Olivia Colman: Pregnancy didn’t slow me down on The Night Manager

The actress said that being a pregnant spy was no problem for her during filming for BBC1's thriller. Remembering lines on the other hand...

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If you’re familiar with the original John le Carré novel, you’ll notice a few changes when you see the BBC’s dramatisation of The Night Manager.

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For a start, in the TV series the intelligence officer at the heart of the drama — named Burr — is female (on screen, she’s Angela; in the book, Leonard).

Secondly, in the TV adaptation, Burr is pregnant… a feat that even the most daring of male spies would struggle to pull off.

Why is Burr pregnant?

There was, reveals Olivia Colman, who plays Angela Burr, no mention of it in the script. But after the Broadchurch star was given the part, she found out she had a baby on the way. (We speak during filming, when Colman is five months pregnant. Colman’s third child, a daughter, was born in August.)

Colman admits that her pregnancy led to a difficult conversation.

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Colman: “I went to see Susanne [Bier, the director]. thinking, ‘Oh God, should I mention it in the first meeting?’ And I thought: ‘I can’t lie.’ Which is why I’d be a rubbish spy.

“She said, ‘Oh… right…’ And didn’t look that pleased.

“But then she said, ‘You know, just go with it for a minute. Remember the film Fargo and Frances McDormand? The pregnancy added to the drama: the domesticity versus the extraordinary nature of her job. And I think it adds a weird power to this part, too.’”

What difference has Colman’s pregnancy made to the storyline? The answer — not a lot, “Beyond the odd person saying to Burr: ‘Aren’t you meant to slow down during pregnancy?’, to which she responds: ‘B***** off.’”

There is, however, one rather amusing change: Colman says that more chairs have been written into the script — so that she can deliver her lines without having to stand up for hours on end.

But, she says honestly, there’s one other difference too — for Colman, the actor.

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“I just can’t retain my lines like I normally would. I’ve got a bit of nappy brain going on. There are an awful lot of script changes that happen. It can change the day before, on the day. It fills me with fear: ‘Oh Christ, I’ve barely got the script in my head and now I’ve got to change it.’ So it is a little bit hanging by my fingernails.”