The English | Interview with Greg Brenman (Executive Producer)

Can you describe The English to the audience?

The English is a very exciting Western by Hugo Blick set in 1890. It tells the story of Lady Cornelia Locke, who travels to the vast plains of North America to track a man down who she wants to kill because he was responsible for the death of her son. Along the way, she meets a man called Eli Whipp, who is a Native American and was recently mustered out of the American army. He was a scout for the American army, and so relatively safe within the confines of that place, but outside he’s going to immediately face the kind of prejudice that would quite happily see him lynched from the nearest tree. Together, they form an extraordinary relationship – both on separate quests, but together they find an interesting, highly emotional, highly adrenalised partnership.

There is some incredible talent attached to this series. Could you describe your experience working with Hugo, Emily and Chaske?

We always love working with Hugo Blick – it’s our third show. We did The Honourable Woman and Black Earth Rising, so when he said he wanted to do a Western, I was immediately in – not only because it was him, but who wouldn’t want to make a Western? We also love massive challenges. I love a show which I haven’t a clue how we’re going to make it, how we’re going to fund it or where we’re going to shoot it. That ticked all the boxes. Hugo Blick is the most extraordinary author. He comes up with these amazing ideas. He writes them all, then he puts his pen down and becomes the producer and director with us. He will prep the entire show before he films, and he will film and be the director on set for the entire show. His DNA runs through this project from start to finish. He’s the most amazing writer, incredibly sensitive and nuanced, and sophisticated in his emotional understanding. But he is also the master of action. There are so many deaths, shoot-ups and action sequences that are incredibly inventive in this show.

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Emily has been the most perfect partner on this project from the get-go. We sent her the script and within 48 hours she said, “I’ve been waiting all my life for this story.” Within a week, Hugo was in New York talking to Emily, the week after that we were all in LA, pitching the project. Then on set, Emily was an extraordinary leader of the cast and the crew and set a fantastic tone. She is so invested in this show and this character and it shows. It’s a meticulous performance.

Eli Whipp, who is the co-lead, is played by Chaske Spencer, who is Native American. Obviously, it was very important to us and to the show that the part of the Native American was played by a Native American so it felt authentic and so he could bring his own experience to the part. He and Emily are at the heart of an extraordinary myriad cast with wonderful people in it – we’ve got Stephen Rea, Ciarán Hinds and Toby Jones. North America in the 1890s was an eclectic mix of people from all different nationalities staking a claim to land, coming where they weren’t invited or wanted, or feeling that this is where God wanted them to be. The English, in many ways, deals with the diversity which is the foundation of modern America.

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Why do you think it’s important to tell the story of The English now?

The English is an extraordinary adventure set in 1890, but it tells us as much about the times we live in today as the times in which it’s set. The English is going to take you to a world you’ve often seen, but I think you’ll see it in a very different way. This is a Hugo Blick Western that has got all the different idiosyncrasies of that world. You will forget about 21st century living and will immerse yourself in this world.

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Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.