Elizabeth Debicki, who plays Jed Marshall on The Night Manager, discusses Jed’s relationship with Roper, why Jed is attracted to Pine and THAT scene from Episode 4.
Q: How would you describe the nature of Jed’s relationship with Roper? In Episode 3, we learn that Roper has “bought” Jed. Is there any real love there on either side?
A: Yes, there is. It’s a strange sort of love, but it’s there. When I first looked at the script, I had the same question. Even after we had started, in our acting processes and rehearsal, I had this question. But it became really clear to me as soon as we started working together that they do love each other. It’s a relationship based on mutual need: They both need different things from each other, and in that way it’s a very functional relationship. But they do love each other — whether that’s out of the need to love each other. My instinct, having “been Jed,” is that she does love him, and it makes the betrayal so much more savage. It makes it more difficult to do what she does to him, with Jonathan.
Q: Corky mistrusts Pine from the start, but Jed is interested in getting to know Pine. What draws her to him?
A: I think what’s not to be forgotten is how odd it is to have an outsider in their hermetically sealed existence. For all of the ease and grace and luxury of living in Roper’s world, it’s very ordered. It’s quite conservative and it’s very protected. He keeps Jed in a sort of bubble. That’s how it’s comfortable for him, and in a certain way that’s how it’s comfortable for her. No one is let into the inner sanctum, so [Jonathan] is this anomaly. From the beginning, here’s this man, who is handsome, sleeping in a bed in their house, who has just rescued Jed’s “stepson” in this very heroic way. I remember Susanne saying to me in rehearsal, “What could be better grounds for flirtation?” And she was completely right. It’s sort of romance waiting to happen. But then I think, like Corky, Jed senses that something is off, but they have different reasons to get to the bottom of it.
Q: In the show, we don’t see the scene of Caroline telling Jed the truth of Roper’s work, but we see her anger afterwards. How did you use that scene in the book to inform your performance?
A: You don’t get to really be there in the book either, but Jonathan sees [Caroline and Jed] speaking and walking along the beach, and he sees Jed’s face. There’s this really wonderful line in the book — I think it goes something like, “He was never aware that that face could be capable of displaying such distress,” which I used as a sort of psychological clue for Jed. I think a lot of people ask the question, and rightfully so, “How much does Jed really know? Does she really not know, or is she pretending not to know? Has she just never asked the question?” And I think it’s a combination of everything. She lives in this willful ignorance. She knows the money is bad. She knows Roper isn’t just a philanthropist with a charitable heart, and there’s so much money, some of it must be dirty. But if you don’t ask the questions specifically, you don’t get the answers specifically. That’s easier for Jed to live with. But then Caroline comes and lays it all on the table and there’s absolutely no escaping the truth of her life. The whole house of cards that she’s built up around Roper is just completely annihilated.
Q: Jed’s attraction to Pine culminates in Episode 4 as they begin having an affair. What finally pushes Jed over that edge, given the danger she’s putting herself in?
A: I think that particular moment is not an analytical moment. I don’t think there was a lot of thought. I think it was very instinctive on her behalf. Jed is a creature of instinct; she’s an observer and she’s quite street smart. She’s quick on her feet, she’s a survivor and a chameleon and all of those things, but she’s not an over-thinker. I think in that moment, she doesn’t love Roper anymore and it’s getting harder to pretend. She’s falling more in love with Jonathan, and as the opportunity presents itself, and as humans are wont to do, she follows her basest instinct.
Q: What do you make of the attention that scene received when it aired in the U.K.?
A: I think what’s kind of interesting about that sex scene is it’s had a hyper mania around it. People were saying, “Oh, it’s so saucy,” and I think what people were responding to was it’s kind of animalistic in a way. When I think about Jonathan and Jed, I think they’re trying to find a safety in each other. They’re trying to sort of save/escape from each other and it’s quite complicated. It’s not just, “Oh, I love you and you love me, let’s go and have a lovely time together.” It’s very complex. I think at that moment, it’s the physical incarnation of them trying to obliviate everything that’s stopping them from being together. That’s why it’s such a great scene and people responded to it so strongly.
Q: You’ve played elegant women caught up in arms dealings before, in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. What attracts you to these characters who find themselves in these dangerous worlds?
A: It’s a combination of the role and the story. I think that there’s something about the spy genre that — if people are willing to write them — really interesting female characters can exist in that world, just as really interesting male characters can exist in that world. It’s a world of tension, secrets, manipulations, lies, betrayals. That being said, I can’t find one similarity between my character in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Night Manager, maybe apart from their fantastic wardrobes? Really good hair? But they both exist in this genre. It’s obviously a proven fact that people love the spy genre because its so entertaining, so I think its great that people are starting to write more gutsy roles for women within that genre.
Q: I imagine having Susanne at the helm of the project probably helped a lot in that way.
A: Well, Susanne is an incredible director, female or not. It’s interesting working with a female director on something that’s hyper successful and known primarily for being very masculine territory, because it’s such a “masculine” world. I always want to talk about how incredible Susanne is as a director, void of a gender discussion, but I think it’s great that she’s brought another level to it. The way Susanne experiences the world as a woman is a little different than they way a male director would experience the world, so I feel that that’s enriched it greatly, from making Leonard Burr into Angela Burr. Susanne is such an incredible director and she creates human stories and films them in a very honest way. And that’s what she’s done with this, and I think that’s why people are responding to it so strongly.
Read an interview with The Night Manager co-star Olivia Colman.
The Night Manager airs Tuesdays at 10/9c. Receive show exclusives by signing up for the Insiders Club.Read More