The limited-run Western series premieres Friday on Prime Video.
The English are coming. Or should that be The English is coming? Either way, the six-episode limited-run Western series starring Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place) and Chaske Spencer (Wild Indian) is available for sporadic viewing or full-throttle binging starting Friday on Prime Video.
What’s it all about? According to the Prime Video press release:
“An epic chase Western, The English takes the core themes of identity and revenge to tell a uniquely compelling parable on race, power, and love. An aristocratic Englishwoman, Lady Cornelia Locke (Blunt), and a Pawnee ex-cavalry scout, Eli Whipp (Spencer), come together in 1890 mid-America to cross a violent landscape built on dreams and blood. Both of them have a clear sense of their destiny, but neither is aware that it is rooted in a shared past.
“They must face increasingly terrifying obstacles that will test them to their limits, physically and psychologically. But as each obstacle is overcome, it draws them closer to their ultimate destination —the new town of Hoxem, Wyoming. It is here, after an investigation by the local sheriff Robert Marshall [Stephen Rea of The Crying Game and Interview with the Vampire] and young widow Martha Myers [Valerie Pachner of A Hidden Life and The King’s Man] into a series of bizarre and macabre unsolved murders, that the full extent of their intertwined history will be truly understood, and they will come face-to-face with the future they must live.”
Blunt and Spencer recently appeared together for an online press conference to promote The English, which was written and directed by Hugo Blick, and filmed on location in Spain. Here are some highlights from that event.
Emily, there isn’t much on your resume to indicate you’ve spent much time in the saddle. How did you prepare for this project?
Emily Blunt: Well, I trained for about three months horse riding before I started it. I think for other projects I’ve done, I’ve had to sort of do quite basic horse riding. But this one required you to actually know what you were doing. So I rode about eight different horses in that time over the three months. The guy I was working with, Steve Dent, he’s done every sort of big horse scene in any movie you could name. He was wonderful, and just kept changing the horse up on me, so that by the time I got to Spain I was ready for any horse they were going to throw at me. And I loved it. I adored it. I think by the end I did feel I knew what I was doing, and I hope that the horse by the end of it didn’t think I was such a rookie, Because they can tell. The moment you get on their back, they’re like, “This is a beginner.” I think I felt really confident by the end, and I really loved it. I really did.
Chaske, you had to appear proficient with weaponry that’s quite a bit older than what you may have handled before. How did you prepare for that?
Chaske Spencer: It was an adjustment because, while we were not using real guns, the weight of it was there. So I had time to practice with my pistol and with the shotgun. I spent hours doing that pumping thing with the shotgun — hours! — and I think there’s maybe a second or two of it on film. But it was fun. It just helps me get into the character, to have confidence in that character, if I know what I’m doing. And for me to put myself in that, I have to throw myself into it and try to get as good as I possibly can for the camera. Which doesn't mean I have to be great. It just means I have to be able to go from ‘Action’ to ‘Cut.’
Emily: [Laughs] At least for one take.
Chaske: [Laughs] At least for one take.
What was your initial response when you first read the script for The English?
Emily: I just thought it was so beautiful. It was the most tender love story and surprising love story. I loved their chemistry. I thought she was just this sort of buoyant, hopeful over-sharer, and he was quite withheld and restrained and a man of few words. And so it made for these lovely sparkly scenes between them as they reveal more and more of themselves to each other. And need each other to survive, need each other desperately. What about you? What did you think?
Spencer: I felt pretty much the same thing, what you just said. I felt like when I was reading the script, I wanted to know more and more as I kept turning the page about where their relationship was going and how it would develop. And plus seeing how they came from two different sides, two different cultures — I found it really fascinating that they found some middle ground, and it was built in tragedy and healing.
Let’s talk about building that relationship. What was the process in terms of developing the connection we see on screen?
Emily: Well, we met beforehand, and we developed it together beforehand. And we would rehearse over Zoom before we got to Spain. Then we had a couple of weeks in Spain to talk about it, but I don’t think we overworked any of the scenes. We mainly just talked about it and realized how similarly we approached them and felt about them. And we were both sort of in love with the tenderness of this love story. That was such a joy to do. He’s very easy to be around and to work with, and I loved what you did with the part, always like leading it. That’s so cool. I loved what he did with him. I loved Eli. I just loved him. I think everyone will love him, to be honest. You’ll have hearts pounding for this character. It's the truth.
Chaske: It was quite easy working with her. Like you said, we did the research before we got there, so it just felt so at ease going into the scenes and between takes and setups. And yeah, we didn't over-rehearse it too much. And I always felt, even in the heavy scenes, we kind of kept it light just so we can go there.
There is a moment in the first episode where Cornelia proves just how tough she can be by killing someone in front of Eli. And while this might have been the last thing he was expecting her to do, he merely nods and says: “Huh!” That’s all it takes for us to know we’re seeing the start of a beautiful friendship.
Chaske: [Laughs] Well, I’m glad that is all it took.
But it also tells us this is one badass woman, and not a damsel in distress.
Emily: No, she is not. She’s the damsel not in distress, which was so cool. And she is such a surprising character. She's endlessly surprising, I think, even to herself. And maybe what was fun about that scene is that, yes, she ends up killing a guy, but is then kind of guilt-ridden and horrified by what she’s done afterwards. But she’s led with her instinct. She moves forward, is propelled forward by instinct, not by strategy and not with a great deal of thought. She’s just quite a propulsive character. So I always loved the humanity of those moments afterwards. I think her guilt in killing people sort of dwindles as the series goes on. She becomes far more able and able-bodied to carry it out because it’s taking her to that final destination. But I always loved Eli’s response, because it’s all he has to say. He doesn’t need to say anything else. He’s just completely surprised that she does that. And also it’s like, “Oh, that’s interesting. I didn’t know that about you. That was unexpected," is sort of said when he goes, “Huh.” It's just a great response. A great response.