Netflix Almost Turned Down The Night Agent, Its Latest Breakout Hit

"The Night Agent," Netflix's new spy action thriller that became a major sleeper hit for the streaming service, almost didn't make it to the platform's library. Most networks rejected "The Shield" creator Shawn Ryan's pilot script he shopped around, and even though Netflix finally showed interest in developing the show, the streamer had reservations about the plot structure. Luckily for both parties, Ryan's hardcore revision work led to "The Night Agent" becoming the third most-viewed debut season in Netflix television history.

The show, which is based on a novel written by Matthew Quirk, follows FBI agent Peter Sutherland (Gabriel Basso), whose job as a late-night emergency hotline worker brings him into contact with cybersecurity specialist Rose (Luciane Buchanan), panicking about the murder of her family members. That singular event launches the conspiracy quest at the center of the program, but Ryan's draft was a bit more unfocused. In the original pilot, Peter also became embroiled in the affairs of the Secret Service group sent to protect the Vice President's daughter, an element that wasn't a part of Quirk's novel. That plot line still appears in the third episode of the show, but Netflix was (perhaps rightly) worried that it would muddle the story if introduced too soon.

No sleep at night

Both Netflix and NBCUniversal were interested in picking up "The Night Agent," but it was ironically the latter who was more enthusiastic about the project. The issue with NBCU was its slower development process, in which Ryan had to film a pilot before the network made the decision to move forward with an entire season of episodes. In contrast, Netflix would provide an immediate green light if they liked the pitch enough, but they weren't completely on board yet. According to a report from Deadline, Ryan reworked his story to focus on its two main characters, Peter and Rose, and narrow down the scope of the setting to the Washington D.C. area.

The creator shortened his script from 59 pages to 53 and added more meat to the dialogue between Peter and Rose. Netflix's second look-over convinced the streamer to pick up the show, giving Ryan the easier decision to make a final deal with Netflix over NBCUniversal. The development process consisted of Ryan furthering his pitch to cover the entire ten-episode season, a quicker process than what was required for NBC and/or Peacock. Ryan expressed that Netflix "felt like the right place to go to" because "they didn't have anything like it," referring to the sort of prestige political thriller that hearkens back to shows like "24" and "Homeland." His instincts were correct. "The Night Agent" is on track to becoming one of Netflix's most successful shows ever.