Interview with Idris Elba, Archie Panjabi and Max Beesley in “Hijack” on Apple TV+ by Suzanne 6/26/23
This was an early-morning press conference in London that I watched on Zoom. The host took questions from us ahead of time, as well as from the audience. This is a great show that you won’t want to miss, particularly if you love high-stakes drama and action. It was great to watch their chat.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): Thank you so much for joining us today. I’ve got to say, I think Hijack might actually be my new favourite show. I don’t know about you guys, but I guess there might be a few fans out there that binged it like I did – oh, yes! We’ve got a round of applause already, isn’t it brilliant? Ok, well, let’s get our glittering cast and creatives out. First up, Idris Elba [AUDIENCE APPLAUSE]; Idris plays Sam Nelson, and he’s executive producer; this is George Kay, writer and executive producer; here we have Archie Panjabi, who plays Zahar Gahfoor; Max Beesley, who plays Daniel O’Farrel; and then we have Jim Field Smith, director and executive producer [ALL APPLAUSE]. Wow. Thank you so much. I mean, I literally think this stage is bowing under the weight of the talented accolades, really. I mean, you guys are a stella team, isn’t it, you are a force, absolute force. So, firstly, I just want to you, you play Sam Nelson, when did you first know, you were going to play Sam?
Idris Elba: Hi everyone, how you doing? Nice to see you all, thanks for coming.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): What happened? How did the script land on you? Was it a conversation with George?
Idris Elba: It was some… made in an alignment of timings. And I think, you know, the idea came… George had the idea and was rearing that, at the same junction I was looking at, you know, Apple and I had a deal that were trying to figure out what we were going to do together, and this came as just an idea from George and then became, you know, the story beats and then the scripts. So… But I knew really much very early when I sat with George and talked about what were trying to achieve and what, you know, the story and the perspective of this story. For me, as a producer and a talent, I was sort of interesting in doing something that, you know, hit the mark in television. I love television, I love making television, I have done for years. I play in the film space as well and I think the- the sort of merger between film and what is film and what is television has gotten smaller, that sort of line. And- and working with George was just like… it was a joy. I was a fan of his work and wanted to make that happen.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): Brilliant. Brilliant. I mean, Sam certainly stayed with me. I’ve got to say, like, you know, even that opening shot, it’s almost… the way you’re talking about the crossover between TV and film, it is filmic. I’ve never seen a travelator look so sexy in my life [ALL LAUGH]. Do you know what I mean? And the lens flare and the sun. And I love that motif that we see throughout, which is kind of, you know, you being backlit looking angelic and heroic, which actually brings me, really, I guess to the cinematography, and Jim, at the end.
Jim Field Smith: I thought you were going to say it brings you to Max Beesley.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): From angel to another [LAUGHS]. But it is, it is exquisite, I mean, how it’s shot; can you tell us a little bit about how you settled on shooting style and the look and feel of it?
Jim Field Smith: Well obviously, we spent most of our time trying to make Idris look presentable, which is tough…
Kate Quilton (Moderator): Tough gig [LAUGHS].
Jim Field Smith: The biggest thing for us, I suppose, was we’ve got a show that’s set almost exclusively inside of an airplane. And there’s two problems with that, one is to make it engaging dramatically and not make it feel dull and flat, and the other thing is to make it feel like you are actually in an airplane that’s moving through the sky. So, it was sort of definitely very, very challenging, but we had a very talented team that figured out how to solve both of those issues. And I sort of heaped problem on top of problem by saying, you know, we didn’t really want to break this place apart, we wanted to move around the plane and never break through the skin of it, and we didn’t… I didn’t want the thing you sometimes see on screen where everything gets scaled up, we actually… the plane you see in the show is a millimetre for millimetre replication of a- of an airliner. So, we sort of made it as hard for ourselves as we possibly could and hope that translates onto screen into something that feels really convincing, but at the same time, yeah, try to make it look as engaging and sort of pull you into the drama as much as possible.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): Mhm. I mean, that must have been challenging. I mean, how many people were on that plane? I mean, obviously we have the two hundred passengers, plus crew…
Jim Field Smith: Well, as many as you see… As many as you see, plus some of them behind the camera, yeah. So, that was sort of everybody boarding a long-haul flight every single day for a hundred twenty days.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): [GASPS]
Idris Elba: In the middle of summer with no AC.
Jim Field Smith: In the middle of summer, yeah.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): How was that for you? I mean, you must be…
Idris Elba: It was great I…
Kate Quilton (Moderator): 6’ 3” ish?
Idris Elba: Yeah [LAUGHS].
Jim Field Smith: He’s been wearing shorts ever since.
Idris Elba: 6’ 3”, but luckily the first-class cabin had the extra legroom.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): Oh, ok. I guess you spent maybe half your time there and half at the back…
Idris Elba: Yeah, some of it in the back, yeah. But actually, you know, I think the- the fact that we didn’t break the plane apart and make… you know, this is a real plane, just in a studio, and the- the- the confinement of that just really applied to the drama. Even for the crew, you know, figuring out how we’re going to do this top shot without being able to take the roof off was about trying to figure out how to do that. And, you know, it all sort of led into the claustrophobia of it, so the crew, the actors, you know, everyone was sort of tight, and we’re… it was almost like watching a documentary being made while being in the documentary, you know.
Jim Field Smith: It meant we could keep going more, you know, it meant that we could stay in the moment and let the scene play out more, which, you know, when you’re dealing with a hijacking it’s about people reacting and trying to figure out live, you know, how to get through the next second, how to get through the next minutes. And so, we were able to bring some of that into the actual making of it, you know, we used a lot of unbroken shots, we moved often with Sam’s character… with Idris’ character, Sam, we’re moving with him through the plane. So, we did a lot of that for real, you know. And there was a lot of like, you know, literally people having to hand the camera to each other and stuff like that. But, again, that was, as Idris says, that was all about wanting to feel engaged in the drama of it and not feel like it was artifice or that it was… we were sort of sitting aback and watching it from afar, I wanted it to feel like you’re in that hijack.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): Yeah, which you certainly do. I mean, you feel it, it’s a ride, you know what I mean? George, I want to ask you – George is the writer of the project – how did it come about? I mean, where did the… what was the genesis of the idea?
George Kay: I was on a train, actually – I was on the Eurostar, I was doing a lot of work in France – and we were in the Eurostar tunnel and the train stops quite abruptly. And even though I knew everything was alright, it flashed through my mind, what if there’s something going on, on this train? What if it’s happening up the carriages? And I looked around me at the people, the kind of businessman eating his lunch, and the squabbling family, and I thought like, how would we cope as a group of people if this was a serious incident? Would the tough looking guy really be tough, would the kind of the weedy guy really rise up and actually cover himself in glory and manage to stand up to people. Who are these people really when you look past them as- as- as… you get past your prejudice of those people and how they look. And it kind of put me in mind of blitz spirit and like when the chips are down, how does the British or an international community cope when suddenly thrust into kind of extremes. Then the thought of a plane was much more of a visual, you know, we could really open it up…
Kate Quilton (Moderator): High stakes.
George Kay: High stakes. Also, like a moving society, you know, we’ve got a class system on a plane, you’ve got all sorts of people. But as all the characters experience, whether they’re on the ground or in the plane, that hijacking is a great leveller for all these people and so they really get tested, no matter what their rank, no matter what their class seat they’re sitting on a plane, so it felt like a good setting to take it to a plane.
Idris Elba: So, you’re saying that I’m the weedy guy [ALL LAUGH]. So, that’s what’s really going on here, I didn’t see that.
George Kay: You’re the business guy eating his lunch. On a serious point, what was great was that when Idris came on board to play Sam, we all have our understanding of Idris as an actor and his like… and it’s great to give a role that, I think, that’s kind of a… he doesn’t have those skills of a Royal Marine or an SAS soldier or stuff, he’s really… as a character…
Kate Quilton (Moderator): But he does in a real life…
George Kay: But he looks like he might. He looks like he might, right, yeah [LAUGHS]. So, it’s quite fun to play with what the hijackers thought… think of Sam Nelson, and what Sam Nelson thinks they think of Sam Nelson. Those are fun layers to exploit.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): Yeah. Now, Archie and Max, together, you’re part of the ground force, what’s happening on the ground?
Max Beesley: After you, Archie.
Archie Panjabi: So, yeah, so I am the… Gosh, I was so interested in hearing how it all came about, I completely lost my words [ALL LAUGH]. Zahar’s character first learns about the hijacking and gets together all the authorities and starts a big investigation. We were in a room that… not as narrow as the aircraft, but it was still… it was probably about three times the size of the stage, and the room just got bigger and bigger as it became more tense. Those were stressful scenes though, we all had to stay in one position, we couldn’t move because of the number people in the room, we were watching the monitor with like a dart, which was the aircraft, and really like intense scenes.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): Who had it worse?
Archie Panjabi: Sorry?
Kate Quilton (Moderator): Nobody knows who had it worse [LAUGHS].
Archie Panjabi: Yeah, well, I think we did because he was in business class with his feet… first class?
Kate Quilton (Moderator): First.
Archie Panjabi: He was in first. We were kind of packed like sardines too. But we did have, you know, I was telling Idris earlier, we did have a good laugh on the show. It was intense, right, Jim? We had a lot of fun on the show.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): So, when the script first landed with you, did you know immediately, yes, I want to play Zahar?
Archie Panjabi: Well, when I first read it, I think I was sent three and I couldn’t put it down. And then, by the end of the third one, I wanted to know if my character had [LAUGHS] successfully saved the passengers, so I phoned up my agent and said, “I need to read four to seven”, and she said [LAUGHS] so selfish of me. But she said, “do you not want to do it?”, I said “no, I’d love to do it. I just need to know what happens to the passengers” And that’s when I thought this is a brilliant script, it’s really thrilling, it’s going to have audiences at the edge of their seat, so. And Idris was in it, of course, and Max and Jim and [LAUGHS].
Kate Quilton (Moderator): I’ve just been handed a message, which, shall I read this out? Thank you. Ok, thanks, Ernie. Please remind press here in the screening room that while photos are ok, please do not video tape the press conference, thanks, Ernie. Running in a rule! Thank you. So, no videos but photos are great. So, sorry. Sorry to interrupt! [LAUGHS]. Brilliant, so, Max, I think you have maybe one of the best entrances possible, you know, just that killer reveal at the beginning of the episode where you literally just roll into frame and it’s… it’s a couple of seconds but we learn so much. In terms of storytelling, it is brilliant. I mean, for you, when you first read the script, did you think, ok, I’m in, this is brilliant?
Max Beesley: Well, I… Interestingly enough, Idris is very kind enough to suggest me for the role to the producers, which was lovely, and then- and then when I got the scripts, the first thing I always look at is who’s written it, because I write myself and I love… I like good writing. And I saw it was George, and then Jim as a director, and I’d seen Criminal, and what I loved about that show was it was compelling. It was in such small, confined spaces yet there was so much going on within the stillness, if that makes sense, and I thought it was really clever television that they’d both created. And so, immediately, I was like great, let’s go. And also, I wanted to work with Idris. I didn’t realise that he’d be thirty thousand feet up in the air and I’d be running around the ground trying to find out what was going on, you know, but…
Kate Quilton (Moderator): Did you ever see each other?
Max Beesley: No, not even in the six months shooting [LAUGHS].
Idris Elba: No, not once.
Max Beesley: So… But, of course, after reading it, the first couple of episodes – I think I read three – and the character became more and more involved. And there are so many wonderful nuances for me to play as well as a professional policeman, but also from a personal point of view, being involved in Sam’s ex-wife, played by Christine Adams. And we get very subtle reminders of that, you know, on the picture frame, there’s pictures of Sam with the family and he’s obviously handsome and he’s, you know, he’s got a vibe about him. And so, I think that policemen, while they’re so tenacious and professional and very good at their jobs, their personal lives are very discombobulated, if you like. So, there was something interesting there for me to get hold of. And then, of course, my… Archie’s character is another ex-lover of this rogue… were we lovers? I think we were. George?
George Kay: Yeah.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): I mean, I’m itching to know the backstory because the relationship between you two, I mean, that dynamic just leaps off the screen, doesn’t it. I mean, something- something really bad went down [LAUGHS].
Max Beesley: We had… something went down, I’m not quite sure what it was, Kate, but…
Archie Panjabi: Oh, I am.
Max Beesley: Oh, ok [LAUGHS]. But it’s excellent because we very delicately and subtly worked through Christine’s messages from… from Idris’ character, Sam, and then my relationship, past relationship with Archie, who is in counterterrorism, we can then start formulating something we don’t really think is going on, but as the dominos fall then we realise we’re into a very serious situation. Quite quickly in the show as well, which is good because it grabs you quite quickly. And it’s high octane… high octane stuff. It’s really, you know, a great drama… a thriller and a great drama. I’m really proud to be a part of it, you know.
Jim Field Smith: We actually, you just reminded me you guys talking about being on the ground, is that part of the necessity of where we shot was that everyone was sort of separated, but it was also slightly by design as well. And the people on the plane never met really any of the people on the ground but used to call each other the ‘ground people’ and the ‘plane people’ [ALL LAUGH]. And they would always try and sneak in and look at what we were doing in other sets, and we’re like get off, get out of here. Because, of course, part of the, you know, without being too highfalutin about it, part of the fun of it is about information and about who knows what. And, you know, the genius of Sam’s character is he’s trying to get information to the ground without being caught doing that by the hijackers, meanwhile, because of the methods that he’s using, which are maybe a little bit unconventional, the characters on the ground are having to decipher this and figure out is it hijacked or is it not. And so, we sort of deliberately wanted to keep everyone separate and keep everyone guessing the whole time. And, yeah, again, hopefully that comes across on the screen.
Idris Elba: [LAUGHS] I remember actually, you know, because we’re shooting at a studio with several stages, and because I couldn’t sort of go and see what the other stages were doing every now and then, I’d always stay near the back, and then one time I realised I was walking right through basically a whole shot. And I think Archie was in there, I think, and everyone was huddled in this tiny room, and they were just, you know, I think they were just running lines, right, and I just walk past. And I was like “hey!” [ALL LAUGH] and they all looked at me like, what are you thinking? You’re meant to be… and I was in full costume, blood on my face, they were like, he looks happy! What the fuck are we doing!
Jim Field Smith: He’s fine, hijack’s over, guys.
Idris Elba: I thought everyone would be like, hey, what’s up, Idris! They were like, what are you doing here? Just get out, man, you’re killing our vibe.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): Brilliant. Well, those are a few questions from me, but the people we are really interested to hear questions from today is everyone out here and also everyone online who has joined us virtually. So, I’ll start by taking a question from the floor in the room here, if anyone has got a question, just pop your hand up and we’ll get a mic to you before you ask it.
Press: This question is for Max, you mentioned that you didn’t have the opportunity to meet with Idris for about six months while shooting, but your character is pretty much solving, trying to solve the pieces of the puzzle to this, you know, mystery with what’s going on with, you know, this hijacking, so did that help you in your role not having to be able to interact with Idris in those six months, or did that hinder you?
Max Beesley: I… It was helpful. I mean, just from a professional point of view, I wanted to do the dance with Idris on set because he’s a terrific actor, but I think it helped a little bit. And also, obviously, he’s a very handsome man, so like I say, when you do… there are very subtle shots of me and Christine in the bedroom, there are family pictures of her with Idris’ character with the boys, and there’s just a couple of moments that Jim shot there where you just… it’s the male thing of, you know, just like, what am I working with? And these… this guy is a professional but so is Sam, he’s a very successful professional guy. And so, I don’t know, I mean, yeah, it probably did help, maybe, yeah, I’m not too sure, just try to be real on the day with the scene and that’s it.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): Thank you. Oh yeah, let’s take it. Thank you.
Press: Thank you. Question for Idris, obviously this is an action thriller, so talk us through, please, if it’s ok, the sort of fight sequences or action sequences, and sort of how did it effect you? Did you get battered and bruised, or were there any injuries or anything like that?
Idris Elba: So, I guess, you know, one of the things that I guess was by design was that, you know, we didn’t take this plane apart and made it easier for us to shoot, we designed all the action sequences with what we’ve got, ok. And, you know, you know, Sam does a lot of sneaking around the plane, you know. Me sneaking on a plane is like, bro, what you doing? [ALL LAUGH]. We can see you, you know, so it meant that I had to even get lower, or we had to figure out another way. And that was actually really, again, adds to the sort of drama and reality of this thing. The fight sequences were certainly hard to shoot. They were choreographed within the space, if we hurt ourselves, we just took a breather and carried on, because not to say that we didn’t care but it’s just we didn’t try and change the choreography not to hurt ourselves because, in this instance, the fight sequence- sequences were based on what would we do rather than this is a fight sequence, you know. And one of the memorable ones for me is the one with Neil’s character, and this gun and this tiny kitchen space – I’m a big man, so I could just… but it just wasn’t easy to move around and fight this guy, especially if my character is not a fighter, he’s fighting out of desperation and he’s frightened of getting shot. Not only is he frightened of getting shot, but he doesn’t want the plane to go down because of a bullet. So, there’s all this stuff that was part of the design of the action and I think really gives… puts the audience in that… we’ve all been on a plane, we’ve all sat in a chair and looked over and seen that person from this perspective, we’ve all looked down the aisle and looked behind us, and that’s what Jim and the team really designed well and implemented into the action sequences, you know.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): Thank you. I’m going to take a question now from the journalists that have joined us virtually. So, this is a question to Archie and Max, and this is from Barbara Monker, who is at DPA in Germany, you’re part of the team on the ground and the personal backstory, how did you experience the tension building on the plane while figuring out a solution on the ground?
Archie Panjabi: Well, I guess we’re, you know, the great thing about filming this is that we did it chronologically and so the tension just builds. And having to, you know, work with the ministers, the JTAC, the county-terrorism, there’s all these different things going on that [LAUGHS]… I guess the pressure just builds so much that the tension in that room just escalates to a point where it becomes unbearable. In terms of us…
Max Beesley: Yes, carry on.
Archie Panjabi: I remember when we first met, we were like, well, what’s our chemistry? What’s our backstory? What’s our history? And I think we both had two different stories, didn’t we, we both decided each of us had chucked each other, and then you pointed to the script, didn’t you…
Kate Quilton (Moderator): I said you were the dominant… you’re the dominant, you broke my heart, maybe. I mean, I think it’s only George that can settle this.
George Kay: Yeah, sorry, Max…
Kate Quilton (Moderator): George, what’s the backstory?
Max Beesley: Was I an animal? I don’t know anything.
George Kay: I think Zahar is strong and managed to kind of see that maybe Daniel is not the right partner and they broke up. But they did have a relationship, for sure, yeah.
Archie Panjabi: And maybe Sam Nelson was more appropriate, you think? [ALL LAUGH]
Max Beesley: In answer to that lady’s question [LAUGHS]…
Kate Quilton (Moderator): That’s a whole new series.
Idris Elba: Yeah, a whole new one.
George Kay: A love triangle.
Max Beesley: No, no, in answer to the question, when we were working on the ground, obviously as we get more information, the stakes are high, everything’s heightened, everything’s heightened, everything’s heightened. And then, we’re out on the road and then the counter-terrorism units are involved, response units are involved, then it really does… you just play the script and that’s all you need to do. And it grows quite beautifully, you know, throughout the seven hours of the show, I think, so…
Archie Panjabi: There’s a really nice moment though, isn’t there, there’s a really nice moment when I’m driving the car and you ask me all these questions about your ex, and I have a complete… I have a go at you, and at the end she just says, “it’s ok, I get it”. I think from then onwards we just work together.
Max Beesley: We’re very good at our jobs, which is important, and ultimately, we do kind of really help the situation, I think, you know.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): I think you’re all quite exceptional at your jobs. Talking about the tension building…
Max Beesley: Sorry, I meant as the characters. I wasn’t being an egomaniac. We are both very good counter-terrorist policemen, ok [ALL LAUGH].
Kate Quilton (Moderator): Oh, funny. There’s a question here, and this is to Jim and George, it’s from the States, it’s from Cherry the Geek TV – Joe at Cherry the Geek TV. Now, he was wondering if you could talk about the real time element in the show. In the past, this type of story was told as a two-hour movie, with this format, you’re telling the story of the seven-hour flight over the course of seven hours, and it works really well. Talk about the development of the stories and the challenges, and maybe unexpected surprises of doing this story in real time.
George Kay: You want to go first?
Jim Field Smith: Yeah. Well, I was going to answer the second bit, do you want to answer the first bit?
George Kay: Yeah, ok, yeah. In terms of the- the real time of seven hours and maintaining tension, what I realised when writing was that in the hijacking situation, it’s not immediately life or death, it’s not like you’re just about to be pushed off the edge of a cliff or something. For Sam’s character… For Idris’ character, Sam, he has to contend with a situation that is about to be, constantly is about to be life or death. So, there’s time and tension is suspended because until you know what those hijackers want, where they’re taking the plane, what they intend to do, these are all unknowable things at the start of our story, and so we have a kind of… we’ve got a tension inbuilt. And there’s no point breaking that, from a writing perspective, there’s no point breaking that tension, you want to unfold the mystery really carefully and slowly because you should have people’s breath held in their chests at that point, and you’ve got seven hours to play with, that’s all they know. And I think at the end of the first or second episode, it becomes clear that they’re going to go to London, I don’t know what we can say in terms of the story, but the seven hours is the size of the football pitch under which Sam Nelson can plot his strategy around and get to his goal. So, the tension is going to be there throughout because you’re edging all more incrementally towards a more intense situation the whole time.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): And at which point did you decide, right, we’re going to do this real time?
Jim Field Smith: I was looking at the- the flight distances and the length of a TV series, and they’re very similar, and actually then the thought they cropped up, well, hang on, why don’t we just play it, why don’t we just run it for real, because we’ve all been on what would feel like interminable plane journeys, that it would not feel interminable or it would be suddenly a short, intense and magnified experience if you were under a hijacking so it just felt right that the length of the show seems to be the length of a flight.
Jim Field Smith: What you don’t want to be is on a flight that gets captained by the network halfway through [ALL LAUGH].
Kate Quilton (Moderator): Was that reason at the beginning, you thought… [LAUGHS]
Jim Field Smith: They can’t- they can’t cancel it. Yeah, one of the… One of the bits of research we were doing early on, I was listening to this testimony from a hijack survivor, and she said this thing that really, really stuck with me the whole way through the show, which was that she had been in a hijack situation and she said, “during a hijack, time ceases to exist and all you’re left with is decisions”. And that… I sort of had that in my head the whole time because it is real time, it’s potentially more real time for the people on the ground as it is for the people on the plane. As George has said, for the people, you’re sort of suspended, I mean, you’re literally suspended but you’re sort of in suspension and you’re just trying to figure out how to sort of live through to the next moment. For the people on the ground, they’re scrambling for answers, they’re trying to figure out what’s going on, and of course, this plane is heading essentially towards them. In terms of the second part of the question, there were… the sort of… some of the challenges of making it sort of perversely became, I think, some of the benefits of the show. So, the problem with making a real time drama is that you are wedded to every single decision that you make in production throughout. Normally, if it’s like, oh, we hate this jacket, oh, don’t worry, we’ll get rid of it in the next scene or, you know, we’re going to jump to this or we can cut around this or we can go there, we can’t do that in our show. So, we had to live with all of the decisions that we made, and that’s the reality of what would happen in that situation and so we weren’t able to do the convenient thing of jumping ahead in time or sort of swerving around something, we had to just take everything head on. So, you know, we made decisions about characters in episode one that we then had to, you know, essentially live with. And I think, hopefully, that’s to the benefit of the show. You know, the downsides are that you can’t avoid anything. If you’ve got a real time storyline, you’ve got scripts that are written to a real time storyline, you can’t skip things.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): And there’s very little fixing in the edit.
Jim Field Smith: There’s very little, you know, but the good thing was, to bring it back to the original point, the material on the plane we found could actually expand, because actually once you’re in those scenes on a plane, we, hopefully successfully, went for it, like I really wanted to feel the tension of moments that in any other situation would be completely inconsequential, feeling like the most important thing ever, like, you know, Sam’s character waiting for someone to move slightly so they’re not in his eyeline anymore and they can go this way. You know, I wanted those moments to feel like they lasted forever almost, you know, and- and conversely, wanted the stuff on the ground to feel like relentless, so.
George Kay: Also, we… we didn’t want to do any flashbacks or give the audience any irony or any knowledge that Sam and the characters on board didn’t have, everything has to be earned for people on the ground and for the people on the plane. TV is full of shows that are mixing timelines and flashing back and giving audience better knowledge than some of the characters in the show, so it felt fresh to try something just linear, everyone learning at the same time.
Idris Elba: Just quickly, as an actor though, it felt like I was flying to Mars [ALL LAUGH]. I was just like, am I still on this flight? Six months later I’m still on the flight, or three seasons of the show, are we still here? What’s going on?
Kate Quilton (Moderator): In the same outfit [LAUGHS]. Like, how many…
Idris Elba: Ironically, the same shirt I’m wearing now. I’m joking.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): Did you have… Was it kind of like Jeff Goldblum in The Fly, did you have like literally twelve hanging up in your dressing room?
Idris Elba: Yeah, and they were all very different stages. Oh, this one over here with all this blood on, I know where that is, I’ll wear that again, ah man
Kate Quilton (Moderator): Brilliant. Alright, we’ll take another question from the floor. Excellent.
Press: Not a very intellectual question, but I wondered, before making the show were any of you afraid of flying and if that had changed since making it?
Archie Panjabi: Well, I didn’t fly on the show, but in terms of watching it, no, no not at all. I think maybe for the first five minutes and then after that it didn’t really affect me so much. But I have done a few dramas on a plane before so maybe I’m, you know, used to flying, I don’t feel the fear so much.
Idris Elba: I, no, for me, more informed about flight and airplanes now, which is weird, you know what I’m saying, I’ll sit on a plane, and I’ll be like, oh, the A3 80 [ALL LAUGHS], oh, different trim, interesting. I don’t know this shit. But it’s actually not, you know, I love flying, I love travelling, and I’ve always, always said hello to staff on planes, off planes, just by way of people wanting to say and wave and what not, so yeah, it just felt interesting to be on a plane again after making this show.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): Can I ask a question…
Max Beesley: Before you do, can I just say, sorry, because I flew in six hours ago on a BA flight and every single stewardess was like “are you doing something with Idris? He’s so lovely. We’ve had him on British Airways so many times, he’s such a nice guy”. Like, six minutes in, and I’m like, can we get back to me for a second? But yeah, that was nice to hear. But I did use to have a fear of flying. I used to love it and then I had a couple of terrible, terrible turbulent flights, and then it was Paul McKenna actually that helped me years ago and now I love it. But I do remember after 9/11, because I live in Los Angeles, I always eyeball the passengers when I get on, and I just think, right…
Idris Elba: That’s helpful.
Max Beesley: Yeah [LAUGHS]. Right. Yeah, I’m like… No, I’m not… I just clock them quite quietly and I just go, mm, ok, because I’ve got two little girls and so I’m… if anything’s going to happen, I’m going… Well, after watching this show, you don’t know, who knows…
Kate Quilton (Moderator): Who knows? But, as you already said, you are an excellent policeman, what would you be looking for on that flight?
Max Beesley: Just little tell-tale signs. You know stewardess, when you board a plane and stewards, they’re also reading you as a passenger as someone who can help them in an event, who’s fit? Who’s looking good? Who’s drunk? Who doesn’t drink on the plane? You know, so, yeah, I’m into flying, I really like it a lot.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): If you ever happen to be on a flight with Max, he might be…
Max Beesley: You’ll be alright, you’ll be alright.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): Don’t be alarmed! Right, we’ve got loads of hands in the audience so let’s go wherever we can get a microphone, yeah! Great. Excellent.
Press: Idris, serious question here, this sees you do a more multi-dimensional role, but in terms of being an actor and getting a variety of roles, is it a blessing or a curse to be a good-looking man?
Idris Elba: I’m getting a lot of love today, thank you very much.
Press: Max, you can answer that as well, if you like.
Idris Elba: Wow. Look, I’m sure it’s all subjective. I’m not sure I’m good-looking to everyone, but there is something interesting you said earlier, George was talking about, you know, the weedy man versus the strong man and, you know, my size and shape and, you know, all my life sort, oh, you’re a big lad, you know, and I’ve taken on roles that sort of feed into that a little bit. And in this particular time, I was really interested in playing against that. Even though Sam is what he is, he isn’t always the sort of hero in that sense, you know. He’s using… it’s more cerebral, he’s quite vulnerable in the sense that he’s got lots going on internal in terms of his family, and I really was interested in that, you know. So, it played against type, if you like, and I… Yeah, you know, some camera angles are not sexy man, especially on a plane, let me tell you. When Jim’s got the camera right up my nozzle, I’m like, are you sure that’s the angle bro? [ALL LAUGH] Can I just shift to the light? He’s like, no, no, no, this is perfect.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): And let’s take another question from our journalists virtually, this is from Nando Rona at Deadline in Germany, this is it to Idris, Archie and Max, how do you think you might personally react in a situation like the series because of the show? So, since you’ve made it, how might you react on a plane that [LAUGHS] has been hijacked?
Idris Elba: Well, look, you know, I would shut up and mind my own business.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): Really?
Idris Elba: No. But I wouldn’t be Sam, for sure, I just wouldn’t have thought out that clearly, but if I had an opportunity to speak to a hijacker and I got eye contact and I thought for a second that person would listen to me, I would go for that and be like, dude, this is very stupid. Or, dude, can you get me a drink please? Just quickly get me drink [ALL LAUGH]. I don’t think I would be the hero guy that’s trying to, you know, outsmart the hijackers, I doubt that very much, but I certainly would want to help the staff and say, look, I’ll, you know, if you need a volunteer to help you do something, I’m in, a hundred percent.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): And you’ve got a bit of intel now. I mean, you’ve learned a lot making this series.
Idris Elba: I know. I know how to fly now, I know how to fly a plane, so yeah.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): What about you, Archie?
Archie Panjabi: I don’t know what I would do. I guess it would depend on the hijackers, what they were like. I’d like to think I’d be able to communicate with them and talk with them, use some of Zahar’s skills, but I don’t know, that’s a really interesting question. It would depend on the people.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): Max?
Max Beesley: Again, I’m no idea…
Kate Quilton (Moderator): Employ McKenna? I mean, would you rely on a few of those hypnotherapy tips, I don’t know.
Max Beesley: No, I’m… Because I remember years ago, I got robbed in Ladbroke Grove at gunpoint and I remember thinking if that ever happens, I’ll go to work and take care of business, and I completely froze. I was in a chair with a gun at the back of my head. And even if I had a weapon I would have said, “brother, I’ve got a gun here, man”, I was terrified. So, I don’t know. I have a friend in America, Spencer Stone, who was a… in the military, and he was on the Amsterdam to Paris, he was one of the soldiers that took that chap down. I’ve spoken to him at length about it and I think you’re just wired in a different way, so I’ve got no idea. I’ve got no idea what, you know.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): And George, I mean, it feels unfair to leave you out but…
George Kay: I would…. I would run and hide in the toilet [ALL LAUGH]. I would not step up at all, I think.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): Jim?
Jim Field Smith: Me and George and a friend of ours used to play a game that if the three of us were on a boat that was sort of marooned at sea, which of us would turn on each other first to kill them and eat them? So, I think [LAUGHS] every man for themselves.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): Are you… Ok, you’re eater, not eaten.
Jim Field Smith: I’d definitely rather be eating than be eaten [ALL LAUGH]. If that’s what you’re asking me.
George Kay: I get eaten in the game.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): Oh, you get eaten.
Idris Elba: What’s the name of this game?
Kate Quilton (Moderator): I think we got one… We’ve got time for just one more question from the floor. Great, we’ve got a mic there.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): Last question, do you think you could watch Hijack on a flight?
Idris Elba: [LAUGHS]
George Kay: Do you think they’re going to put it on when- when…?
Kate Quilton (Moderator): [LAUGHS] I don’t know, you might want to fight for it, George, I don’t know, like have that chat…
Jim Field Smith: You can watch it on a seven-hour flight. That would be a very specific requirement you need to be able to watch it.
George Kay: It would be annoying to watch it on a four-hour flight.
Idris Elba: It would have to be a nine-hour flight because you’ve got two hours delay, then they don’t let the thing work.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): I mean, it’s intense. I watched one episode on a train and that was enough for me, to be honest, the blood pressure definitely raised for sure. Thank you so much, everyone. Thank you so much for this really exceptional piece of work. It is, yeah, an exhilarating ride. I will, just to bounce things out, compliment you all on your looks and say you are all beautiful, exceptionally handsome…
Jim Field Smith: And very good at our jobs.
Kate Quilton (Moderator): But it is a very beautiful panel. So, thank you so much, thank you for joining us today, thank you for coming, thank you everyone online.
MORE INFO: Trailer
Told in real time, “Hijack” is a tense thriller that follows the journey of a hijacked plane as it makes its way to London over a seven hour flight, and authorities on the ground scramble for answers. Idris Elba will star as ‘Sam Nelson,’ an accomplished negotiator in the business world who needs to step up and use all his guile to try and save the lives of the passengers — but, his high-risk strategy could be his undoing. Archie Panjabi will play the role of ‘Zahra Gahfoor,’ a counter terrorism officer who is on the ground when the plane is hijacked and becomes part of the investigation. The series also stars Christine Adams, Max Beesley, Eve Myles, Neil Maskell, Jasper Britton, Harry Michell, Aimee Kelly, Mohamed Elsandel and Ben Miles.
“Hijack” has been produced by 60Forty Films, the production company set up by Emmy Award winning Executive Producers Jamie Laurenson and Hakan Kousetta (‘Slow Horses’, ‘The Essex Serpent’) under its exclusive content deal with Apple TV+, alongside Kay and FIeld-Smith’s own production company Idiotlamp Productions, and also marks the first series to debut from Elba’s first-look deal with Apple TV+ and his Green Door Pictures. In addition to writing and directing, Kay and Field Smith each serve as executive producers alongside Elba, Jamie Laurenson, Hakan Kousetta and Kris Thykier.
Proofread and Edited by Brenda
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