Netflix’s The Night Agent: Is the TV Show Inspired on a True Story?

Image Credit: Dan Power/Netflix

Netflix’s ‘The Night Agent’ is a conspiracy thriller TV series that follows the story of Peter Sutherland, an FBI agent who answers a call that changes his life. A low-level officer, he is put on duty to answer emergency calls from secret agents. One night, when he answers the call, he stumbles upon a terrorist plot that will have severe repercussions for the country. He is accompanied by a tech CEO, Rose Larkin, in his quest to get to the bottom of the truth. The more he digs, the more dangerous it gets for him and Rose.

Created by Shawn Ryan, the series is a high-octane thriller with exciting action sequences and plot twists that keep the audience on edge. Despite all the action and spy stuff, the show has a realistic tone, making it an even better watch. It might also make you wonder whether this story has any truth. Let’s find out.

The Night Agent is Based on Matthew Quirk’s Novel

‘The Night Agent’ is based on the novel of the same name by Matthew Quirk. Before he became a fiction writer, Quirk worked as a journalist for The Atlantic. He reported on crime, international gangs, terrorism, and private military contractors. It brought him close to the elements that he would later incorporate in his novels, bringing a sense of realism to his stories. During this time, he got the idea for ‘The Night Agent.’

Image Credit: Dan Power/Netflix

Quirk revealed that he had a friend in the FBI who worked overnight shifts. Everyone was intrigued because he never revealed anything about the nature of his job. Over time, Quirk learned that his friend was “charged with staying on top of any breaking crises and, if need be, waking up the [FBI] director.” “That idea really stuck with me: a young guy sitting by a phone all night every night, waiting for his moment. What happens when the phone rings, and he’s suddenly dropped into the middle of an emergency, face-to-face with the most powerful people in Washington?” he told The Real Book Spy.

Before writing the novel, the author researched and talked to his friend about his job. “It actually turned out to be quite a bit more interesting and hush-hush than I had suspected,” the author said. To raise the stakes for the story, Quirk set the action of his story in the White House Situation Room. He further talked to other people in the FBI and the CIA to better understand how a situation, like the one Peter Sutherland gets caught up in, would be handled in real life and what the Situation Room would look like during a crisis.

Image Credit: Dan Power/Netflix

While it is a spy story focusing on counterintelligence and conspiracy theories, Quirk wanted it to feel as real as possible, like something plucked out of a news headline. So, he kept an eye on the news, especially the ones under the radar. Then he would give them his own spin, throwing “a grand fictional conspiracy plot” into the mix. However, he confessed that “some of it ended up being a little too close to the truth” and that “writing close to the news certainly makes for some white-knuckle moments.”

One of the things that played a significant role in shaping ‘The Night Agent’ was the 2015 incident of Mikhail Lesin, a Russian millionaire and press minister in Putin’s government, who was found dead in a hotel in Washington. Quirk had been living close to the hotel then, and it worked his imagination in several ways.  The conspiracy of the Russian hack of the 2016 elections and the subsequent Mueller investigation was also one of the news headlines that got the gears turning in his head. His research also brought him across the case of Robert Hanssen, the FBI double agent who worked as a spy for Russian intelligence for over two decades.

With Quirk going deep into research to write the story, ‘The Night Agent’ stays close to reality. Citing the likes of ‘Marathon Man’ and ‘The Thirty-Nine Steps’ as his inspiration, the author stated that the stories in the spy genre generally feel overstated plots and conspiracies that the audience can dismiss as unreal. He didn’t want the same for ‘The Night Agent,’ so he grounded it into reality as much as possible.

Read More: Where is The Night Agent Filmed?