Interview with Stephen Merchant on The Outlaws which returns to UK on May 30 & US on May 31

The gang is back for series three of the comedy-thriller from Stephen Merchant, coming to BBC One, BBC iPlayer and Prime Video

"It’s just a real pleasure to be in the city I was born in" - Stephen Merchant and the cast on filming in Bristol for a brand new series of The Outlaws

Available to view on Prime Video in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Nordics



May 20 - The Outlaws return to BBC One and BBC iPlayer on Thursday 30 May and in other territories on Prime Video on May 31.

Interview with Stephen Merchant who plays Greg in The Outlaws and is also the creator, executive producer and showrunner:

Can you introduce us to The Outlaws?

In the first two series of The Outlaws we met a group of offenders who had committed various crimes, and who were doing community service to pay back for their crimes. During that, they became embroiled in a larger crime that was going on behind the scenes.

The Outlaws found a big bag of money that embroiled them with a criminal drug lord from London. After they’ve stolen the money, they have to pay him back, and so they themselves become drug dealers. There are laughs, there are thrills, there’s tension, there are interpersonal relationships, and this third series picks up their adventures from there.

What can audiences expect from series three of The Outlaws?

Well, the gang is back, and the problems they thought they’d buried become unburied!

What we tried to do with each series was to dial up the tension, the drama, and hopefully the humour. In this instance, in the new series, the tension and the drama that the characters face is turned right up.

Also, we get to continue to explore these characters. I love spending time with them, writing them, seeing the actors bring them to life. So, we get to explore their private lives and how that intersects with this bigger crime story brewing around them.

Can you describe your character, Greg, and his role within The Outlaws?

I play Greg, who is a socially awkward person, and quite a lonely soul. He’s a lawyer who is not particularly good at his job, or at life generally. He’s sort of the legal advisor for the gang of Outlaws.

He has formed an unlikely friendship with Lady Gabby [Eleanor Tomlinson], who is an aristocratic social media influencer. It’s a very sweet and funny relationship. In this new series, they’re roommates, and as her story develops and his story develops, their friendship is challenged by what is going on.

Also, Greg found love at the end of the last series, so the question is will that romance survive given the new pressures and tensions he faces?

The premise of The Outlaws allows for some very unlikely friendships, doesn’t it?

Part of the fun of the show is creating these unlikely friendships amongst all the characters. We’ve got John [Darren Boyd] and Myrna [Clare Perkins], one is a right-wing loudmouth, the other is a left- wing activist. In the first series they were very much polar opposites, and now they’ve become firm friends, even if they squabble a lot over things. They’ve bridged the divide that was between them.

That was always part of the impetus of the series, if you could take people that have very different backgrounds, that come from different walks of life, have different viewpoints, and see if they could find any common ground.

That's what we’ve tried to do with all of the characters. Similarly in the case of my character Greg, and Gabby, they come from very different walks of life, they lead very different lives, but they found a kinship that was unexpected. The idea of that unlikely friendship is very much at the core of The Outlaws.

What is the toughest challenge Greg faces this series?

Among the various challenges my character faces this series, the chief one is him having to step up as a lawyer. You finally see him in court, having to do what lawyers do. He’s always been quite ineffectual; he's always lacked confidence and self-esteem. So, he’s got to stand up in front of a judge, and try to do his job.

What is it like to make The Outlaws?

One of the great things about filming The Outlaws is the community spirit, it’s like a family that moves around the town. It’s just a real pleasure to be in the city I was born in. The weather was good, and it’s just the kind of lovely experience of making the show I dreamed of. The dream was always to come back to my hometown, and see people I knew, my family, introduce actors who hadn’t worked here before to the town and make that feel part of the show.

How important was it for you to film in Bristol?

I was born and raised in Bristol. The show is very much a love letter to Bristol. I love the fact we get to feature different pockets of the city, and in the instance of series three, we are in a city farm. I love showcasing the city. It's very visual, it's full of street art, and it's very hilly which adds interesting depths to the show. Also, the people of Bristol are very welcoming to us. I like the idea of making it another character in the show. In this show it gets to play itself.

What was it like in the writers’ room for series three?

It was really fun, because the characters are established, the world of The Outlaws has been established, you don’t have to explain the show to the audience, you can just jump straight in.

So then it becomes about what is a fun thing to do with these characters. I remember getting writing advice early on, which is that you take a group of characters, chase them up a tree, and then you throw rocks at them. That’s the fun of the writers’ room, how are we going to chase them up a tree and what sort of rocks are we going to throw at them?

There’s quite an elaborate crime plot in The Outlaws. I think when you watch it, you’ll think it isn't that complicated, but it's actually incredibly complicated to construct. You’ve got 7-8 main characters, you’re trying to intersect them and interlink all their stories, and then pay it off in a very satisfying way. So as soon as you introduce a crime thriller plot it becomes very technical. How do we get that person there? How did they get that piece of information? It becomes a real jigsaw, which is both challenging but also stimulating. That the fun of writing really, the joy of solving the puzzle.

Was there any improvisation on set?

I, as a writer, am never precious with the stuff we’ve written. I always think the script is a jumping off point. If people can improve it, add a line here or there, riff through a scene that makes it better, funnier, more dramatic, then I’m very open to that. Because of the tightly knitted story we can’t improvise the whole thing, but we always welcome improv and we’ve got such a great cast, an amazing team of actors, that they’re always bringing something to it. I always like the idea that the actors can make the characters their own and give them their own voice. I like it, I'm not too dictatorial about that stuff.

What one thing would you outlaw?

As far as I’m concerned, the main thing that should be outlawed is eating in cinemas. I don’t know why we encourage this. I don't know why food is served in cinemas. I’ve made films, spent a lot of time getting the sound right, you go to see it in the cinema, people are chomping away through popcorn, they’re eating nachos, the noisiest food known to man. You don’t get this with other art forms, you don’t go to a piano recital, and someone is frying up bacon at the side of the stage. Eat before you come out, people!


PRIME VIDEO INFORMATION: The Outlaws are back for Season 3 of star/creator Stephen Merchant's comedic thriller will premiere with all five episodes on Friday, May 31 on Prime Video. Available to view on Prime Video in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Nordics.

Source BBC One

May 29, 2024 3:00am ET by BBC One  


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