Intrigue, action, romance: AMC's 'The Little Drummer Girl' has it all

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Kyla Brewer / TV Media
Florence Pugh and Alexander Skarsgård in "The Little Drummer Girl"

Florence Pugh and Alexander Skarsgård in "The Little Drummer Girl"

Diving into a great spy novel can be thrilling, but it can be just as exciting to see the characters come alive onscreen. A riveting tale of international espionage is about to get the small-screen treatment, and viewers won't want to miss it.

Idealistic young actress Charlie (Florence Pugh, "Lady Macbeth," 2016) becomes involved with Becker (Alexander Skarsgård, "True Blood"), an Israeli intelligence officer, in AMC's six-part miniseries "The Little Drummer Girl," premiering Monday, Nov. 19, and continuing Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 20 and 21. Set in the 1970s, the show recounts a tale of love and betrayal against the backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

An international co-production between AMC, BBC One and The Ink Factory, "The Little Drummer Girl" is an adaptation of John le Carré's 1983 novel of the same name. The show was announced following the success of Emmy-winning miniseries "The Night Manager," which was adapted from another le Carré book and also produced by BBC One, AMC and The Ink Factory.

In "The Little Drummer Girl," Charlie gets to know Becker while on vacation in Greece, but she soon discovers there's more to the intriguing stranger than meets the eye. It isn't long before she realizes that he isn't interested in romance. Instead, he draws her into a complex and high-stakes plot, forcing the young actress into the role of a lifetime in a "theater of the real."

The production marks the television debut of visionary film director Park Chan-wook ("The Handmaiden," 2016). It was filmed in London, Greece and Prague, and Chan-wook was at the helm every step of the way. As the director of the spy thriller, he finally brings his silver screen skills to the small screen. Born in Seoul, South Korea, Chan-wook is one of the most popular filmmakers in his homeland, thanks to his work on films such as "Thirst" (2009) and what is known as The Vengeance Trilogy, a series consisting of "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance" (2002), "Oldboy" (2003) and "Lady Vengeance" (2005).

In an official news release for "The Little Drummer Girl," the director explained why television is the right medium for the le Carré tale.

"At the core of this story is an extremely painful, but thrilling, romance," Chan-wook said. "This is what makes the story universal, reaching beyond borders and languages and remaining incredibly current. To adapt such a great work without losing its integrity, it needs the time and depth of a television series, and I am excited at the prospect of seeing how the drumbeats of Florence Pugh, the most energetic young female actor I have seen recently, will resonate with the audience."

Chan-wook also had great praise for Pugh's co-star, Emmy and Golden Globe winner Skarsgård:

Alexander Skarsgård stars in "The Little Drummer Girl"

Alexander Skarsgård stars in "The Little Drummer Girl"

"To play an enigmatic man who hides his true feelings deep inside, I couldn't think of a more fitting actor," the director said. "I believe Skarsgård's growing depth as a great character actor and his soaring energy will elevate 'The Little Drummer Girl' to a higher place."

The Swedish actor is best known for his roles as vampire Eric Northman in HBO's "True Blood," Perry Wright in the HBO miniseries "Big Little Lies" and as the title character in the 2016 action adventure "The Legend of Tarzan." He decided to pursue acting after serving in a Swedish military unit that dealt with anti-sabotage and antiterrorism. After studying theater at Marymount Manhattan College in New York, he got his big break as Meekus in the 2001 comedy "Zoolander." 

Pugh made her film debut as precocious teen Abigail Mortimer in the British mystery film "The Falling" (2014) before earning critical acclaim for her role as an unhappily married woman in the movie "Lady Macbeth" (2016). She won a British Independent Film Award for her work in the drama.

Two-time Oscar nominee Michael Shannon ("Revolutionary Road," 2008) co-stars as spymaster Martin Kurtz, the mastermind behind the devious plot at the center of the miniseries. Viewers may recognize him as Nelson Van Alden in HBO's "Boardwalk Empire," or from his work in films such as "Nocturnal Animals" (2016) and "99 Homes" (2014).

The supporting cast of "The Little Drummer Girl" also includes Clare Holman ("Inspector Morse"), Charles Dance ("Game of Thrones"), Simona Brown ("Kiss Me First"), Max Irons ("Red Riding Hood," 2011), Katharina Schüttler ("The Promise"), Bethany Muir ("About a Boy," 2002) and newcomer Kate Sumpter.

With on-location footage and award-winning actors, the new miniseries shows a lot of promise as it brings "The Little Drummer Girl" to a wider audience, but it's important to note that it isn't the first adaptation of the novel. In 1984, Diane Keaton ("Annie Hall," 1977) starred as Charlie in a film adaptation directed by George Roy Hill ("Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," 1969). In that version of the story, Charlie was a thirtysomething American actress who becomes involved with a group of Israeli spies. The film debuted to mixed reviews from critics.

The miniseries should allow more of the le Carré story to play out for TV viewers as Charlie and Becker become entangled in a bomb plot with potentially devastating consequences. Don't miss the highly anticipated three-night premiere of "The Little Drummer Girl," beginning Monday, Nov. 19, on AMC.