'The Gentlemen': Theo James, Daniel Ings on scene that turned into a 'messed up chicken snuff movie'

Guy Ritchie's Netflix series brings stylish, but outrageous, comedy to the expansion of the world created in his 2019 film

Following Guy Ritchie's 2019 movie The Gentlemen comes a new Netflix series, with the same name, as an expansion of story about a cannabis empire that we saw in the film, starring Theo James.

The Gentlemen series release date: March 7
Where to watch The Gentlemen: Netflix
Creator: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Theo James, Kaya Scodelario, Vinnie Jones, Daniel Ings, Joely Richardson, Giancarlo Esposito, Michael Vu, Max Beesley
Number of episodes: 8

What is 'The Gentlemen' about?

James plays Eddie Horniman who discovers that his father left him his estate, a bitter pill to swallow for his older brother Freddy (Daniel Ings). But what James discovers is that the property is being used by a woman named Susie Glass (Kaya Scodelario) as part of an underground cannabis operation.

Susie ends up being Eddie's entry into the criminal underworld and gangsters, with an assist from Freddy's bad debts.

It's a series that leans into our curiosity with British aristocracy, but with absolutely wacky humour.

"I always love Guy's brand of humour, this kind of absurdity mixed with a little danger, mixed with kind of pithy one liners," James told Yahoo Canada. "But discovering the comedy of it was a journey for all of us, in a way."

Lady Sabrina (Joely Richardson), Eddie Horniman (Theo James) in The Gentlemen (Netflix)
Lady Sabrina (Joely Richardson), Eddie Horniman (Theo James) in The Gentlemen (Netflix)

The chicken suit moment responsible for 'kickstarting' the series

When we say wacky, we mean it.

In early episodes, a lot of that comes from Daniel Ings as Freddy, including the moment when his father's will is read to the family and he discovers significant assets have been left to his younger brother, with a physical response that is completely over the top.

"I kind of have the license and the excuse to do it because he just sort of exists in this slightly heightened plane of having permanent substance issues on the one hand, but also kind of huge wealth of bitterness ... within him that I felt kind of justifies these big responses," Ings said. "So it's pretty fun because you get to kind of be the disrupter, be the character who can just start throwing stuff across the room."

"That scene in particular was a fun one to do, because we did shoot it a bunch of different ways. And everyone was doing different things, throwing things in. ... Nearly tipped over a like 500-year-old antique cabinet that I didn't realize belonged to the house and not our production."

Daniel Ings as Freddy Horniman in The Gentlement (Christopher Rafael/Netflix)
Daniel Ings as Freddy Horniman in The Gentlement (Christopher Rafael/Netflix)

Then there's the penultimate scene in the pilot, and while we won't give too much away, we will tease that it involves Freddy in a chicken suit.

"On the page, it seemed kind of absurd, but what happened was, it evolved into this kind of messed up chicken snuff movie, and it was fuller and richer than I had anticipated," James said.

"It was a privilege to get to do it," Ings said in a separate interview. "Actually, I credit Guy and Peter Serafinowicz, who plays Tommy Dixon in that scene, for recognizing that actually, the stakes needed to be high in that moment to justify where Freddy goes, the actions that he subsequently takes, and therefore kind of kickstarting the plot of the show."

"In a way it really needs to be this fiercely degrading moment for my character, where he's just stripped bare, and kind of torn apart. And somebody just exposes him in front of his brother and shames him in this way. I credit Guy with kind of recognizing that actually, the way it was written on the page was a fun scene, but it was kind of silly, but it needed to be grosser than that, in a way."

Kaya Scodelario as Susie Glass in The Gentlemen (Christopher Rafael/Netflix)
Kaya Scodelario as Susie Glass in The Gentlemen (Christopher Rafael/Netflix)

Kaya Scodelario's heightened moments, down to the long red nails

On sort of the opposite side of the coin is Kaya Scodelario's Susie, who's a bit more reserved with the chaos around her, relatively speaking, but Scodelario said tapping into the outrageous comedy was "scary" for her.

"She's quiet. She's observing, but there are these kind of inevitable moments that ... are absolutely from the sublime to the ridiculous," Scodelario said. "And it was really fun to let go of that seriousness and to play into that, and to heighten it."

"I made the decision that she would have these ridiculously impractical long nails, which were a nightmare for me for six months with two kids, but what was kind of a little edge to her. That yes, this doesn't make any sense at all, but within this heightened reality, within this world, of course she's going to have enormously long, gorgeous red nails. And it was little moments like that, that was fun to be able to lean into, ... and to go big or go home."

In terms of developing the relationship between Susie and Eddie, Scodelario and James spoke about how they wanted to maintain a sort of interesting tension between the two characters.

"It was an interesting journey to kind of track them on, because they start really resenting each other, he's a problem for her, and she's a huge problem for him," Scodelario said. "And it's over time that they kind of develop this co-working relationship, she's sort of the first one that spots something different in Eddie, he's not like the other lords and dukes that she's worked with before. There's a danger in him and a stillness that I think she really is intrigued by."

"Theo and I, ... we both were on track about, it isn't necessarily a love story, the danger and the romance and the sexiness of it comes through in a different way. ... They do have this banter, this kind of back and forth, you don't know if they want to kill each other or jump into bed together, and we try and keep that tension going for as long as possible. Because again, I find that far more interesting."

Jimmy Chang (Michael Vu) in The Gentlemen (Netflix)
Jimmy Chang (Michael Vu) in The Gentlemen (Netflix)

But a perfect compliment to Susie is Michael Vu's Jimmy, who's just this pot enthusiast, who sometimes can't exactly keep it together, but really wants to impress his boss, Susie.

"I sort of stepped in very nervous and then I found out that Kaya's been to my sister's house before, to get her nails done," he shared. "There was a connection already."

"Once we sort of locked in like that, she became big sister, behind camera as well. When I was a bit nervous, she would see me maybe a bit stressed and she'd come over [and say], 'What's up?' And I said I'm a bit worried about this, or I was unsure about this, and she would give me all the advice and help that I needed."

Guy Ritchie and Vinnie Jones filming The Gentlemen (Christopher Rafael/Netflix)
Guy Ritchie and Vinnie Jones filming The Gentlemen (Christopher Rafael/Netflix)

Uniqueness of a Guy Ritchie set: 'It feels different when you go to work on a set like that'

Ritchie's style of projects have become quite signature throughout the years, an expert of developing a wealthy, sexy crime story.

While Ritchie created The Gentlemen series, he didn't direct all the episodes, so there were stylistic choices that needed to be matched to some degree.

"What was difficult was, Guy directed for the first two and then he was incredibly hands on with the other episodes," James said. "You have to find his voice, but then have your own, but then never do a Guy Ritchie pastiche, because I think we've seen that before, and it never really quite works."

For longtime collaborator Vinnie Jones, he stressed that Ritchie has a great rapport with actors, including really expanding the type of roles we're used to seeing Jones take on.

"I was at his house the other day and Jake Gyllenhaal was there having dinner," Jones shared.

"Guy kind of created me as an actor, I think he might be putting the second layer on, so people see the second layer of me. He might have thought, ... now I'm going to show everybody that he's got more to bashing people up in car doors as an actor."

For the incomparable Ray Winstone, he's enjoyed seeing the progression of Ritchie's work throughout the years, but never thought that in his 60s he'd be offered a role in one of his projects.

"You read the script and then the first bit you read is, he's doing 10 years in prison, the character, and he's having a barbecue, and he's got a Japanese chef. It's ridiculous," Winstone said. "Then you realize that you're still talking about reality in a lot of ways, ... because life is quite surreal anyway."

"It feels different when you go to work on a set like that and it kind of gives you that little buzz again, that you probably had when you had done things years ago that you really loved doing. It gave me a little injection, if you like, of still enjoying the business that you're in. It's not always the way."

But Max Beesley added, in a separate interview, that no matter how prepared you are, you have to be on your toes on a Ritchie project.

"What makes it interesting with Guy is, it's just testing, it's a challenge in as much as he shapes work," he explained. "You can prep, you can learn things, and you can have specific choices that you want to make for the character, ... and then Guy may come in and just go, boom, no, this is going to be that. ... And actually, you are now going to play this angle. And it's a full 180-degree switch and you go, OK, and you try it and you trust him, because of the history of what he's done over the last 30 years."

"That's exciting to me. That's really exciting to me as an actor."