This article contains spoilers for the Netflix series “The Diplomat.”
On a quiet Friday morning, Jane D. Hartley sits in the garden room of Winfield House, the baronial residence of the American ambassador in London, listing the many ways her life differs from Kate’s. Wyler, the fictional ambassador played by Keri Russell in the popular Netflix drama “The Diplomat.”
“The concept that you can fly from one country to another without ever raising your hand on Capitol Hill,” Ms. Hartley, announcing that Ambassador Wyler no longer needs to go through Senate confirmation. “Sorry, that’s not going to happen.”
“I also don’t have a DCM who brings racks of clothes to my office and tells me what to wear,” he said, referring to the deputy chief of mission, who in the series acts as the ambassador’s fashion stylist. . “I’m wearing my own clothes.”
An awkward mix of spy thriller and soap opera, “The Diplomat” debuted last month as the most-watched series on Netflix, and remains in the top 10. It has become a compelling look at foreign policy. circles – easy to mock for its Bond -meets-Bourne plot twists but also a source of satisfaction for diplomats, who feel that Hollywood is finally showing them the recognition that has long been given to the CIA agent (although the series has one of those, too).
“It’s about time we were the heroes,” said Matthew Palmer, London’s real-life deputy chief of mission.
Suddenly, Ms. Hartley’s work has been impressive, even at the highest levels of the State Department and the White House. He said that Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, both asked him about the good points of the eight-part series, after watching it.
While the meeting of Ms. Hartley of a reporter was slowing down, her husband, Ralph Schlosstein, quietly passed through the front hall, as he went upstairs. A Wall Street investor, he splits his time between New York and London.
But he did not sit in the meetings of Ms. Hartley with British officials and wrestled with him in the garden outside Winfield House during the American president’s visit – as did Ambassador Wyler and her husband, Hal, a jealous, high-octane fellow diplomat. by British actor Rufus Sewell.
“I think my security would be something if that happened,” said Ms. Hartley, 73, is a good-humored, well-connected Democratic Party fundraiser. He is in his second plum assignment, serving as ambassador to France from 2014 to 2017 (John Adams is the only other US ambassador to have been posted to Paris and London).
With a background as a television executive, Ms. Hartley is sympathetic to the creative license often taken in Hollywood. On Tuesday, he will welcome Ms. Russell, who memorably played a spy sleeping in Russia on “The Americans,” and the show’s creator, Debora Cahn, whose credits include “Homeland” and “The West Wing,” at the Winfield House to discuss . how “The Diplomat” stands against true diplomacy.
“Pop culture diplomats are often bit players,” Mr. Palmer explained. “In the movie, we might be the ones who come in during the meeting and say, ‘But what about the risks of a long-term relationship?'”
The fictional counterpart of Mr. Palmer, Stuart Hayford (played by Ato Essandoh) doesn’t just help dress the ambassador. She is his constant companion, advising him on the president’s plans to recruit him as vice president and helping to hatch harebrained schemes, such as his breaking into the British foreign secretary’s office to meet with an Iranian envoy. , who died immediately. Hayford’s character also dated the CIA station chief.
In real life, Mr. Palmer does none of those things. Instead, he oversees the embassy, one of the largest American diplomatic facilities in the world, with 1,100 employees. But in his spare time, Mr. Palmer wrote four diplomatic thrillers, which gave him an appreciation for fine details and mistakes.
The portraits of Winston Churchill and Dwight D. Eisenhower in Kate Wyler’s office are copies of those in Ms. Hartley. Aaron Snipe, the embassy spokesperson who posted a mild reality check on the series on Twitter, noted that although the producers rented a beautiful mansion outside of London as a stand- in for Winfield House, they used digital technology to add the BT Tower, visible from its rear windows.
Far-reaching features begin with the show’s introduction, and the emphasis on a sensitive role in national security for the ambassador.
Kate Wyler, a career diplomat with a history of derring-do assignments, is transferred to London from Kabul, Afghanistan, after a deadly attack on a British aircraft carrier. He’s afraid he’ll have to throw garden parties, but instead he finds himself at the beating heart of American and British foreign policy during a Tom Clancy-level geopolitical crisis.
None of this, diplomats say, resembles the actual job of a political ambassador, especially to a close ally like Britain, when top security officials on each side have the cellphone numbers of with speed dial.
“The reality is that Jake Sullivan will pick up the phone and call his counterpart, and the ambassador will hear about it afterward,” said Lewis A. Lukens, who served as deputy chief of mission under Ms. Hartley, Robert Wood Johnson IV.
That does not mean that the British foreign secretary, James Cleverly, did not develop a friendly relationship with Ms. Hartley. He chats with her, while sipping whiskey, at the ambassador’s Christmas party at Winfield House. The Foreign Office gave the producers of “The Diplomat” rare access to film inside its Whitehall headquarters. Mr. even planned. Clever to tape a video for Netflix to promote the series.
“The show captures the informality of very good meetings in the foreign secretary’s office, minus the people who drop dead,” said Matthew Barzun, who served as ambassador during the Obama administration.
The key to maintaining one’s sanity, Mr. Barzun said, is not to worry about every critical meeting. During his posting, he visited British high schools, where he engaged students about what they admired, and distrusted, about the United States. With her business relationships, Ms. Hartley said he plans to focus on apprenticeship and training programs for young Britons – reviving a project he started in Paris.
The last ambassador whose career is even remotely similar to the character of Ms. Russell was Raymond GH Seitz, sent to London by President George HW Bush in 1991. A career diplomat who had served there twice before, Mr. Seitz heard about his new post when he was called from a bar in Brussels after attending the NATO meeting. The president is on the phone.
“When I walked in, I knew half the cabinet,” Mr. Seitz, now 82, said from his home in New Hampshire. “Being in Washington, I also know what Europe thinks. Plus, I’m pretty. We can’t miss it.”
That’s why Mr. Seitz President Bill Clinton decided to keep him after entering the White House. That means Mr. Seitz faces the fallout from Mr. Clinton’s decision to issue a visa to Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, a political party with ties to the underground Irish Republican Army. . Prime Minister John Major, friend of Mr. Seitz, was so angry that he refused to speak to Mr. Clinton.
Last week, Mr. Biden ruffled more feathers when he said at a Democratic fund-raiser in New York City that he had gone to Belfast to make sure “the Brits don’t mess up” on post-Brexit trade. status of Northern Ireland.
It was not a fatal attack on a British warship, such as “The Diplomat,” but for Ms. Hartley, it was a disruption of a “special relationship” which he said was closely aligned with Northern Ireland, as well as the war. in Ukraine and other issues.
“I’ve known him for a long time,” he said of the president. “His roots are in Ireland.” Then he added diplomatically, “Biden has English roots too.”