Theo James felt no pressure to lead The Gentlemen show despite film’s success

Theo James said he did not feel the pressure to lead the cast of the new Netflix version of The Gentlemen, despite the success of the 2019 Guy Ritchie film of the same name.

The upcoming series sees aristocrat Eddie Horniman, played by The White Lotus star James, inherit his family’s country estate, only to later discover that it is part of a cannabis empire and its proprietors do not plan to go anywhere.

Created by British filmmaker Ritchie, the action comedy stars The Maze Runner actress Kaya Scodelario, Lovesick actor Daniel Ings, Nip/Tuck star Joely Richardson, Snatch actor Vinnie Jones, Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito, and screen veteran Ray Winstone.

The Gentlemen premiere
Ray Winstone at the premiere of The Gentlemen at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane (Aaron Chown/PA)

Speaking to the PA news agency at the London premiere of the series, James said “no, I don’t think so” when asked if it was daunting to follow in the footsteps of the hit film starring Matthew McConaughey and Colin Farrell.

“This is a very different world and I was glad for that.

“I think people assume it is a continuation of the movie, but it’s set in a world of The Gentlemen but it is a completely different story, completely different characters and I felt like it was different enough.

“This is specifically the idea of mashing two genres together. The aristocracy blended with the criminal underworld and when they collide, what happens.”

James described the series as a “learning curve” for his character, who enters an unknown world and is coached through it by Susie and Bobby Glass, played by Scodelario and Winstone, before he gets “hungrier for it, for power, for money, for violence, and that kind of blackens his soul”, James added.

The Gentlemen premiere
Theo James attended the premiere (Aaron Chown/PA)

Winstone described the show as being about “how the working-class criminal manipulated the aristocrat”, and also “about families coming together”.

He also said of working with Ritchie: “You get the script and you learn it. As long as you learn it and you know what the character is all about, because he’ll change it, as long as you’re on the ball and you’re there, you go with the flow.

“If you go with the flow, you’ll get something better and you’ll enjoy it much more, and I certainly did.

“I enjoy working that way anyway, keeps you on your toes.”

Ritchie is creator, co-writer, co-director and co-executive producer of the eight-part series.

The Gentlemen premiere
Guy Ritchie attending the premiere of Netflix series The Gentlemen at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London (Aaron Chown/PA)

He told PA: “I love my job and I like doing what I’m doing”, but added it was a question for the fans why the original film was so popular.

Among the star-studded arrivals was former England footballer David Beckham, who is friends with Ritchie and made a cameo appearance in his 2017 film King Arthur.

British star Max Beesley, who worked with Ritchie on action-comedy Operation Fortune last year, described the director as “very interesting”.

“He is like a jazz musician, Guy, he is a very high-octane, accomplished jazz musician, a leader of a band and he comes on and he listens to the music, the script, and he goes ‘let’s change that’ and you have to just adapt,” he told PA.

“It’s a skill-set that actors should really be able to do. Some find it more comfortable than others and I really like it, and I like working with him because he is very, very sharp, and he doesn’t miss a thing, so it’s a little bit more of a high-pressure deal because you’ve got to deliver – but I love it.”

Beesley, who plays smooth-tongued and self-assured promoter Henry Collins in the new series, also said he “thrives” on playing this type of character.

The Gentlemen premiere
Chanel Cresswell (Aaron Chown/PA)

This Is England star Chanel Cresswell, who plays Tammy Horniman, described working with Ritchie as “amazing”.

“He’s very cool with people finding their own character and exploring that,” she told PA.

“That is one thing that I’m really surprised with because the last time I experienced that was with Shane Meadows, and when I worked with Guy it was actually very similar, he was just amazing at letting you exhume your own character and going with it, so I think that was really rewarding as an actor.

“He gives so much time to each individual person as well, which was really nice. I was really lucky to work with him.”

British star Josh Finan, who plays a Liverpudlian gang member in The Gentlemen, said joining the cast was a “great introduction” to Ritchie, of whom he has been a fan for years.

“I think there’s a real freedom and playfulness that comes with him that lends itself… so in the edit, the snappiness and quickfire stuff comes into play, but you’re never stressed out on his set. I felt very comfortable to play and relax and have fun.”

The Gentlemen premiere
Ray Winstone and Giancarlo Esposito attending the premiere of Netflix series The Gentlemen at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London (Aaron Chown/PA)

Esposito, who plays Stanley Johnston aka Uncle Stan, said he prepared for the role as a wealthy American with a fascination for the history of the British upper-classes by visiting “really great restaurants” and spending “a lot of money on clothes”.

“That prepared me for someone who has the world as his oyster,” he said at the premiere.

Pearce Quigley, who plays Liverpudlian drug dealer Gospel John, described his character as a “psychotic, Bible-bashing lunatic who you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley”.

The Gentlemen series will launch on Netflix on March 7.