Don’t let the name throw you. “The English” is a western, set primarily in 1890. It’s also the term that Indigenous Americans gave to foreign interlopers, regardless of nationality, who came West seeking their fortunes no matter the cost. Writer-director-executive producer Hugo Blick (“The Honorable Woman”) created a tale that is by turns eerie, grisly and beautiful.
Emily Blunt plays Lady Cornelia Locke, driven from England to America by grief and vengeance. She meets Eli Whipp (Chaske Spencer), a Pawnee ex-cavalry scout, as he tries to make his way back to a home that no longer awaits him. Discussing his inspiration via email, Blick writes, “When a country is reforged, for those who stand in its way, the dreams turn to nightmares. I was interested to tell a love story about two very different people who stood in the way.”
Speaking by Zoom, decked out in a shimmering white dress with a high neckline that would suit Cornelia, Blunt, who also served as an executive producer on the Amazon limited series, is happy to revisit a character she doesn’t really want to shake.
This tale is full of unexpected turns with extra half-twists on top. Is that what first hooked you when you read the scripts?
I was completely captivated by being endlessly surprised and knocked sideways by it. It is the kind of show that cuts you off at the knees when you think you’re walking in the right direction. I was always stunned by the body count alone, by the people who were mercilessly done away with, with such velocity. But what’s beautiful and brilliant about Hugo Blick is that there’s something joyous about the way he writes — “Oh, you like that character? They’re gone now, but I’ve got 10 more, and wait for this.” — and such confidence in how he would create the next saga and the next obstacle and the next bout of violence. There’s joy in it, and I felt that in the script.
Cornelia does her part to raise that body count.
That was very exciting to play, because she seems to want to enact revenge with quite a lot of enthusiasm and positivity, and she’s quite frank about it, and seems to live rather fearlessly. And then you’ve got the humanity of the aftermath of those moments, of how she reckons with what she’s just done. I do like that her guilt about doing away with people dwindles as the series goes on, because she knows she’s heading with this great propulsion toward her final destination of the big bad wolf.
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