PASADENA A birthday party becomes a battle zone with one swing of a hand in “The Slap,” a new NBC mini-series based on the book by Christos Tsiolkas and the Australian TV series.
Hector (Peter Sarsgaard) is a public servant, husband and father in the throes of a midlife crisis. His wife, Aisha (Thandie Newton), has planned a party to mark Hector’s 40th birthday.
The festive event explodes when Hector’s hot-headed cousin (Zachary Quinto) slaps another couple’s misbehaving child. The production follows the repercussions of the incident, which include long-hidden secrets.
“The interesting thing is it’s not really about the slap, and all of these characters come to the table with a tremendous amount of internal conflict and struggle about different aspects of their lives and relationships,” Quinto says. “ ‘The Slap’ is just this codifying incident that puts all of that into clear relief, and so I think all of us were more interested in the psychological dynamics that are going on outside of the incident of the actual slap.
“It was very difficult for me personally, obviously, so I understand how anybody could be motivated to this until I really got into the idea of what Harry believes he’s defending, the people that he loves, protection, honor, teaching his son what it means to be a man even if that’s a really misguided concept.”
“The Slap” also stars Uma Thurman, Melissa George, Thomas Sadoski and Brian Cox (“X-Men 2,” “Red 2”). Here’s how some of the cast members say they would react if someone slapped their child.
Melissa George (mother of one): She reprises the role she originated in the Australian version of the story as the young boy’s mother.
“I would be in prison if someone slapped my child. I had an incident in Paris where my son was three weeks old. I had left him with my nanny while I went to the ATM machine. I was robbed at the ATM machine by a man and two women and I destroyed three people — left them bruised and batter and in tears on the ground — and went back to my son. All I could think about was getting back and feeding my son. I was under attack and I went for it.”
Peter Sarsgaard (father of two): His character has always been the peacemaker. He must deal with this incident while struggling with his own inner demons.
“I think I would react, unfortunately, like most people do in this production. So little focus is put on the kid that got slapped after this happens. The adults almost immediately become children and all start fighting and taking positions.
“I think I would do what my character does — try to keep the peace. I don’t think I have a violent nature at all.”
Uma Thurman (mother of three): She plays Aisha’s best friend. Because she’s one of the few people at the party not related to Hector, she offers an outsider’s perspective.
“If someone hit my kid, I would go berserk. There would be no getting me off of them. One of the things I love about the piece is it’s a very interesting cultural exploration of the changing face of how to treat a human being, of compassion, of family, what’s acceptable, what’s not acceptable.”