The shoot, understandably, could get tense. Archie Panjabi, who plays a counterterrorism officer, recalled that Smith did his best to keep the set loose. At one point, in an effort to digest one of the series’s many dialogue-heavy scenes on the ground, the cast turned to song and dance between takes.
“We made a little number to it,” Panjabi said, on the same interview call as Elba. “We just got a little bit carried away to just keep the energy.”
“‘Hijack: The Musical,’ coming soon,” Elba quipped.
For all of its modern touches — the realistic diversity, the hero’s cerebral nature and psychological torment — there is something old-fashioned about the appeal of “Hijack.” The collaboration of complete strangers under immense pressure recalls Sidney Lumet’s “12 Angry Men” (1957). The clock’s relentless ticking toward disaster and the mad, mass scramble to prevent the worst outcome bring to mind “Fail Safe” (1964, also directed by Lumet).
This throwback quality was a big draw for Elba. Proud of the show, he knows that won’t mean much if people don’t watch. He wants viewers to know that this harrowing experience, which would be the ultimate nightmare in real life, is actually rather fun onscreen.
“For me, it’s really well-done escapism,” he said. “It’s intelligent, and I think that it’s relatable hopefully for a lot of people. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel — it’s just really good, clever storytelling with compelling characters.”
Panjabi agrees. She recalled that her agent initially sent her scripts for the first three episodes to gauge her interest. She tore through them and immediately asked if she could see the rest. Concerned, her agent asked if she was having doubts.
No, Panjabi recalled telling her: “I just need to know what happens to the passengers.”