A HOTEL WITH NO RESERVATIONS
- Indulge yourself with five-star drama, U.S. premiere Hotel Babylon -
Decadence and debauchery are all part of the package in Hotel Babylon, inspired by Imogen Edwards-Jones' novel about life behind the scenes at London's top-class hotels. Deputy Manager Charlie Edwards (Max Beesley, Bodies) is the viewers' guide to what's behind the glittering chandeliers in this expos� of a hedonistic world, where, for just one night, guests can live their dream. Hotel Babylon premieres Wednesday, August 8, 9:00 p.m. ET/PT.
Charlie's boss is Rebecca Mitchell (Tamzin Outhwaite, Red Cap, Frances Tuesday), the hotel's no-nonsense General Manager. She's determined to keep guests coming back for more, but running a tight ship has taken a toll on her private life. Charlie tries not to get distracted from his ambitions by Jackie (Natalie Mendoza, Moulin Rouge), the straight-talking, stunning Head of Housekeeping or the vicious-yet-gorgeous Head Receptionist, Anna (Emma Pierson, The Worst Week of my Life). In a crisis, he can always depend on super-concierge Tony (Dexter Fletcher, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels), who prides himself on being able to fix anything for anybody, anytime.
In the first episode, Charlie has to get a world-famous rock band to have a blast while spending as much money as possible at the hotel. This seemingly easy task � rock stars and five-star hotels are a match made in heaven � becomes surprisingly tricky. But Charlie's determined to prove his worth to Rebecca and win a promotion.
Of course guests at Hotel Babylon are suitably glamorous. They include Anthony Head (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Little Britain), Zoe Tapper (Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky), Susie Amy (Footballers Wive$), Joan Collins (Dynasty) and Rachael Stirling (Tipping the Velvet) all making guest appearances.
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WHAT THE BRITISH PRESS SAID
"It's an eye-opener and a half...lifting the veil on a cynical world behind a luxurious facade and having enormous fun in the process...swanky, fast-moving... I loved it." Daily Express
"Like a perfectly executed souffl� � impressive to look at, delicious to eat, easy to digest and so light it is almost insubstantial....There is much to be said for a good souffl�." The Times
"It's flashy, it's trashy, and it can't fail to be a hit." Sunday Express
"Hilarious ... cheeky, frothy, high-gloss drama." Daily Mail
"Top stuff." Daily Star Sunday
"Max Beesley is brilliant." The Times
Rebecca Mitchell (played by Tamzin Outhwaite)
The Prada and Jimmy Choo-loving General Manager of Hotel Babylon has wanted to run a five-star hotel since walking past one on a London shopping trip as a child. 35 and on top of her game, she's ambitious to the degree that she can't focus on anything else, least of all her crumbling marriage. Rebecca's main concern is her hotel and she will always put the guest first. Well, as long as profits are secure.
Charlie Edwards (played by Max Beesley)
Deputy Manager Charlie is 32, attractive, and technically single. He introduces us to Hotel Babylon, giving us all the tips we need to know. He has morals, despite his complex past and bending the truth on his job application. Unlike Rebecca, he stumbled into his career. But now that he's got a taste of the luxury hotel lifestyle, he wants more.
Anna Thornton-Wilton (played by Emma Pierson)
Anna, 26, is not aristocratic by any means, although she'd like you to think so. As far as she's concerned, it's only a matter of time before she bags a wealthy guest. Her sole ambition is to marry into the lifestyle she believes she deserves. Horribly insincere, she doesn't worry about people liking her. You'll love to hate her.
Tony Casemore (played by Dexter Fletcher)
Tony is 37 and married with children. But with the hours he works at the Concierge desk, he doesn't get to see much of them. Tony can get anything, from anywhere, within 24 hours. An effortless charmer, Tony's goal is to raise enough in tips over the next few years to retire at 44 � an even greater incentive to give the guests everything they want.
Jackie Clunes (played by Natalie Mendoza)
Head of Housekeeping and 28, Jackie is a single mother who took the job for the schedule. A fling with Charlie spices up her week, adding more than a little excitement to room inspections. A staunch team player, Jackie is always fiercely protective of the below-stairs staff � those who the guests rarely see.
Ben Trueman (played by Michael Obiora)
Receptionist Ben, 23, loves to spend his time in the stylish luxury hotel environment. He's not ambitious � he's not sure what he really wants to do with his life. He's been at Babylon for about a year, and is still quite wide-eyed. He gets downright starstruck when some of the more glamorous guests check in.
Charlie introduces viewers to the world of Hotel Babylon � a world of fantasy and indulgence, where you can be whatever you want to be, provided you have the cash to pay for it. Charlie's interviewed by Rebecca for the job of Deputy Manager, but ex-lover Anna emerges as a clever and formidable opponent. To prove his worth, Charlie must manipulate a world-famous rock band into spending as much money as possible � which is proving unusually tricky. Adding to his worries, a suspicious limo driver, Pete, shows up at the hotel, asking for favors. Meanwhile, it's discovered that Rebecca is mysteriously hiding out at the hotel.
Episode one premieres Wednesday, August 8, 9:00 p.m. ET/PT.
Charlie explains that image is everything in the hotel business, and if there's anything that tarnishes it, it's a hotel full of hookers and suicides. Unfortunately for Charlie, Rebecca puts him in charge of keeping a suicidal guest alive and Tony has to deal with the repercussions of others mistaking a legitimate guest for a hooker. But this is the least of Tony's worries � Rebecca's rebranding of his job title rocks his confidence further.
While the staff help an elderly ex-worker celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary, Rebecca is forced to reflect on her own marriage. Limo driver Pete, meanwhile, becomes more demanding as he threatens to divulge whatever it is he knows about Charlie's mysterious past.
Episode two premieres Wednesday, August 15, 9:00 p.m. ET/PT.
A wealthy Russian student begs Charlie to help her organize a green card wedding at the hotel, but it is only when Tony reminds Charlie of how much cash they could make from delivery scams that Charlie agrees � realizing it's the one way he can raise the money to keep blackmailing limo driver, Pete, away from Rebecca. Finding an agreeable suitor is easy enough, but can they convince the student's billionaire father and moreover, Rebecca, that the wedding is genuine?
Episode three premieres Wednesday, August 22, 9:00 p.m. ET/PT.
It's not just guests who are affected by the lure and implicit sexiness of a five-star hotel � it's also the staff. An encounter with a wealthy American businessman sends Anna into a spin. She'll stop at nothing to get this man (and the lifestyle) that she's after, even if it does mean breaching the policy of no guest/staff relationships. Meanwhile, Charlie is thinking about crossing the line himself, but the guest he's after is not all she seems.
Episode four premieres Wednesday, August 29, 9:00 p.m. ET/PT.
Rebecca's uncharacteristic good mood unsettles the staff � especially Charlie. In the guts of the hotel, viewers witness a world the guests never get to see � the immigrant labor that really makes the place work. But a raid on the hotel by immigration officers forces the issue into the light. Meanwhile, Charlie is asked by a guest to help cover up an affair she's been conducting at the hotel. Rebecca takes a hard line with Charlie, refusing to let him intervene, and disarms him by implying that she knows something about his fraudulent past.
Episode five premieres Wednesday, September 5, 9:00 p.m. ET/PT.
It's the night shift and Rebecca has left Charlie in charge while she escapes for an uncharacteristic romantic night. He has Anna for company, much to their mutual dissatisfaction. When Anna is convinced she's heard a guest murder his wife in one of the bedrooms, Charlie refuses to take her seriously. That is, until the graveyard shift beds in, and a sequence of further spooky events, including the mystery disappearance of the hotel's security guard, forces Charlie to take the matter into his own hands.
Episode six premieres Wednesday, September 12, 9:00 p.m. ET/PT.
When more than $5,000 goes missing from a guests' room, Rebecca comes down hard on the staff and everyone is a suspect, facing instant dismissal if found guilty. Riled and suddenly untrusting, she calls in an auditor. Meanwhile, Charlie manages to persuade Rebecca to interview a young man for a job at the hotel. But something he says gives Charlie the shivers � could he be the thief? Meanwhile, a hotel guest, who's had a less than perfect experience, surprises everyone by revealing himself as a hotel inspector � with a damning threat.
Episode seven premieres Wednesday, September 19, 9:00 p.m. ET/PT.
The inspector's report is serious and Rebecca is on the warpath. The loss of a rating star will mean loss of jobs. The surprise arrival of the hotel chain's European Director unsettles the staff further, but he's only the start of their worries. A star witness is being housed at the hotel during the course of an infamous gangland trial. While Tony worries about staff safety, Rebecca finds herself being wooed by an offer of promotion abroad. Before she can make up her mind � gun shots ring out.
Episode eight premieres Wednesday, September 26, 9:00 p.m. ET/PT.
A prominent politician's wife, Theresa, is forced to hide in the hotel following the news that her husband, Robert, has had an affair. When Theresa and Rebecca bond over drinks in the hotel bar, a wealthy Texan gives Theresa the eye. Rebecca encourages her go for it, only to later discover that he is an undercover reporter. Feeling personally responsible, Rebecca resolves to sort out the situation. Meanwhile, the hotel staff enters a war with rival hotel, The Burlington, resulting in the theft of all bar stools. Gino ups the ante by stealing a prized painting of the Burlington's founder, but the battle is far from over.
Episode nine premieres Wednesday, October 3, 9:00 p.m. ET/PT.
A soccer team spends the night at the hotel right before a Cup game they are favored to win. They get up to all sorts of antics, but matters reach a head for Tony when he sees the team's respected manager Peter Yardley taking a kickback. After being assaulted by one of the players Rebecca has had enough and, together with the rest of the staff, hatches a plan to get revenge. Elsewhere, Anna is baffled when a strange group of people, all dressed in black and named after Cornish villages, check into Babylon. Curious to know what they are up to, Anna decides to deliver their room service personally.
Episode ten premieres Wednesday, October 10, 9:00 p.m. ET/PT.
Caz Simpson, a former chambermaid at The Lanesborough and friend of Anna, checks in as the new Lady Stanwood. Caz and husband Lord Stanwood are hosting a charity masked ball. A jealous Anna lies in order not to be outdone, calling herself the "manager in waiting" and manages to get herself into the ball by "borrowing" a costume. Meanwhile, Ben puts on a charade of his own when it's announced rap artist Switchback is staying at the hotel, reverting back to speaking in street slang � much to the amazement of his colleagues.
Episode eleven premieres Wednesday, October 17, 9:00 p.m. ET/PT.
A seemingly high-flying businessman proposes to his girlfriend in the restaurant. Initially, she seems delighted, but when she learns he lost his job six months previously and his money is running out, she dumps him. Charlie saves him from throwing himself off the balcony in despair and helps him get back on his feet. But it all comes crashing down when his ex comes to the hotel with her new man. Elsewhere, Rebecca decides to have a party with her best friends � Estelle, Louise and Carolyn � and enjoy the luxuries of the five-star hotel. But their friendship is soon put to the test.
Episode twelve premieres Wednesday, October 24, 9:00 p.m. ET/PT.
Former shop assistant turned reality show celebrity Carrie Cottan is the object of Gino's desires. Gino finds he is unable to resist exploring Carrie's room but is surprised when another staff member shows up wanting to steal photos to sell to the press. Meanwhile, Jackie is delighted when a novelist she admires stays at the hotel prior to his latest book launch. Jackie makes an excuse to see him, but then things start to get nasty. In this episode Anna will also suffer a close call with a board member's wife.
Episode thirteen premieres Wednesday, October 31, 9:00 p.m. ET/PT.
Tony loses out on the Concierge of the Year award because his services are deemed old-fashioned. Even worse, Gino is has just won Barman of the Year and won't let him forget it. Meanwhile, the team plans for retaliation when Rebecca cancels their Christmas party. Anna helps the assistant to a famous British actor, who also happens to be a renowned sex addict.
Episode fourteen premieres Wednesday, November 7, 9:00 p.m. ET/PT.
Charlie is trying to balance two women when his younger brother arrives at the hotel, in serious trouble. Meanwhile, the hotel hosts a wine taste-off to win a case of very expensive Petrus �61. When it's discovered that Ben has an excellent nose, the staff conspires to have him enter, and win, the contest. Finally, fed up with having his stock stolen by hotel staff, Gino refuses to give them any more free drinks. In revenge, Anna and Tony play a trick on Gino making him believe he is being haunted. But Gino uncovers the trick and turns the tables on his friends.
Episode fifteen premieres Wednesday, November 14, 9:00 p.m. ET/PT.
Hotel Babylon is facing a takeover by Donovan Credo, who is infamous in the hotel trade for ousting the staff and bringing in his own clones. Rebecca is to be kept on but Donovan allows her to keep only two members of her staff. Rebecca chooses Charlie but makes him decide upon the other, dangling the managerial career carrot in front of him.
Episode sixteen premieres Wednesday, November 21, 9:00 p.m. ET/PT.
CAST AND PRODUCTION CREDITS
Rebecca Mitchell Tamzin Outhwaite (Frances Tuesday)
Charlie Edwards Max Beesley (Bodies)
Tony Casemore Dexter Fletcher (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels)
Anna Thornton-Wilton Emma Pierson (The Worst Week of my Life)
Jackie Clunes Natalie Mendoza (Moulin Rouge)
Gino Primirola Martin Marquez (Waking the Dead)
Ben Trueman Michael Obiora (Doctor Who, Afterlife)
Derek Crisp Michael Attwell (Daniel Deronda)
James Schofield Ray Coulthard (Extras)
Dave Wiltshire Ian Bonar
Pete Craig Kelly (Afterlife)
Tanya Danira Govic (Sex Traffic)
Special Guest Stars
Anthony Head (Buffy the Vampre Slayer, Little Britain)
Zoe Tapper (Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky)
Steve Pemberton (The League of Gentlemen)
Susie Amy (Footballers Wive$)
Les Dennis (Extras)
Joan Collins (Dynasty)
Stephen Berkoff (Beverly Hills Cop)
Lisa Faulkner (MI-5)
Rachael Stirling (Tipping the Velvet)
David Walliams (Little Britain)
Joan Collins (Footballers Wive$)
Writers Tony Basgallop (Eps 1, 2, 7, 8, 9)
Howard Overman (Eps 3, 6)
Harry Wootliff (Ep 4)
Toby Whithouse (Ep 5)
Simon Block (Ep 10, 16)v
Andy Rattenbury (Ep 11)
Jack Lothian (Ep 12)
Harriet Braun (Ep 13, 15)
Imogen Edwards-Jones (Ep 14)
Directors Alrick Riley (Eps 1, 2, 3)
Iain B MacDonald (Eps 4, 5, 6)
Keith Boak (Eps 7, 8)
Andy Wilson (Ep 9, 10, 11)
Paul Whittington (Ep 12, 13, 14)
Nigel Douglas (Ep 15, 16)
Based on the book, Hotel Babylon, by Imogen Edwards-Jones & Anonymous
Producer Christopher Aird
Executive Producer Gareth Neame
A Carnival Films production for BBC
Some would say that Max Beesley, at the age of 34, has already lived two lives juggling two very successful careers � one as a musician and the other as one of the UK's most sought-after young actors. "I messed around in school a lot, trying to impress the girls and make them laugh while they were the ones laughing at me about to fail � almost, but not quite! I am incredibly ambitious now and still have nightmares where I dream I am taking all my exams between the ages of 11 and 18 in one week and haven't done enough work. So now I have this weird Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder with anything I do and an almost blind ambition with everything I do � I just want to do things well. I get a kick out of working very hard and making things happen."
Beesley admits that this is most likely to do with his upbringing. "My dad is a grafter (hard worker) yet an artist and my mother was an absolute survivor who worked hard all her life. We didn't have much money when we were growing up but we never wanted for anything. Things like central heating we didn't have at all but it wasn't like a �woe is me' struggle all the time because Dad looked after us really well."
Later, Beesley, at the age of 11, obtained a scholarship to study at Chethams School of Music in Manchester, followed by London's Guildhall School of Music. "My upbringing and childhood definitely helped to mold a nice amount of compassion and warmth in my heart and, especially in the area I grew up in (Burnage), it could have gone the other way. It was a working-class life and upbringing but I was fortunate to have artistic parents who could help channel my skills towards other things."
Max was three when he picked up his first drumsticks and can play piano, drums and percussion well � but humbly admits that he could probably do alright on most instruments. After a stint at the Guildhall, he joined Paul Weller's band as a session musician and went on to perform for the next six years with musicians including The Brand New Heavies, Jamiroquai, George Benson, George Michael, Chaka Khan, and Take That � but it was his father that was to play yet another pivotal role in shaping Max's future.
"I was back in Manchester from being off somewhere on the road and my dad showed me Raging Bull one night and it changed my life � I decided there and then I wanted to be an actor. So I phoned someone I'd met at the MTV awards who knew De Niro and coaxed her to find out who his acting coach was. I then rang Sheila Grey in New York and said I was doing theatre on Broadway and asked if I could have a class with her and that was that. I flew out there for a year and spent all my money."
When he got back from New York he ended up in Shepherds Bush eating tuna, rice and mayo for about a year, before landing a role in the BBC drama Tom Jones, which heralded the beginning of his film career � though he admits to it being a difficult time.
"Everyone wanted to do films at the time. I got caught up in accepting movie after movie and did about 13 in a row that went nowhere. It was a really worrying time so I sat with my agent and discussed a plan of action � which was to focus again on television drama, since there was so much good work out there � and that was that. Bodies came around and that was really the start of it for me. What I loved about Bodies is that it is right-in-your-face drama. It is not just another medical show but it is scary, tough and challenging television.
Having traveled the world and lived the rock star life for six years, Beesley is keeping quiet about his experiences of staying in five-star hotels. "Let's just say I've seen a few television sets go flying, but I can't tell you who was behind or in front of them," he laughs.
Tamzin Outhwaite is undisputedly one of the UK's most popular young actors, but she still had time to get engaged to fellow actor Tom Ellis (Doctor Who) in 2005. "I'm very happy and getting engaged to Tom was just amazing � I didn't stop crying for hours � it was difficult to come back down to Earth."
Despite being married, Tamzin is adamant she will always remain close to her girlfriends. "As I've got older I've realized how important my female friends are to me and I can call them any time, night or day and know what comes out of their mouths is going to make sense. I often go away with my best girlfriends and while they are lying in the sun I am usually found beneath the waves diving. I absolutely love it. It's my thing."
Tamzin has often been asked where her favorite hotel in the world is, but for her there is no more beautiful or peaceful destination than the Maldives. "It is just extraordinary. You are actively encouraged not to wear shoes on the island. You can just do whatever you want to do and if that includes staying in your pjs or bikini all day, that is your prerogative. I usually read books endlessly and of course mix it with the occasional dive. I love the intimacy and peace of exploring the sea. It is just me and the reef and of course the sea creatures I meet on my travels � or maybe they meet me. It's all one big secret which is there to explore. It's gorgeous."
Despite her love of the sea, her real passion is her work. "I've had a really busy year but I am always happiest when I'm working. When great, fun parts come along, like Rebecca in Hotel Babylon, it's hard to walk away from them. And of course the costume designer made sure my character was dressed in the finest suits, including Armani, Paul Smith, Prada, Jimmy Choo and Dolce & Gabbana."
Working on Hotel Babylon certainly opened Tamzin's eyes to the goings-on in the industry. "I've been lucky and privileged enough to stay in some gorgeous five-star hotels around the world, but despite hearing stories and rumors, until I read Imogen's book (which I read a long time before I was attached to the drama), I had no idea what went on. It will certainly make me watch the staff more closely the next time I stay in a luxury hotel."
BEHIND THE SCENES AT HOTEL BABYLON
Hotel Babylon � notes from author, Imogen Edwards-Jones
When I first sat down with Anonymous, a manager of one of the capital's five star hotels and the source for Hotel Babylon, I had my preconceptions. Luxury hotels were obviously going to be expensive; they were going to be decadent; they were going to be glamorous places where the staff were put-upon and the guests had their every whim and fancy catered for. But what I wasn't expecting was how secretive this world would be or quite how materialistic. For this is a business where cash is king, anything goes, and no one really wants to talk about it.
Initially, my meetings with Anonymous were very cloak and dagger, like something out of a rather poor Cold War movie. We'd always liaise by mobile, I'd never call him at work and we would meet for furtive flutes in various salubrious and secluded bars around town. Our consorting, he explained, could get him fired. For he had, along with the majority of the hotel, signed some sort of confidentiality contract, which was designed to prevent idle chatter and ensure the privacy of important guests. But it didn't seem to deter him too much. And after a while he began to relax. I'd come to the hotel, we'd meet in reception, I'd have a drink in the bar. Eventually we ended up booking into suites in his hotel for the afternoon, ordering up refreshments on room service. Although quite what the staff thought their boss was doing, in a suite, with a woman, in the middle of the day, is anyone's guess. But then again they are used to that sort of thing.
Bad behavior, you would think, is par for the course in the luxury hotel business: a demanding guest here, a drunken guest there, an illicit couple, some broken glasses. But what the hotel staff really have to put up with from guests who are shelling out between $700 and $7,000 a night would shock even the most jaded of souls, myself included. And it is usually the chambermaids who are at the sharp end. Dirty needles, used condoms, porn mags all pale into insignificance when it comes to the middle-aged woman who left a rather large accident in the bed before she went off to view the Summer Exhibition. Or even the thrifty businessmen who urinate in to whisky miniatures so they don't have to pay for their late night snifter from the minibar. None of it is the sort of thing you'd expect from an establishment where it is $50 for afternoon tea and Champagne is over $30 a glass.
But then again the more I heard about the hotel industry, the more I became astounded by human nature. Something strange really does happen to a guest as soon as they come
through the revolving glass doors of a hotel. Perfectly respectable businessmen go wild. They don't just let their hair down � their trousers and underwear go too. Away from home, on expenses, they dial up porn and seek out �company' like they have never come across the opposite sex before. Crossing that reception threshold, they seem to divest themselves of all responsibility and revert to an almost teenage state. With the most rudimentary tasks, including bed-making, taken care of, the guests have nothing but their pleasure and entertainment to worry about. The results are extraordinary: guests having sex in corridors, in the lifts, passing out in corridors, falling through windows and knocking themselves unconscious in the urinals.
Below stairs, it couldn't be more different. The world of Dirty Pretty Things does exist. First generation immigrants, asylum seekers and foreigners who have only a minimal grasp of English all work long hours for low wages. They have no prospect of promotion or even a whiff of a tip. They are the lost souls of the hotel industry who slop out the kitchens, bleach the corridors and hose down the staff toilets in the early hours of the morning. Their existence is in stark contrast to the above stairs experience.
I always knew that hotels spoiled their guests, I also always knew that in most five star establishments the food and the wine were outstanding. But what I wasn't prepared for was the delicious Epicureanism of it all � fresh lobsters, sides of hand-sliced smoked salmon, baskets of truffles, pots of caviar and two hundred-year-old Cognacs that go for $1,400 a shot. The luxury hotel is run like the ultimate country house, where the finest produce is delivered in its freshest state and prepared by the most professional of hands. The smells, the presentation and the flavor of it all is enough to over-stimulate even the most indulged of palates.
My year on the frontline of the ultimate service industry was a real education. I never expected such decadence and debauchery; I never expected such seediness or such depravity. The highs and the lows, the human sadness contrast amazingly with the great beauty and the fantastic Epicurean excellence they achieve.
The capital's luxury hotels are extraordinary places, full of extraordinary stories, and are a microcosm of the world outside � a sort of London in extremis � if you like. So to see it all come to life in a television drama is an amazing experience. The set is so overwhelmingly sumptuous, I'm afraid I shed a tear when I saw it. It has an upbeat contemporary feel to it all that I was not expecting. And with the likes of Tamzin Outhwaite, Max Beesley and Dexter Fletcher leading the cast, they have engaged some of the best acting talent around. Usually an author is slightly apprehensive when they hand over their literary baby to another. But with Gareth Neame at the helm and Tony Basgallop's creativity, the result is enough to make any mother proud. I can't wait to see the finished result. I know Anonymous is keen as well. In fact, we are talking of taking a suite together in his hotel to watch the first episode go out. That should get some tongues wagging. Then again it might not.