Keri Russell and 'The Diplomat' Cast Meet Their Characters' Real-Life Counterparts at U.K. Party (Exclusive)
U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom Jane Hartley hosted the hit Netflix show's creator and cast at a reception in her magnificent London residence
There were two ambassadors in the house on a recent spring evening — a real one and a fictional one, as actual diplomat Jane D. Hartley hosted The Diplomat star Keri Russell at the magnificent Winfield House.
Hartley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, welcomed Russell and her fellow cast members on the hit Netflix show to the home in London’s Regent’s Park to both thank them for shining a light on the work of her colleagues at the U.S. embassy in London and to swap stories.
The real ambassador chatted with Russell, who plays fictional U.S. Ambassador to the U.K. Kate Wyler; real Deputy Chief of Mission Matthew Palmer schmoozed with Ato Essandoh, who plays his fictional counterpart, Stuart Hayford; and show creator Deborah Cahn explained the inspiration for The Diplomat (it originated while she was writing Homeland and she met a female diplomat).
Meanwhile, Rufus Sewell, who plays the raffish Hal Wyler; David Gyasi, who plays Foreign Secretary Dennison; and Ali Ahn, who plays CIA chief Eidra Park; were on hand to talk to foreign service personnel who are enjoying that their roles, in all their guises, are being appreciated and “myths dispelled” amidst the drama, as Aaron Snipe, spokesperson at the U.S. embassy, puts it.
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“The evening felt a little like a mutual admiration society, which is a dynamic that if you’re a career foreign service office you would rarely, if ever, experience,” Snipe adds.
“I had a lovely chat with David, who plays the foreign secretary in the show, about my service in Iraq. As eager as we all were to meet the cast members who we saw on screen, they were just as eager to ask us about ‘this part or that part of the job,’” he tells PEOPLE. “Everyone was tickled by that.”
The show has gripped real-life players and viewers alike to the point that embassy spokesman Snipe has compiled a viral hit of his own — a social media film showing some of the fact and fiction elements they’d spotted in the first episode.
And fact versus fiction was a recurring theme of the evening. Ambassador Hartley jokingly reminded everyone that the job of deputy chief of mission “is definitely not to bring me racks of clothing. No one tells me what to wear.” (Spoiler alert: This takes place early on in the series.)
She added, “I feel unbelievably lucky to have the absurdly talented Keri Russell playing me.”
But she joked of her fictional counterpart’s romantic liaisons, “I won’t get into Kate Wyler’s ‘special relationship’ with the foreign secretary.”
The new show has brought a microscope to the close ties that the ambassador has to have with the host government, and Hartley was fulsome in praise of current British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, who — with his wife Susannah — was in the room, and with whom she has a close working relationship. “Our job is to collaborate, negotiate and build trust with our host government,” she said.
It is sadly rare for a woman to head up the British mission — Hartley is only the second woman to do so. The first was Anne Armstrong, 50 years ago in 1976.
“As ambassador I care deeply about inspiring young woman in leadership roles. The Diplomat turns the camera on women in those leadership roles,” Hartley told the group at her real-life residence (the one used in the show is a larger-looking stately home) on Tuesday.
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As well as highlighting women in leadership, the show — which is set for a second season after a successful first eight episodes — has also brought another benefit to Snipe and his team as they stress the great, close "special relationship" between his home country and the host.
“This is also is a story that takes place against the backdrop of the U.K. and London at this moment. These relationships are at the center of the story. They are depicted in a much more dramatic fashion but the core is true," Snipe said. "We are coordinating every day so we can work on the great challenges of our time, like Ukraine or the climate.”
“The extent that the show has given us a platform and springboard to talk more about these things with the public is a win-win for everybody.”
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