Gary Oldman Embraced the ‘Liberating’ Nature of ‘Slow Horses’ Role: ‘What You See Is What You Get’ | Wrap Video

Oldman and writer/EP Will Smith unpack the unexpected humor of the spy series in TheWrap’s “How I Did It,” sponsored by Apple TV+

Apple TV’s British spy series “Slow Horses,” which is based on the books by Mick Herron, has it share of tense standoffs, nail-biting chases and characters being put in jeopardy, but it also has a healthy dose of humor.

Series lead Gary Oldman and director Will Smith sat down with TheWrap to explain how they approach the show, especially Oldman’s deliberately unkempt character, Jackson Lamb, in a new installment of TheWrap’s “How I Did It” sponsored by Apple TV+. As Oldman says, Lamb, a veteran MI5 spy who’s been relegated to the backwaters of Slough House, “doesn’t stand on ceremony.”

The series has already had two tense seasons and will be back for a third and fourth round, with Oldman keen to keep playing the delightfully “obnoxious and rude” character.

“Slow Horses” is the first TV series for the Oscar-winning actor, whose films include “Darkest Hour,” “Tailor Tinker Soldier Spy,” and “Mank.” “With film, you only really get to do it once. I love long-form and I’ve always envied those actors who could inhabit a character over many, many episodes,” Oldman said. “I was looking for something: British spy, fascinating characters and [this] just sort of fell from the sky.”

British writer Will Smith, who won two Emmys for his work on “Veep,” has penned several of the episodes. “I was never worried about the balance of comedy and drama. All the best dramas, great American dramas that I love, all have massive influence on me — ‘The Sopranos,’ ‘The Wire’ — they have comedy and it doesn’t detract from it.”

One of the sources of humor is Oldman’s character, who always looks like he’s slept in his clothes and who, in one funny Season 2 scene, noisily slurps noodles in front of one of his agents, River Cartwright (Jack Lowden.)

“The noodles [scene] isn’t in the book,” explained Smith. “It says in the script that Lamb is eating noodles and they’re kind of [falling] out his mouth and it’s disgusting. That’s at the top of the scene, but it’s what you did within that scene with the way you were eating.”

“It’s also part of his character, though, the disrespect to people, not standing on ceremony that he’s going to just keep eating in front of people and that’s part of his way of showing what he thinks of people,” added Smith.

“He doesn’t give an ‘f,’” Oldman agreed. “What you see is what you get. So there’s something very liberating about being able to dismiss people and insult them. It’s the last thing I would want to do as Gary, because the cast is so lovely. It’s such a great bunch of people, but when we’re in the scene, it is just so funny, playing a character who’s so obnoxious and so rude.”

As for the logistics of shooting the scene in question? “It was like a whole morning’s work. You’ve had 17 bowls of noodles and then they say okay, yeah, we’re breaking for lunch. I think I might skip lunch,” Oldman grinned.