Interview: ‘Ransom’ stars Luke Roberts and Nazneen Contractor

by W. Andrew Powell
Luke Roberts and Nazneen Contractor in Ransom

How do you negotiate a hostage situation, and control a situation that could go in any direction? In Global’s Ransom, Luke Roberts stars as Eric Beaumont, a negotiator working with a team of experts to handle delicate situations, including kidnapping.

Speaking with Roberts and co-star Nazneen Contractor, who plays Zara Hallam in the series, I had a chance to ask them about the characters, filming in Toronto, and the real-life negotiator that Eric Beaumont is based on.

Ransom airs Saturdays at 8:00 PM on Global. Watch previous episodes at

Andrew Powell: Can you give us some insight into your characters? I would love to hear your take on who they are.

Nazneen Contractor: “Okay, so, I play Zara Hallam. She is former NYPD. Her back story is that she uncovered a ring of corruption in her own precinct. Confronted her boss about it, and ended up getting fired, at which point Eric Beaumont recruited her, and allowed her to essentially be a cop again, but without a gun.”

“She serves as the tactical liaison and security expert on the show, she’s the lead investigator, she sort of puts the clues together on each case. What makes her even more interesting is that she is a wife and a mom of two, so you get to see that side of her.”

“For me, I really enjoy playing her because she is the moral compass of the show. She is pretty black and white, and she is fearless in her pursuit of justice, and has the exact same goals in mind as Eric, and that’s to bring the victims home alive, and safe, and quickly.”

Luke Roberts: “That’s right, I think when Eric was recruiting, I think the very fact that you would define yourself in your moral code by standing up against the system and doing then right thing, in an act of self sacrifice in a way, because you obviously got fired.”

“He recognized, what’s the word, a kindred spirit, Eric has a very strict moral code. His ethos about not carrying a gun, and non violence in resolving matters of conflict peaceably. Without the use of violence, without the use of a weapon is born out of a personally traumatic situation. When he worked with the FBI and it’s like a Waco style siege. We’re drawing on, broadly drawing on a lot of experiences in the history of negotiation. Particularly on the ideas and the attitudes and techniques of Laurent Combalbert, who my character is based on.”

“We spent a lot of time with him, and that’s been a revelation in terms of what it is that they do, not necessarily in the media, private negotiation teams. They very much exist, and they are overworked and there is a lot of, unfortunately, there’s a lot of that business going on. It’s been a real eye opener.”

Andrew: I had read something where the creators have talked about the whole idea of an ideal situation where no money changes hands because obviously when you give money to these people, you are leading to more ransoms happening. Is that something we’re going to see in the series from time to time?

Luke: “Well, we have exactly that scenario in many way, shapes, and forms. I think that’s the interesting moral dilemma at the heart of the show is that you’re actually in really black and white terms, you’re endorsing criminality, and you’re perpetuating it, arguably. On the other hand, Laurent’s take is that, each time a photograph of another child who has been kidnapped comes to light, it’s very hard to say no, especially when that could bring them home, and more often than not, does. It’s a really interesting concept, and we definitely address that.”

“I had a lovely piece of script to work with, and I think it’s episode nine where it has that exact debate between a young student, and my character Eric. That’s very much at the forefront of peoples’ minds because it is a gray area. It’s a difficult area. Why would you reward people who have stolen people? Except that usually their expectations are lowered, it’s a lot less money, they become frustrated by the process, the word spreads, and you know, Laurent is particularly good at it, therefore he has a reputation for bringing everybody home, but kidnapping doesn’t seem like such an attractive proposition anymore. It’s a really interesting area.”


Andrew: The first episode too, we get that hint that sometimes he will employ trickery, essentially to get his way. Was that based on Laurent’s story, or is that more something you put in the story to make it more exciting?

Nazneen: “I think every negotiation involves a certain amount of risk. You take the risk when you call someones bluff, or you manipulate them, or you tell them a white lie, but it’s all done with strategy in mind, and they train people–they have courses. They train civilians in just regular negotiations, but they also have a staff of negotiators from all over the world that they train, so they have a message. Yes, there’s risk involved when you try to call someones bluff, or you lie about something you have that maybe you don’t have, there is a manipulation there, and that does make it exciting and high stakes, but I think that is a definite reality of the job, and something that makes for very compelling television at the end of the day.”

Luke: “Yeah, I’ve been speaking to Laurent about this very issue, and it’s a good question. I think what they do is the sail very close to the wind, but they try to avoid. It’s really a last resort actually lying, because if you are caught in that lie, everybody suffers.”

Nazneen: “Everyone loses.”

Luke: “As much as they can… it’s not that maybe telling untruths rather than lies, it’s sort of you know… Laurent saying to me, I’m trying to remember this, but he said that somebody asked him if he had kids, and he didn’t want to get into his private life, so he turns it and says, “Are kids important to you?” You know what I mean? Like a therapist; turn it back on them, to avoid engaging too much emotionally, in that instance.”

“Yeah there’s a really fine line, but Laurent told me that yes, sometimes, he absolutely amplifies and acts, and I think I can say this without being out of turn or betraying him really, but sometimes he will exaggerate, or amp up his anxiety, or the lack of funds, and he does some acting, basically, on the phone. He’s not throwing his voice, but sometimes you have to convey a state of mind that the person at the other end of the line will understand, or bond. They’re behaving a way to elicit a prescribed response. They want to steer these people down a certain avenue to get the best result and get these people home.”

Andrew: Was there a particular aspect of playing these roles, and maybe even the stories that come through at points in the season that was maybe surprising, or more fun than you expected, or anything like that?

Nazneen: “Well, everything was a lot more fun. It’s always fun to work with something that actually happened, or work or play a character that truly exists, and is actively working, so that always adds an authenticity and a sense of responsibility. Every episode has its own story and its own charm, and we’re very lucky as a cast, we really got on with each other, pretty much instantly.”

“We always have fun together. Some episodes have more fun stuff, helicopters, and boats, and trains, and that’s always a great fun about being on a show of this nature. I think all the episodes were fun.”

Luke: “They are. What I quite like about it is they often have a different tone. We had one episode, you mentioned the helicopter, and it’s actually, it’s supposed to be a bit of a fun departure. You kind of felt that.”

“I remember one time we were in the tent, and I had finished a take, and I don’t know I probably was delirious because it was so knackered, but I remember Emma had a line to me, and I responded in a slightly unusual way, but it felt right in the moment because of the tone of the episode.”

“Just a little bit more tongue in cheek than usual, and I remember you Nazneen going, when they called cut you were just like Luke. There were moments.”

Nazneen: “There were lots of moments like that, oh my God.”

Luke: “Yeah.”

Andrew: What are these two–and even the whole team–what do they do for fun because I imagine they must have to have a pretty good way of relaxing, or taking a break?

Nazneen: “Well, in episode two, that aired “Grand Slam”, you got to see a little bit of Zara at home. You know I think when she’s home… when’s she’s at work she’s thoroughly professional, and on it, and gets a huge rush off of doing her job extremely well, and at home she is a very involved mom, and a very involved wife. I really like that no matter what situation she is in, she kind of throws herself into that. I think Zara is totally the type of person that likes to, after tuckering her kids in at night, getting a babysitter and going to a bar, and throwing a few back with her husband, with some friends. She’s one of those women.”

Luke: “Yeah, your character definitely compartmentalizes because she is the constant professional when you’re in the situation.”

Nazneen: “But so does yours.”

Luke: “Yeah, mine too I suppose. They are, it’s vocational. I mean these guys have to live and breath these jobs, but they definitely, probably have even bigger call than normal to, as you say, kick back and decompress. After that really intense six months I got a sample of that much. I totally needed to decompress this Christmas. It’s a great team. I do enjoy the chemistry that everybody has when we are in the work zone.”

Nazneen: “When we’re not in the work zone, we like to all go out for dinner, or just go over to each others houses and hang out. Anytime we’re all going out for dinner we’ll all meet at one of each others’ houses, and have a drink first and talk, then go out together. We really did, we all became very close, very quickly, and it made traveling together, and shooting in different locations so much easier. Really just a joy at the end of the day.”

Andrew: That’s awesome. Can you tease anything coming up later in the season?

Nazneen: “Yeah absolutely. In “The Box” you’re going to be introduced to two characters. You’re going to be introduced to Emma Decon’s character, Natalie Denard, who plays Eric Beaumont’s ex-wife. She actually works for an insurance company, so she often hires us to come in and diffuse these situations. Then you also get introduced to someone that you don’t meet. A very shady, mysterious nemesis, that you’re going to eventually meet, but you get a first hint of, and his connection to our team, and to Eric.”

Luke: “It’s fun to tease that kind of stuff out and just say, Emma Decon who is my ex-wife, if you watch Eric, I think he very much thinks he is still married to her.”

Nazneen: “He wishes.”

Luke: “He wishes.”

Nazneen: “Who wouldn’t want to be?”

Luke: “No, as soon as you see her in the white suit you’ll understand.”

Nazneen: “But, right, because you get to get a real insight into the back story of Eric and Maxine in the next episode. Something to look forward to.”

Andrew: Would you call this character that we’re eventually going to meet the equivalent of a “Big Bad”? Is that kind of the idea?

Luke: “Sure. The big bad is what? Like a big bad villain?”

Andrew: Yeah.

Nazneen: “Oh yeah. Well, watch and find out but yes, you’re totally heading down the right road.”

Luke: “Without giving too much away. A big bad is right.”

Nazneen: “You’re absolutely right. Moriarty…”

Luke: “Yeah, it’s somebody who’s also very cerebral and smart, but uses it for other purposes.”

Nazneen: “It’s played by an amazing actor who I won’t reveal.”

Luke: “Yes, don’t reveal. But he’s amazing close to our hearts and amazingly good.”

Andrew: Well, I can’t wait for that. That sounds awesome. Otherwise, what’s it like shooting in Toronto on a show like this? Because Toronto has had some nice success with series these days?

Nazneen: “God, I love shooting in Toronto.”

Luke: “Me too. I’m not from Canada, but when I’m there it just feels like a home away from home. I’ve filmed there a few times, and it’s got a lovely cosmopolitan vibe. To be honest with you, in most of North America, the food is as close to arriving at Kings Cross as you get. Good restaurants.”

Nazneen: “No, I mean I’ve had the, I’ve actually shot in Toronto for the last three years. I shot the Final season of Covert Affairs there from April to October, then I shot Heroes Reborn from May to November, then I got to shoot Ransom from July to the end of September. I also get to be there during the best months of the year. I get to be there for tech. Awesome.”

“It’s a great city to shoot in. I used to live there, so all of my friends are there, my family is there, my husband used to live there too, so it’s like coming home. It’s the best. If I’m not going to shoot in LA, I want to shoot in Toronto.”

Luke: “I would be very happy to live there. It’s a nice spot.”

Andrew: Excellent. Well, we hope to welcome you back for season two.

Luke: “Thank you.”

Nazneen: “Thank you, we love The Six.”

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