27 November 2023

The Diplomat: Consuls in crisis

Ben Richards’ (head writer of Showtrial and The Tunnel) new six-part political crime drama series The Diplomat is set in Barcelona and follows British Consul Laura Simmonds (Sophie Rundle, Gentleman Jack) and Deputy Consul Alba Ortiz (Serena Manteghi) as they work to help British citizens who’ve run into trouble in Spain, with help from local Detective Inspector Castells (Isak Férriz).  

There’s pressure on all sides as their boss, the new Consul General Sam Henderson (Steven Cree, A Discovery of Witches), urges Laura and Alba to get situations sorted out ASAP before the press gets involved, from missing children, to robbery, to a suspicious death that tests the team throughout the season.  

The Diplomat is a UKTV Original from World Productions in association with BBC Studios.

Watch the trailer for The Diplomat

A father’s search for justice 

In a case that troubles the consulate throughout the season, grieving father Colin Sutherland (British-Ghanaian actor Danny Sapani, Captain Keyes in Halo) urges Laura and Alba to probe deeper into his son Jay’s (Niyi Akin) death. Jay was working as a barman onboard a yacht at Barcelona’s exclusive marina catering to the super rich before his death, and Colin is adamant that his son didn’t just go for a spin on a jetski and drown while he was high on drugs. Perhaps Jay saw or heard something he shouldn’t have… 

“Having come to identify the body, Colin becomes embroiled in a bizarre, mysterious and dark investigation trying to work out what happened,” reveals Danny. “His story spans the entire series as we follow him on his journey to find justice. His boys are his world. He’s worked hard to give them a comfortable life, and encouraged them to be driven individuals. He was very close to his son and very proud of him, but I think that there was also some resentment on his part towards Spain because his son wanted to go there and work away from him in the first place. And so, what follows are feelings of regret and questions and yearnings that come out, that affect both his relationship with other characters and his ability to accept some elements of the story that unfolds.” 

“Colin didn’t have the luxury of being prepared for his grief, so I placed myself in the same situation and chose not to over-plan my responses,” explains Danny, who’s a father of four himself. “I asked how you would respond to that sort of news. The script is really sensitive and clever in terms of how it depicts Colin’s emotional journey. As you’d imagine, at the beginning he is in shock. And then he goes through the different stages of grieving, which can take many forms, often manifesting in unexpected and surprising ways.” 

Normally a mild-mannered man, Colin is prepared to get confrontational for Jay’s sake. “He’s a Londoner, a working-class guy, who is an accomplished organiser. He’s very meticulous – a person who’s used to telling people what to do and used to being listened to,” says Danny. “What he senses in Laura is that she doesn’t give up. There are definitely other characters who want him gone but she seems to go above and beyond the call of duty to help him. This tenacity is something they have in common. It was refreshing to play someone who, though emotionally raw, is very direct and unapologetic in his approach to finding answers.” 

Barcelona, British style 

Danny speaks admiringly of Ben Richards’ decision to base the series around the consulate. “As a British Ghanaian when I go to a foreign country, I latch on to my Britishness more than I do when I’m at home. And I think that’s the same for Colin,” he reveals. “His relationship with the Consulate is one of some dependency and expectation, but also one of needing to connect to some sense of familiarity. That’s where the bond between him and Laura and Alba is a lifeline for him. Because he doesn’t understand the Spanish police; he doesn’t understand the language, culture, or how his son is being characterised. He is so at sea emotionally and in that space, so the consulate enables him to feel a little less alone.” 

If for no other reason, Danny urges viewers to take a little sightseeing jaunt to Spain with The Diplomat. “I love Barcelona for all sorts of reasons…the architecture, the scenery, the light, the weather. It’s a gift to come to Barcelona. It’s such an atmospheric and evocative place to film in and to experience. The areas where we shot were also the authentic less well-known parts, what I see as the real Barcelona. And that made a perfect backdrop for a really interesting drama in a world of corruption that keeps the audience guessing,” he teases. 

Binge The Diplomat now. 

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