Hugh Laurie talks shop at Jerusalem TV conference
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Hugh Laurie talks shop at Jerusalem TV conference

In Israel for Keshet TV’s INTV meet, Laurie discusss his role in the award-winning series ‘The Night Manager’

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Actor Hugh Laurie meets President Reuven Rivlin at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on March 6, 2017. Laurie was in Israel for Keshet's INTV Conference (Mark Neyman/GPO)
Actor Hugh Laurie meets President Reuven Rivlin at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on March 6, 2017. Laurie was in Israel for Keshet's INTV Conference (Mark Neyman/GPO)

Jerusalem’s YMCA auditorium was full Tuesday afternoon for the final session of Keshet’s two-day Innovative TV conference, as actor Hugh Laurie took the stage to discuss “The Night Manager,” his award-winning AMC miniseries, with director Susanne Bier and executive producer Stephen Garrett.

The show, based on the 1993 John Le Carré spy novel of the same name and reset in Cairo during the heady days of the Arab Spring, features Laurie as an arms dealer with the do-gooder facade of a philanthropist, a role that won him a Golden Globe for Best Performance for a Supporting Actor. Bier, meanwhile, picked up two Emmy Awards for her direction.

Bier, by chance, earned a degree years ago in architecture from Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy.

Bier, Garrett and Laurie, moderated by Nancy Tartaglione, international editor of Deadline, discussed and joked about the series, agreeing that Le Carré novels have usually been adapted as “dry” films, while the six-part series offered a different, “sexier” way to treat the material.

Hugh Laurie and director Suzannah Biel onstage at Keshet's INTV conference in Jerusalem on March 7, 2017 (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)
Hugh Laurie and director Susanne Bier onstage at Keshet’s INTV conference in Jerusalem on March 7, 2017 (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)

Laurie mentioned that the book, written after the Berlin Wall was torn down, came out at a time when “everyone thought it was the end of spies, and spies thought, ‘What the hell am I going to do now?'”

The book was optioned for a film before it was turned into a six-episode series.

That made more sense, said Laurie, noting that the “British psyche is better suited to television. The American psyche can see their life changing in 90 minutes [of a movie]; it’s whitewater foaming cataract. British dramas flourish over time.”

Veering into commentary about current politics, Laurie said “the frightening thing about the world today is that everything is exactly what it seems. Everything on CNN is like a pitch meeting [for a movie]. This is mayhem, absolute mayhem.”

(One of the most talked-about sessions at conference was CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker’s panel, entitled “The War on Truth.”)

Summing up his own experience with “The Night Manager,” Laurie said he had the good fortune to work with Bier and Garrett, who were like “his mom and dad.”

The conference, organized to spotlight Channel 2 concessionaire Keshet and its programming, is currently in its fourth round, having skipped 2016 due to scheduling problems.

Among the senior US executives who attended the conference this year — in addition to CNN’s Zucker — were Fox television Group CEO Dana Walden and NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke.

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