her new, enigmatic – and rich – lover. She drinks his champagne, shares his bed and plays with his son. But Jed is no preening socialite; she may pretend all is right with the world, but Jonathan’s appearance forces her to confront the reality of who Roper really is.

Aussie actress Elizabeth Debicki co-starred in Guy Ritchie film The Man From UNCLE in 2013, and before that was involved in Baz Luhrmann’s big screen adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. She’s set to appear in investigative thriller The Tale.

Major Lance Corcoran – Tom Hollander

Corcoran, ‘Corky’ for short, is Roper’s right hand man. All the dodgy papers are signed by him, leaving no paper trail that could lead to Roper himself. He’s also deeply distrustful of anyone who tries to worm their way into Roper’s inner circle – especially Pine.

From co-creating comedy series Rev to appearing in Disney blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean, Tom Hollander can turn his hand to almost anything. In 2014 he played Dylan Thomas in BBC TV movie A Poet in New York, and is set to star in ITV’s upcoming Julian Fellowes drama Doctor Thorne.

Daniel Roper – Noah Jupe

Little Daniel Roper is the apple of his father Richard’s eye. Ever since being saved by Pine at the restaurant, Danny has become besotted with the new member of the group.

Child actor Noah Jupe has already made appearances in ITV’s Downton Abbey and Sky Atlantic’s Penny Dreadful, and it can’t have been a bad acting education having Hugh Laurie as your on-screen Dad.

Sandy Langbourne – Alistair Petrie

Sandy is one of Roper’s trusted inner circle, but family trouble threatens to overshadow his usefulness to the enterprise. Is he a weak link?

Cranford and Emma actor Alistair Petrie recently featured in Sherlock series three episode The Sign of Three. He’s set to appear in BBC1 drama Undercover.

Caroline Langbourne – Natasha Little

Caroline Langbourne finds herself, like Jed, involved in Roper’s dealings through her other half. With her husband Sandy making eyes at their nanny, she could be encouraged to be indiscreet…

Natasha Little is currently appearing in BBC3 drama Thirteen, but she is best known for her Bafta-nominated role as Becky Sharp in BBC period adaptation Vanity Fair. She also played Liz Cromwell, wife of Thomas Cromwell, in 2015’s Wolf Hall.

Juan Apostol – Antonio de la Torre

Spanish lawyer Apostol (‘Apo’ for short) is a vital connection in Roper’s latest and greatest deal.

Actor Antonio de la Torre featured in multi award-winning Spanish thriller Marshland in 2014, and UK filmgoers might also have seen him in Pedro Almodóvar’s border-crossing hit I’m So Excited!

Joel Steadman – David Harewood

US agent Joel Steadman, Chief Officer at the US Directorate of Defence Trade Controls, is Angela Burr’s key ally in the Pine operation, codenamed ‘Limpet’. But how long can the pair keep their bosses out of the loop?

British actor David Harewood has made a habit of passing off as an American spy, having memorably played CIA director David Estes in Homeland. He’s also currently part of the core cast in US superhero series Supergirl.

Geoffrey Dromgoole – Tobias Menzies

Geoffrey Dromgoole is The Establishment, cut from the same cloth as Pine’s nemesis Richard Roper. The British intelligence director has the power to squeeze Roper – or, alternatively, let him slip through the net. Either way, politics is murder.

Game of Thrones star Tobias Menzies is well used to this spying game, having appeared in Bond movie Casino Royale as M’s assistant Villiers. As well as Game Of Thrones, Menzies also has a recurring role in Amazon series Outlander.

Raymond Galt – Jonathan Aris

One of Dromgoole’s underlings, Galt doesn’t appear to take Angela Burr’s intelligence network seriously – but behind the scenes, he is taking a very serious interest indeed.

From sleuth to spy, Jonathan Aris is best known for playing forensic scientist-turned conspiracy theorist Philip Anderson in Sherlock. He also recently appeared in BBC2’s Cold War spy thriller The Game.

Harry Palfrey – Neil Morrissey

Another of Dromgoole’s dubious supporters, Harry Palfrey is the only character in the novel of The Night Manager to make an appearance in another of Le Carré’s books. He also appears in The Russia House.

Neil Morrissey has come a long way since Men Behaving Badly, from voicing Bob in Bob the Builder to appearing as a corrupt cop in BBC police thriller Line of Duty. His most recent TV appearance came this Christmas, where he played Russell Howard’s Dad in A Gert Lush Christmas Special.

Rex Mayhew – Douglas Hodge

Whitehall bureaucrat Rex Mayhew has an in with the highest levels of British Intelligence, but he’s not quite one of the big boys. He sends Angela Burr information when he thinks it might help her case, but the real strings of power are in others’ hands.

Five-times Olivier-nominated actor and director Douglas Hodge doesn’t just play the stage: he has a regular role as Bartholomew Rusk in Sky Atlantic drama Penny Dreadful, and featured opposite Sherlock star Andrew Scott in ITV drama The Town.

Rob Singhal – Adeel Akhtar

Rob Singhal is one of Angela’s colleagues, stuck in a freezing office in Victoria with few resources and little patience for the operation.

Adeel Akhtar is best-known for C4 dystopian drama Utopia and Chris Morris terror satire Four Lions. He recently featured in BBC1 drama adaptation Capital and BBC1 crime thriller River.

Sophie Alekan – Aure Atika

The mistress of Egyptian player Freddie Hamid, Sophie picks out hotelier Jonathan Pine as a potential ally in the murky political waters of the Arab Spring. She hands him precious documents for safekeeping. It cost her her life…

Aure Atika is a French actress best known to UK audiences for her part as Queen Isabella in Channel 4 historical epic World Without End, and 2005 French indie film The Beat That My Heart Skipped.

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The Night Manager continues Sunday 6th March at 9pm on BBC1

Elizabeth Debicki confirms work on The Night Manager sequel: “I’m sworn to secrecy”

Ever since smash-hit BBC/AMC drama The Night Manager finished in 2016, fans have had one question on their minds – will there be a follow-up series following the further adventures of Tom Hiddleston’s Jonathan Pine?

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And while the first series was based on a book by legendary spy author John Le Carre which has no sequels, most of the parties involved have expressed interest in carrying on the story. Director Susanna Bier suggested the project was ongoing soon after the series concluded, and last November it was revealed that scripts were being developed in early stages by Matthew Orton.

Now, though, we have a more concrete look at the likelihood of the sequel thanks to series one star Elizabeth Debicki, who played the unhappy partner to Laurie’s weapons dealer in the first series before aiding Pine in his undercover investigation.

“Is there another one? I’m sworn to secrecy…” Debicki teased when RadioTimes.com asked her about the series last week, much to the excitement of her Peter Rabbit co-star (and Star Wars lead) Daisy Ridley (the pair voice Mopsy and Cottontail in the new Beatrix Potter adaptation).

“Is there another one???” Ridley asked.

“I can’t…you can’t win that game can you?” Debicki replied. “You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”

“Isn’t it a John le Carré novel?” Ridley said.

“It was based on the one so I’m…yeah,” Debicki continued.

“Ohhhh, they’ve gone off ,” Ridley replied.

“Did you do that Marvel thing where you ask me a question and then if I answer it it’s affirming something?” laughed Debicki. “I feel like that’s something that always happens with Marvel .

“I think might be in the works, yeah,” she concluded diplomatically.

“I didn’t know that was coming,” Ridley beamed. “I’m excited.”

Of course, before a return to the world of high-class spying Debicki and Ridley can enjoy some more homegrown adventures, with the pair getting to grips with their furry characters in the new Peter Rabbit live-action film.

“Mopsy’s the eldest of the triplets.” Debicki said of her character in the movie, which also stars James Corden, Rose Byrne and Domhnall Gleeson.

“They’re six seconds apart, but it’s very important to her. She stakes a lot of her identity on that. And she’s sassy and she’s bossy, but I think she’s very sweet, and well-intentioned and mothering.”

“Cottontail is a little bit all over the place, and I think it’s sweet too – she’s kinda trying to be her own person while idolising Peter,” Ridley added.

“She wants to cause as much havoc as him, and be as adventurous as him, but I think they all just really love each other. And that’s beautiful.

“ literally wrote the parts specifically. Not for us, but I think when he knew people wanted to be involved, he tailored the parts to us. So I think they felt very much like us.”

“The film’s got a bit of everything – kids love it, and I know that adults love it too,” Debicki concluded.

“It’s a really beautiful film, actually, and the animation is extraordinary. Just the visuals are extraordinary.”

“I think at the heart of it it’s a really beautiful story about love, and family,” Ridley agreed.

“It’s a continuation of something people really know, but sort of relevant for now. It’s fun, and silly, and is very funny and very moving.”

Peter Rabbit is in UK cinemas now

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This article was originally published in March 2018

“I have a theory about Jed and Jonathan” – The Night Manager’s Elizabeth Debicki answers your questions

What did you think when you first read the script and are you glad it’s had such a good reception?

I fell in love with Jed immediately. I loved her ambiguity and sense of humour and the storyline between her, Pine and Roper. I thought it was brilliantly written – it was my first entry in to le Carré and it was thrilling.

Jed is much more dynamic than the typical ‘girlfriend’ in spy shows. What attracted you to play her?

I feel like she’s quite a complex character with her strength, fragility, insecurity and inconsistencies. What I love about Jed though, is how she’s created a persona for herself and sometimes she’s better at keeping that up than other times. There’s a recklessness about her and you’re not quite sure where her agenda lies.

Is Jed really unaware and clueless of Roper’s schemes up to a specific point, or does she know about it from the beginning?

I asked myself the whole way through. I was in her head the whole time, grappling with it as Jed. I think Jed is intelligent and knows that where the money’s coming from is not 100% above board. What I think that Jed has managed to do for the sake of her own sanity, survival and mental health is to block out the fact that she’s suspicious and attempt to live in a forced ignorance.

The interesting thing about watching Jed’s journey is once she has that information she can’t go back to the way things were. With the knowledge of how things are, her life’s forever changed.

Why are Jed and Jonathan risking everything? They know exactly how dangerous their love affair is but they’re still holding on. Why?

I have a theory about Jed and Jonathan. They’re both really fascinating characters and they’re both pretending to be people that they’re not. Jed’s whole life is based on this lie of being Roper’s woman – there’s an element of it being an act, a sort of charade. She’s very good at it but it is a persona.

My theory is that the second Jed and Jonathan met, they recognised that they were people pretending to be something that they weren’t.

The other thing to remember is that Roper’s world is very impenetrable, so when Jonathan comes in he’s completely fascinating. He’s an outsider. The existence of an outsider is not to be underestimated when you live in a bubble when every single person that walks in or out is checked by security guards. That’s where it starts.

Truly, I truly think they love each other. They want each other. They sense an escape in each other.

What’s it like to work with Tom Hiddleston?

It is glorious. It is a privilege because Tom is an incredibly actor. He is really incredibly committed and focused on set. We’re both perfectionists and we feed off that in each other. As a person, I only have the most wonderful things to say about him. He’s an absolute gentleman.

Was it a fun set to work on?

It was. It was very intense to shoot because for all its seeming frivolity and glamour it’s a very dark world. With Tom, Hugh and myself working together, there was an electricity that was very, very intense as Roper becomes so dangerous throughout the story.

Hugh Laurie, Tom Hiddleston, Olivia Colman and Tom Hollander are some of the loveliest, funniest and wittiest people I’ve worked with.

How was working with Susanne Bier?

Susanne is the best sort of director to work with in the sense that she pushes you to investigate parts of the character and parts of yourself or the scene in a way that you didn¹t even think you were capable of. She’s always searching for the truth of each character. That’s what you want in a director – someone who pushes you to places you didn’t think you could go to.

What is your favourite memory from shooting this series?

I have so many. I have two that I’ll tell.

One favourite memory was going to a souk with Olivia. We went on a mission to buy a rug and I’ll never forget Olivia, pregnant in a souk being so lovely to everyone who tried to sell her everything and I thought it was absolutely hilarious.

What was it like working with Hugh Laurie?

It was magnificent. He makes the most incredible Roper and I couldn’t imagine another soul inhabiting that character like Hugh because he is so menacing. So much of that menace comes from his intelligence. There were a few times playing Jed to his Roper that I felt like he could see straight through to my soul. I actually get goosebumps thinking about it. On a personal note, I just think he’s despicably talented.

How was it to have John Le Carré do a cameo? Did he spend some time with the cast and crew?

The day that ‪Le Carré was on set we were shooting in Spain and it was absolutely one of my favourite scenes in the show. It was lovely to have him. I think we were all hyper-sensitive to the fact that ‪John Le Carré was watching us play his beloved characters. It’s not often that you’re playing a character when the writer is sitting at a restaurant table next to you, but he was the most wonderful, vivacious human being. He loved being on set and I loved his cameo.

Do you have a favourite quote?

It’s the scene in episode three, when Jed takes her clothes off and jumps into the ocean she says “beyond the ha-ha.” I loved it the first time I read it and it grew on me more and more before I played the scene. It felt like one of the moments when Jed was truly herself. She was really free. It’s one of the moments when we get to see how she really is without all of her skeletons in the closet.

Tall, poised, and porcelain, Elizabeth Debicki has looked every bit the star since she appeared in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, in 2013, as the thoroughly modern Jordan Baker. (She’s currently in talks for J.J. Abrams’s next epic.) In AMC’s The Night Manager, a miniseries adapted from John le Carré’s 1993 novel that first aired in the U.K., the Australian actress plays Jed, the American trophy girl of a billionaire English arms dealer named Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie) who sweeps her off to dizzying series of exotic locations, from Marrakech to Majorca to the Swiss Alps. Along the way, they acquire an outsider amid their ranks, a capable charmer named Pine (Tom Hiddleston), who has a sizzling sexual tension with Jed. Of course, this being le Carré, he is not what he seems. Then again, neither is Jed.

Much of the show takes place on this incredible estate in Majorca. What was it like shooting there?
It was like a small country: a series of villas, with a big central one shaped like a turret. Majorca is this destination where, you know, you have a lot of money but you want to go somewhere quite exclusive. And the culture of the island is still traditionally Spanish. It hasn’t been infested by tourists. I think in the 20’s or something an extremely wealthy person built this little kingdom of villas. We would walk all around the coastline and swim in the ocean; there are, like, six pools, 12 guesthouses. It was crazy. But I think one of the amazing things about Night Manager is that we went to all the locations you see. They weren’t magicked in with a green screen. The opening of the show—when Tom is walking through the streets of the Arab Spring—we actually shot that in Morocco with hundreds of extras. And later, we actually go to Cairo. So that for us as actors was very real on the set. When we were in the desert, we were really in the desert—it was 50 degrees Celsius. But Majorca was so beautiful, luxurious, glamorous.

Some of your more notable films, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Great Gatsby, also feature exotic, lavish locations. So in that sense you’ve really lucked out.
When someone offers me a job, I say, “Where’s it shooting?”

Jed, your character, is very generically small town American, though.
I think we had a map and we just picked a place like Iowa, somewhere in the Midwest. Sort of generic, I suppose—not that there’s anything wrong with Iowa. But in the book, she’s British, the archetype of the Catholic school girl who rides ponies and has a banker dad. But we wanted to make her American to create this backstory for her.

Why did you want to make her American?
It’s actually a very important thing. This is how I thought about it, as the actor playing it: Jed is an outsider the way Pine is an outsider. But making her American is a sort of different tone in the voice of the show, and it also makes her an outsider culturally. She’s surrounded by all these tony British men who have all been to Eton and then Cambridge for generations. And Jed is so not from that world. She’s constantly paddling beneath the surface to keep up with these men. What I love about her is her street-smart savvy. I don’t mean street-smart as in she can show you where the best corner is, but I think she’s very quick on her feet and can fit into any situation.

You could imagine her as the spy instead.
Yeah, that’s funny, people ask me that. I think that’s something that plays in our show, as well. I think you definitely become aware that Jed is not what she seems, this flawless Bond girl persona she’s created. She’s very good at playing that role. But as soon as you realize she’s not who she says she is, and that you’re watching le Carré, then you start to question her agenda. Which I love.

Everyone has their own hidden agenda on the show, which is the joy of it. And I think people will see more of Jed’s great rapport with Roper’s right hand man Corkoran, who is played by Tom Hollander.
I cannot speak highly enough of Tom. He’s so brilliant in our show, with his sardonic wit. All the relationships were so rich, but I was sad that the relationship between Jed and Corky wasn’t even more developed. We just didn’t have time. But what I do think you understand is that they do love each other deeply. And they’re very loyal to each other. Corky’s sort of her protector. He makes her laugh. In the book, he supplies her with what he calls Mother’s Little Helpers—it’s Valium. It’s sort of alluded to that Jed’s slightly addicted to something. I loved playing that with him. I just wanted to pet him and pat him and hug him and kiss him all the time. Because I’m six-foot-two and Tom Hollander is … slightly … not. I’m being very careful how I word this. I always wanted to pat him on the head. I tried to convince Susanne Bier that we should write a scene in the show where Jed and Corky, to deal with the boredom of being on the island when everyone is away on business trips, sing musical theater. They get really drunk, and Corky gets on the piano and they do a rendition of Porgy and Bess. But she didn’t go for it!

I would buy the Blu-Ray to see that. Are you also taller than Tom Hiddleston?
We’re actually the same height, identically.

Have you ever had a romantic co-star who was shorter than you?
Yes.

Who was that?
Oh … um, well, you’ve seen my films. It’s tricky territory, height and co-stars. The only thing I can say is that it’s never been an issue in my life. And people ask, “Does it bother your co-stars?” And I always say, “Well, I would be the last person to know if it did.” And I would hope people are bigger than that.

No pun intended, I’m sure. I also wonder if you’ve encountered the cult of Tom Hiddleston?
I have. We were shooting this show in such remote locations that we were quite left on our own. There were no paparazzi in the desert in Marrakech. Which was lovely, in a way. The first time I really encountered it was when we started doing press for the show. When you get out of a car on the red carpet, there’s always a trail of people around him. And Tom gets out of the car, the decibels increase; there are these waves of sound. And during Q&As after screenings, people would have to be told not to directly ask Tom any questions unrelated to The Night Manager. I’ve also just done a Marvel movie, and there’s an interesting following with those films as well. People are very, very passionate.

Are you scared of saying the wrong thing in front of those fans?
No, because I wouldn’t know what the right or wrong thing would be, anyway. Look, I’m sure they have very particular ideas about everything, but generally they’re just passionate and excited about the material.

Your character on Guardians of the Galaxy 2 so far is unnamed on iMDB. Is it a secret?
It’s so secret.

Photos: Elizabeth Debicki Is Definitely Not Taller Than Tom Hiddleston

Debicki wears a Tom Ford dress.

Photographer: Mark Segal
Stylist: Sally Lyndley

Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Debicki in The Night Manager. Photo by Des Willie/The Ink Factory/AMC.

Photo by Des Willie/The Ink Factory/AMC.

Photo by Des Willie/The Ink Factory/AMC.

Photo by Des Willie/The Ink Factory/AMC.

Photo by Des Willie/The Ink Factory/AMC.

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There are so many reasons to love AMC’s The Night Manager: the gripping John Le Carré plot; Hugh Laurie’s chilling performance as arch-baddie Richard Roper; the brief flash of Tom Hiddlestone’s bum. But top of our list is the style of Roper’s mistress, Jed Marshall, played by Aussie actress Elizabeth Debicki.

Jed’s look is sexy, but not obvious, youthful, but not ingenue, and glamorous, but not try-hard. Of course, she’s six-foot-three, 25, and bankrolled by a multimillionare, and we are… not. But that doesn’t mean we can’t attempt to emulate her look.

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Top of the crops

Jed’s haircut caused a stir when the show first aired in the UK. It’s short, but still feminine, and according to hairstylist Shay of Pome Studio (Pome.ca), is less of a commitment than a pixie-cut because it will grow out faster. “The sweeping fringe flatters lots of face shapes too,” she says. To get Jed’s more polished look, Shay suggests Kevin Murphy’s Free.Hold ($30), which is for medium to thick hair and gives a shiny finish. For a more lived-in look, she recommends Kevin Murphy’s Hair Resort ($30), which gives texture and a matte finish. For Kevin Murphy stockists, visit KevinMurphy.com.au.

About face

When Jed gets dressed up, she keeps things classic with a slick of red lipstick. We like Urban Decay’s Vice Lipstick in Mrs Mia Wallace ($21, at Sephora and selected branches of Shoppers Drug Mart). It’s intensely pigmented, rich and creamy, and named after the perennially cool character played by Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction. Jed’s eyebrows are thinner than is fashionable right now, and perfectly groomed. Try Benefit’s Ka-Brow, which comes in six colours, is buildable, and stays waterproof for up to 24 hours. $30, at Sephora.

Swing out

Statement earrings look great on short-haired women. Jed rocks her gobstopper-sized pearls. Vancouver jewellery designer Leah Alexandra offers a subtler take in white or grey freshwater pearl. $155, LeahAlexandra.com.

Dress up

“I liked the idea of Jed being one button or a zip away from being completely naked,” The Night Manager costume designer Signe Sejlund told the UK Daily Mail. Jed wears long, minimalist columns that accentuate her height. The Halston Heritage Metal Plate Crepe Gown has metal detailing at the waist and neckline, but is otherwise perfectly simple.$775, at Hudson’s Bay and TheBay.com.

Yes, Elizabeth Debicki admits, costume designers rub their hands together with glee when they see her coming. The six-foot-two Australian actress has cut a fashionable figure across lush period pieces like The Great Gatsby, Macbeth, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and now as the vulnerable femme fatale at the center of the smash British TV hit The Night Manager. As the spy thriller—which places Debicki’s Jed in the middle of a Hugh Laurie–Tom Hiddleston love triangle—prepares to make its American debut on AMC next week, the actress spoke with Vanity Fair about her meteoric rise from “ramen noodles to Prada dresses.”

“I mean it even sounds stupid to hear myself say the first costume designer I worked with was Catherine Martin and she won an Oscar for it, but that was just my very lucky draw of roll of the dice.” Debicki landed the role in The Great Gatsby as Jordan Baker, the sporty, gamine girlfriend of Tobey Maguire’s Nick Carraway, less than a year out of drama school. When she arrived in Los Angeles to audition for director Baz Luhrmann, “I was completely head-to-toe dressed in Prada—because when I landed there were these impeccable Prada dresses hanging in my wardrobe,” Debicki told of Martin’s first gift to her. “I had never so much as touched Prada before; I could barely afford ramen noodles.”

Martin, Debicki says, went a long way towards changing Debicki’s view on clothing and her own size. “For me to come into contact so quickly with a woman who was so smart, so creative, and so appreciative of my height taught me to love it and taught me that it was not at all a hindrance but only something to play with. I wasn’t working with a costume designer who was muttering under their breath or rolling their eyes, saying, ‘Oh, I don’t know how we’re going to . We’ll have to order more fabric in.’ Not that I’ve ever come across that, but that would have been awful.”

And Martin was far from the only costume designer to greet the actress with a “victorious smile.” Debicki says that Joanna Johnston, the Oscar-nominated costume designer on Man from U.N.C.L.E., “just absolutely reveled in the fact that she could construct these outrageous shapes that were completely period accurate but not necessarily what we think of when we think of the 60s, and they would work. I think that costume designers are probably the most obvious about their happiness to do with my height.”

Elizabeth Debicki in The Great Gatsby, (2013) , Macbeth (2015), The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015).

Courtesy of AMC.

That’s certainly the case for Signe Sejlund, the Danish costumer behind The Night Manager, which is Debicki’s stylish debut in a story set in the present. (Blink and you might have missed her under a bulky winter coat in the 1996-set Everest.) Sejlund, who described Debicki as an “extremely elegant giraffe,” chose to drape Debicki’s frame in flowing, barely there dresses. “I liked the idea of Jed being one button or a zip away from being completely naked,” Sejlund told the Daily Mail. “The blue dress Jed discards to go swimming naked in the sea was specially designed to slip off.”

Yes, Jed, who is married to Laurie’s scheming billionaire but attracted to Hiddleston’s working-class spy (can we blame her?), often strips off her clothes. Her sizzling introduction has her going from luxurious furs to nothing at all in the span of a few minutes. But what she does wear is as much a part of her character as her willingness to bare all. Audiences are supposed to write Jed off at first glance based on her style alone.