Every actor or actress, if they can at all help it, should try to play a villain at least once. There are lots of reasons for this. Sometimes villains have the best roles. Sometimes it’s nice to have a little change of pace. Sometimes it’s helpful to turn the audience’s perception of you on its head. All of that. But mostly because, when it’s done right, it just looks like an incredible amount of fun. This brings us to Hugh Laurie and AMC’s in-progress six-part miniseries, The Night Manager.
Most of the focus on The Night Manager — based on John le Carré’s 1993 novel of the same name — has centered around Tom Hiddleston. This is understandable. Hiddleston is playing the lead in the series, the eponymous night manager who goes undercover to do spy things. Throw that spy thing in with the fact that the role of James Bond is currently open, and the fact that Hiddleston is an attractive Bond-aged actor who has a British accent, and suddenly you have people talking. Which is fair. Hiddleston is very good in The Night Manager. If he ends up playing Bond because of it, I don’t think I’d have any major complaints, provided Idris Elba had been offered the role first and turned it down. There’s a process here.
But even with all that #HiddlestonHeat, the real star of the series has been Laurie as Richard “Dicky” Roper, a hyper-secretive businessman who has been hunted by intelligence agencies all over the globe for his role in selling weapons to, well, anyone who would like some weapons. Dicky Roper is great. First of all, because his name is “Dicky Roper,” which is just a delightful name for anyone, but especially for evil incarnate, and made even better by the fact that two of his henchmen are named Corky and Frisky. Dicky, Corky, and Frisky. They sound like the last three club champions at a golf course in the Hamptons, not the braintrust of a murderous arms dealing operation. And when Dicky Roper isn’t selling bombs to criminals, he’s spending the majority of his time smoking cigars and drinking champagne in his hilltop Mallorca mansion. Often while wearing very leisurely pastels.