Slight spoilers ahead for the series premiere of Slow Horses.
Acting talent like Academy Award winner Gary Oldman is a good indication of a serious, grounded approach to anything thrown his way. Equally talented in understatement and bombast, the new series Slow Horses uses Oldman’s talents rather well, casting him as the “irascible” Jackson Lamb. Far from the usual air of authority his characters tend to contain, the latest title to join the library of Apple TV+ shows does allow Gary Oldman to subvert that notion in a fairly interesting way. Thanks to Jackson’s frequent usage of farts in his dealings with people, what would normally be a comedic beat is an important and frequent character trait.
When we’re introduced to Slow Horses’ head of the dysfunctional spy group known as Slough House, Jackson Lamb is sleeping on his sofa. Awakening himself with a rather loud bout of flatulence, Gary Oldman’s character establishes his pattern for punctuating his world in foul nature. It's definitely a far cry from the stoic “sound detective” that Oldman played as Jim Gordon in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, or even Oldman’s previous take on the world of espionage in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
That’s to be expected, as Slow Horses – adapted from author Mick Herron’s Slough House series of books – isn’t a super serious world of world-saving spies. Rather, executive producer and writer Will Smith’s cross between the intrigue of 24 and the deadpan/insult humor he helped make a hit on both The Thick Of It and Veep allows Jackson Lamb’s quirky trait to feel right at home.
So much so that when I spoke with Gary Oldman and Jack Lowden on the press day for the Apple TV+ (opens in new tab) series, I had to ask how he approached moments like that. Ever game to answer, Oldman told CinemaBlend the following, with Lowden adding some fun color commentary to that response:
Gary Olman: Well, you don’t…obviously you don’t physically conjure it up on cue. But, how do you play those scenes? Well, you kind of mime the, um…
Jack Lowden: …the little rise.
Oldman: The rise, you raise the cheek.
Lowden: Like you’re on a boat.
Oldman: And then, of course, Kristen Scott Thomas will react, and do her thing of, ‘My God, you’re disgusting.’ And then I surrender it to the sound department.
Hitting the ground running is one of the series’ strong suits, as Apple TV+ subscribers were also introduced to Jack Lowden’s disgraced spy River Cartwright, just as he’s about to botch a huge training exercise. Thanks to personal contacts in the clandestine services, Cartwright manages to escape total expulsion at Slough House; though suffering under a gassy superior who prefers making people quit on their own isn’t exactly too much of an improvement.
One especially defiant act of flatulence comes in a scene where Oldman’s Jackson Lamb is having a clandestine meeting with his more elevated counterpart Diana Taverner (Kristen Scott Thomas), the “second desk” at MI5’s posh Regent’s Park headquarters. During a conversation in which Diana asks Jackson for some very specific favors, he purposely drops a disruptive cloud on the moment.
In character, Diana’s reaction is one of intense disgust, just as Gary Oldman recalled above. However, one wouldn’t be mistaken for thinking that maybe this Slow Horses beat was a gut buster on set. Farts can be funny, especially when the process of acting one is as subtle but hilarious as previously described.
Apparently, that wasn’t the case though, as Kristen Scott Thomas revealed she was able to soldier through the scene quite simply. Though what Thomas lacked in response to the farting pantomime of Gary Oldman, she made up for in actual knowledge of fartistry:
Twelve episodes in total are in the can for Slow Horses’ first season, and if the show’s picked up beyond Season 1, even more of Mick Herron’s Slough House saga will be brought to life. Whether or not the following chapters would be just as rotten in terms of Jackson Lamb’s respect towards authority is yet to be seen. However, that hasn’t stopped Jack Lowden and Gary Oldman from setting some lofty goals for the ever supportive sound department:
Jack Lowden: If they don’t win an award for sound design…
Gary Oldman: BAFTA!
Lowden: And they can stand, because I want to see that team stood on stage, accepting an award for flatulence. Please can that happen!
While audiences have no control over whether BAFTA voters honor Slow Horses or not, they do have the option to support the series. Currently, the first two episodes are available on Apple TV+, with subsequent episodes debuting every Friday for those spy fans looking for entertaining movies and TV shows in the genre of espionage. For the total rundown of upcoming premieres, that information is not classified and can be found rather handily with our 2022 TV schedule.
CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.
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