1 of 5 | David Gyasi and Keri Russell star in "The Diplomat." Photo courtesy of Netflix
NEW YORK, April 20 (UPI) -- Carnival Row actor David Gyasi says he hopes his new political drama series, The Diplomat, reminds people how to listen to and respectfully disagree with those espousing opposing views, rather than simply ignoring them or trying to shut them down.
"We've slipped into this, 'I'm right and you're wrong, you're Republican, you're Democrat, you're Brexiteer, you're a remainer' -- all of that kind of divisive stuff -- and we've lost the ability for real discourse," Gyasi told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.
"We've lost the ability to say, 'Well, tell me about where you're at and what's affecting you and what you care about, and let me tell you what I care about and what's affecting me and then let's come together as a society and see what we can do."
Premiering Thursday on Netflix, the eight-episode show follows Kate Wyler (Keri Russell), the brilliant, but rough-around-the-edges, new U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom.
She reluctantly arrives in London with her fellow career diplomat husband Hal (Rufus Sewell) and immediately upsets the status quo in the midst of an international crisis.
Debora Cahn -- whose credits include The West Wing and Homeland -- is the showrunner, and Ali Ahn, Ato Essandoh, Celia Imrie, Michael McKean, Nana Mensah, T'Nia Miller and Miguel Sandoval co-star.
"Where he's come from, the route to get to where he is, really intrigued me," Gyasi said, explaining his character -- British Foreign Secretary Austin Dennison -- wasn't initially written as a Black man.
In fact, Cahn had imagined him as someone The King's Speech Oscar winner Colin Firth might play, but then she met Gyasi.
"What was interesting to me was to be a person of color in a Tory government as foreign secretary," Gyasi said.
"I had an idea of what kind of school he would have gone to, what kind of education he would have had, but then Debora said, 'What if he was closer to your type of upbringing?'"
The character then became the son of poor immigrant parents who worked three jobs to send Austin to a good school.
"He would have one foot [in that world] and understand that, and that informs where he saw another side of life and then actually end up working in a forum where not only is he seeing another side of life, but is able to affect change," Gyasi said.
"Being in a party that is changing things in a way that negatively affects here and really feeling that acutely was what gripped me and made me say, 'I need to stay and find out more about this story.'"
Ahn wants the show to offer viewers a ray of hope that intelligent, competent and decent government officials are working tirelessly on the world's toughest problems.
"You hope that we have people, that the people actually doing this, have that much heart and kindness, but it is scary," Ahn said, acknowledging the many conflicts the international community faces in 2023.
Raising Dion alum Ahn plays Eidra Park, London chief of station for the CIA, while Elementary actor Essandoh plays Stuart Hayford, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in London and Kate's right-hand man.
Eidra and Stuart are involved in a secret office romance.
"They are trying to decide how important this relationship is, given what they are trying to accomplish professionally," Ahn said.
"What are we doing this for? Eventually, we're trying to make the world a better place, so that people can have lives," Essandoh added.
"But we're doing that, not living a life, so there must be a point where people have to say, 'Well, I want what we're going for,' Essandoh said.
"The only people you meet are people at work and, so, Eidra was somebody that he had a spark with and something developed and now they have to navigate being actual human beings, rather than trying to be superheroes."
Having any kind of serious relationship is new for both of them.
"I don't think either of them has ever really invested that much in a romantic relationship," Ahn said.
The constantly busy pair frequently engage in rapid, witty West Wing-style banter.
"It's the dream as an actor. You wish someone was writing for you in real life," Ahn joked. "I want those little zingers to throw at people. It's so much fun. It's rhythmic and so dense."
Essandoh added: "Yes, but quite human and quite touching. There are scripts that I read that bring tears to my eyes."
The actor said he knows Stuart and his storyline are always in good hands.
"You're not saying, 'Well, I as the character think he should do XYZ.' Because you know you're not going to come up with a better idea than Debora Cahn will," he said. "And you just can't wait to see what her mind brings, and you are always happy."
The arrival of Kate upends Stuart and Eidra's world, presenting new challenges and opportunities.
"She's messy. At least for Eidra, when Kate first comes, she's not used to another woman telling her what to do," Ahn said.
"Eidra is used to being the only woman in the room and, so, there is that navigation. I think she's used to diplomats that aren't so involved, hands-on. She's used to running the ship with Stuart, so to have someone come in who is actually quite capable and quite invested is new."
"She's a fish out of water and she's an actual, capable person who is really smart, who could do both of our jobs and probably would rather do at least my job than be the diplomat who has to wear the dress and drink the tea and know what fork to use," he said.
"That's going to mess everybody up, and that's what I think the whole heart of the show is -- how do these people now get together in this new family that has been created and where does that go?"