The Gentlemen – Criminals and aristocrats collide with funny, compelling, dramatic and thought-provoking results

Inspired by the award-winning director’s 2019 movie of the same name, featuring a new cast of
characters, it’s set in the same heightened and often hilarious world of toffs and gangsters; one with
the breeding and the birthright, the other with the brawn and the belligerence.

So rich and familiar was the territory of The Gentlemen that, far from worrying that he might run out of inspiration over such an extended format, he relished the challenge.

“If anything, I had too much material to work with rather than too little,” Richie says. “There was such a
deluge of characters and narratives in my head that squeezing them all in was always going to be the
real problem.”

The Gentlemen, is the adrenaline-fueled story of Eddie Horniman (Theo James) an army officer, who returns from active service abroad to be at his father’s deathbed. At the reading of the will Eddie discovers his father, The Duke of Halstead (played by Edward Fox) has disinherited the elder son, Freddy (Daniel Ings), leaving the estate and title to himself, ‘the spare’.

Pictured above: The main ensemble of the first season of The Gentlemen: Eddie Horniman (Theo James), Susie Glass (Kaya Scodelario), Freddy Horniman (Daniel Ings), Lady Sabrina (Joely Richardson), Uncle Stan (Giancarlo Esposito), Jimmy Chang (Michael Vu), Bobby Glass (Ray Winstone), Jimmy Chang (Michael Vu), Tommy Dixon (Peter Serafinowicz), Geoff Seacombe (Vinnie Jones). Creadit: Alex De Mora / © 2023, Netflix Inc.

“Then he has to navigate not just having usurped his brother, who happens to have a big drugs and
gambling problem, but also problems that come from discovering his father had gone into business
with a cannabis cartel who run an underground weed farm on the estate,” Ritchie explains.

“He wants to extract himself from the exotic frequency of this particular business, but then Freddy
reveals he owes a huge financial debt to the wrong kind of people and helping him out of it will mean
striking deals with the same criminal underworld he’s trying to escape.

“But, then, the more he gets involved in criminality the more he finds himself beguiled by it. So let’s just
say there are going to be some far reaching consequences to helping his brother out.”

Guy Ritchie on the set of The Gentlemen. Credit Kevin Baker/Netflix / © 2022, Netflix Inc.

It helped that co-writer, Matthew Read was able to add his extensive experience of long form TV to
Ritchie’s unique vision of a world in which criminals and aristocrats collide with funny, compelling,
dramatic and thought-provoking results.

“The ambition for me was to take the world that Guy created in the original movie and expand into a
sort of sandpit that he could play in over an extended eight part series,” he says.

There are also going to be some classic Ritchie themes in the show – not least the one revolving
around that great British obsession, class.

“A lot of Guy’s work touches on class,” says Matthew Read, “and it’s still important to a lot of the stories
we tell in Britain.”

“In The Gentlemen, the central idea of aristocrats teaming up with working class criminals creates a
friction and a tension which is really dramatic. But, again, as in all Guy’s stories, including this one, it’s
not just the differences between the two, but the common ground they share that’s really interesting.”
The similarities, both writers agreed, include, shall we say, a talent for thieving. “And aren’t the
aristocracy the original gangsters?” Ritchie asks.

“Historically, after all, families like Eddie’s stole the land and everything that they own from the ordinary
people,” adds Read. “So there’s always that connection between the old aristocrat and the modern

Where they differ says Ritchie is in their approach to money. “The aristocracy is somewhat
embarrassed by money and the old-fashioned way it receives it. It tries to hide its wealth, whereas new
money likes to show it off.

“But when you put the two together, the old money rubs off a bit on the new and the new rubs off a bit
on the old. And that fusion of the two is really where all the fun lies.”

This leads neatly to what both writers describe as the central theme of The Gentlemen: the opposing
worlds of the zoo and the jungle.

“The zoo is a cosseted world where everything is handed to you on plate; the jungle means hunting to
survive,” explains Read.

Theo James and Guy Ritchie during filming of The Gentlemen. Credit: Christopher Rafael/Netflix / © 2023, Netflix Inc.

“Eddie, has been brought up in the zoo and, though serving in the army has given him certain skills,
they’re not enough to survive the criminal world, or the jungle.

“So, his arc is trying to arrive at a place where he has the capability to hunt in the jungle but to sleep in
the zoo,” Ritchie adds. “And to do that he’s going to have to reconcile those two disparate human sides
that maybe all of us have to some extent.”

For Read, the initial challenges included adapting to Richie’s unique way of working.

“It’s a very organic process,” he explains. “On the day of filming, we’d rewrite stuff on the spot, which
creates a very unique energy. You can only do that if you have great actors and if you have Guy’s
technical skills and instincts. It felt like capturing lightning in a bottle and very few directors can do it in
the way that Guy does.”

Guy Ritchie during filming of The Gentlemen. Christopher Rafael/Netflix / © 2023, Netflix Inc.

Their main cast, both writers agree, were key and also developed an instinctive understanding of the
process. In every case, they add, each actor had been their first choice for the role.

“Theo James felt like a natural to play Eddie,” says Ritchie.

“He has a magnetism and a steeliness that earths the show,” Read adds.

Says James: When Guy Ritchie and I first discussed the role, he talked about wanting to create a kind of Breaking Bad story. So, Eddie is essentially a good man who finds himself corrupted through the course of
criminality. The idea of man-versus-beast – and both forming part of a man’s nature – runs through The
Gentlemen, and Eddie has strong elements of both. You can also believe that, over time, once he’s
stepped into the dark side, he could easily remain there and become quite a dangerous person, which
was fun and fascinating to play… For me, what defines Guy’s work is the slightly heightened world that he imagines, which he described to me as, ‘reality with a seven percent twist.’ What he’s always created in his films, and now in this series, is a world that exists on a razor edge between comedy, drama and action. If you tip too much into drama in a Guy Ritchie project it becomes melodrama. If you tip too much into comedy it becomes too high-jinxed and farcical. And if you tip too much into action it becomes a straight up action film. Guy directed only the first two episodes and the challenge was to maintain that tone throughout because it’s so specific. We worked really hard on threading all the needles, just as Guy does, and I think we succeeded.”

Vinnie Jones returning to the Ritchie fold two decades after Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and
Snatch, to play gamekeeper Geoff Seacombe, was another coup for the production. “There’s been a
hole in my soul in the shape of Vinnie Jones for the last 20 years,” Ritchie says. “I was so happy to have
him back.”

Lest you imagine that Vinnie’s return must define The Gentlemen as a macho tale for the boys, Kaya
Scodelario as the unshakably sassy Susie Glass brings balance.

“It was always a priority of ours to have a very strong female character at the heart of the show, who has
her own agency and is really running things,” says Read. “And Kaya delivers a mixture of charisma, flair
and credibility as the daughter running her family’s weed empire, while her father is in prison.”

Susie’s strength is matched only by Freddy’s buffoonery and the show’s comedy owes much to Daniel
Ings’ performance. “But aside from bringing the laughs, which he does brilliantly, there’s also a
vulnerability at the heart of his performance,” says Read. “It’s very, very nuanced.”

Some of the show’s most memorable scenes belong to Freddy, including the one in which he must
appease Liverpool cartel boss, Tommy Dixon, (Peter Serafinowicz) by dancing and singing in a full
chicken outfit.