Hijack: Is Sam Nelson Based on a Real Negotiator?

Created by George Kay and Jim Field Smith, Apple TV+’s thriller series ‘Hijack’ revolves around Sam Nelson, a corporate negotiator who travels to London from Dubai on Flight KA29. Soon after the departure of the flight from Dubai, a group of individuals hijacks the flight by threatening to kill the lover of the pilot. When the passengers onboard get severely concerned about their fates, Sam tries to negotiate with Stuart, the leader of the hijackers. The engrossing series progresses through Sam’s efforts to win the trust of the hijackers to safeguard everybody onboard. Intrigued by the character, we found whether Sam has any real-life connections or not.

Sam Nelson is Entirely a Fictional Character

No, Sam Nelson is not based on a real negotiator. Sam is a fictional character conceived by the co-creator of the show George Kay. While conceiving the protagonist of the series, Kay and others wanted to make sure that the character doesn’t resemble typical protagonists of the thriller/hostage movies, who are mostly cops, detectives, or military officials. “We tried to understand like, who is the man that’s thinking all the time, but is not necessarily a cop or a detective?” lead performer and executive producer Idris Elba told Variety about the thought behind conceiving a negotiator as the protagonist.

“We ran through psychologist and things like that, but where we ended up was Sam being a sort of merger/acquisitions lawyer, you know, someone that comes in at the end to try and close the deal. Those people are an interesting type of person,” Elba added. A negotiator as the protagonist also helps the show to stay away from the usual tropes of a hostage-oriented thriller. “We didn’t want him to be a cop or detective or an ex-marine or anything like that, because it just felt trope-y. There are enough tropes in a show called ‘Hijack’ anyway,” the actor said in the same Variety interview.

Sam’s job plays an integral part in the narrative since the same revolves around how he tries and succeeds in getting into the heads of the hijackers to ensure the safety of himself, other passengers, and crew members of the flight. “Negotiating is a very interesting way of saying, psychologist. You’re a negotiator, but what you’re actually doing is just picking someone’s psychology, their psyche, their weak spots, and playing it against someone else’s, and having the knowledge of the business deal as a way to set themselves up against each other. And it also meant that he can be quite an orator, a thinker, because he’s a negotiator,” Elba further added to Variety about his character.

Elba identifies Sam as a “fragile man” rather than a potent threat to the hijackers. The profession of a negotiator makes Sam grounded and a listener rather than a typical action hero who wants to defeat his adversaries. Sam doesn’t even bother to hide his vulnerability, which is his attachment to his family. Therefore, it is safe to say that the selection of this particular profession makes the character multi-dimensional. “I was keen to play a character that was not necessarily an action hero but was in an action setting [who has] the sort of vulnerability of a man who’s an ordinary person, who would make mistakes. I don’t want him to be like, “Yeah! Idris is gonna save the day, go and punch him in the mouth.” I wanted him to be vulnerable and a bit like, you know, an unusual hero,” Elba acknowledged the same in the Variety interview.

Read More: Where is Hijack Filmed?