A Netflix show starring Keri Russell is in the news among US diplomats

“We’ll take what we can get,” said Eric Rubin, president of the American Foreign Service Association’s Diplomats Union. “The truth is that most Americans have no idea what diplomats do. Anything that helps people understand what diplomats do and what our Foreign Service does for our country is a positive.”

Some current and former diplomats even say that it is a good thing if the series is not very realistic. After all, as one journalist notedA realistic look would require Russell’s character to spend several episodes waiting for Senate confirmation.

“A show that was really, really accurate about life in an embassy would probably be very boring,” said Lewis Lukens, former deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in London.

According to various media reports, the show tells the story of Kate Wyler, a career diplomat who is cast into a role she is completely unprepared for, partly because she likes humanitarian work, Her husband, Hal, played by Rufus Sewell, has also been an ambassador, but his career seems to be heading downhill.

The show, billed as a political thriller, should follow Wyler as she deals with at least one major crisis. Her marriage faces challenges, which is believable, but so do what reports describe as her “political ambition”.

Wyler, we’re told, is Rumors to be eyeing for the post of Vice President, (Career diplomats shouldn’t have political ambitions, at least not openly, but that’s okay.)

In fairness, the show is still a work in progress, and its release date isn’t clear, so all kinds of plot changes are possible. Meanwhile, the top executives of the show have reached out to the diplomatic community for advice, while everyone remains silent about their script.

Some of them – including Deborah Kahn, an alum producer for “The West Wing” and “Homeland” – appeared at the actual US embassy in London. According to a US diplomat in the British capital familiar with the situation, he met with the staff and inquired about the layout of the facilities and the many events held there.

According to a person close to the show, its staff interviewed about 60 experts during the two-year development process. These included current and former diplomats as well as military and intelligence analysts and protocol advisers. The show also had six on-staff consultants from the fields of national security and foreign affairs.

A senior State Department official said it is routine for the department to help filmmakers on projects related to foreign policy issues – for example the war in Ukraine – it is rare to see a show that is based on the department itself or one of its embassies. get focused.

“Our goal is to do what we can to inform their work, to highlight the work of the public servants of the department,” said the senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Internal department procedures are involved.

Netflix did not provide an official comment for this story.

During their visit to the embassy, ​​representatives of the show “made sketches of the office, of how things were laid out so that they were authentic,” said a US diplomat familiar with the situation, adding that the show’s representatives also coordinated with security officials. To get some views of the exterior of the embassy.

The show’s representatives had a lot of questions, mainly what the various diplomats did during a typical day. The US diplomat said he was also well aware that a career diplomat does not usually get a London ambassador.

“I think it’s part of their whole base,” said the diplomat.

It is possible that Russell’s character getting the London job is based on the assumption that he has been cast in a role he is not prepared for. But that idea was objected by American diplomats fearing the show. If anything, a career diplomat would be more prepared for such a position than the type of outsider who usually gets the job, he argued.

President Joe Biden’s choice for US ambassador to Britain is Jane Hartley, a prominent Democratic donor. She stands out in part because she is a woman; Most US ambassadors to Britain have been men. She also looks different because she’s been an ambassador in the past—in Paris, another posting that goes to political donors—so she may require less hand-holding than her usual appointments.

The previous US ambassador to London, Woody Johnson, is a prominent Republican donor who owns the New York Jets. Donald Trump’s appointment as US ambassador was rocked by allegations that he used racist and sexist language, but a State Department office that later investigated such complaints declared that they were “unproven”.

It’s unclear why Netflix chose to set the show in a relatively peaceful, posh place like London. Why not a capital in a war zone or another country that is struggling in ways that are not self-inflicted (coughBrexit, cough,

But it wouldn’t be the first time such a relatively fancy setting had been greenlighted for a television show about diplomacy.

Two decades ago, Fox aired a fictional show called “American Embassy” Which was also set in London. It was pulled after just a few episodes, and focused more on romance, than the hazy memories of American diplomats.

During the last few years of the Obama administration, the US envoy to Denmark was the subject of a documentary series called Rufus Gifford.I am ambassador.The show focused on Gifford’s fight for LGBTQ+ rights. Gifford, who is also a well-known Democratic fundraiser, is now US head of protocol,

Johnson even got a documentary show about his time as ambassador to Britain called “inside the US embassyThat show didn’t get much attention on this side of the Atlantic.

And, of course, “Madame Secretary” is a show starring another glamorous actress, Tee Leoni, as America’s chief diplomat. This is a favorite among US officials, although not entirely realistic.

The US Embassy in London is a huge, nexus-like operation that lends itself to a lot of intrigue.

According to a State Department spokesperson, the embassy includes more than 40 offices representing the president’s cabinet, including the commerce, energy, treasury and agriculture departments. Diplomats living in London say it is like having the entire US government at its fingertips, adding that coordinating with everyone can be a daunting task.

The embassy is also a prime location for foreigners trying to obtain a US visa. It includes many celebrities like rock star Mick Jagger. “He comes once a year or so to renew his visa,” said a US diplomat familiar with the situation.

Despite the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union, London “remains a financial, cultural, educational, geopolitical power. So it is the center of influence,” Lukes said. At the same time, he said, the internal life of any embassy can often be dramatic. For example: How does a US ambassador deal with allegations of spousal abuse involving one of the embassy’s diplomats?

“Do you keep the family on the post? Do you send them back to America? You have to do the job that best protects the family or the alleged victim, while at the same time not destroying someone’s career without due process.” ,” Lukes said.

America’s relationship with the United Kingdom is unusually close, particularly on intelligence-sharing. This means that it is normal for many US officials, up to the president, to immediately jump on a call with their British counterpart whenever they feel the need, and they don’t always tell the ambassador when they do.

“It is not like being in any other position. David T. Johnson, former deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in London, said, “You won’t know every single thing about a relationship every moment.”

Diplomats say it can be funny to talk about the many parties thrown by the US ambassador in London, but the envoy’s “convening power” is actually a big deal. People want to be invited to the US Embassy in London, and there is a huge amount of information that can be picked up during meetings.

2 at the Embassy in London, Barbara Stephenson, who, like Lukens and Johnson, said it was important for the cast and crew of “The Diplomat” to get the little things right, even if the show was meant as a diplomacy. About the speed and intensity of is unrealistic.

Small talk can include how a large proportion of US diplomats have advanced degrees or how they refer to the Secretary of State as an “S.” “The ambassador is just called ambassador, and when she walks into the room people honestly get up. That’s what happens,” Stephenson said.

The US diplomat based in London said the show’s representatives appeared to be well-informed and respected of the realities facing US Foreign Service officials.

Nevertheless, he also has to make a compelling play in a highly-competitive media environment.

“I’m mixed on these things, because I’m not sure how useful they are,” the diplomat said of such shows. “They give the wider public the idea that government and national security and these decisions are made in these neat 52-minute packages. They take away the idea that it’s complicated, it’s not easy.”

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