Theo James, Kaya Scodelario, Vinnie Jones, Daniel Ings and Max Beesley on Guy Ritchie's new Netflix series The Gentlemen

Actors Theo James, Kaya Scodelario, Vinnie Jones, Daniel Ings and Max Beesley talk about working with Guy Ritchie on his new Netflix series.

From The Sopranos to Peaky Blinders, we love to see gangsters on screen – but what if those criminals were actually the British aristocracy?

That is the question director Guy Ritchie asks in new Netflix series The Gentlemen, inspired by his 2019 film of the same name.

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It stars White Lotus actor Theo James as Eddie Horniman, a young aristocrat who unexpectedly inherits his father’s country estate, only to discover it’s part of a cannabis empire, and his riches were actually obtained rather insidiously.

Kaya Scodelario as Susie Glass. Credit: Christopher Rafael/Netflix.Kaya Scodelario as Susie Glass. Credit: Christopher Rafael/Netflix.
Kaya Scodelario as Susie Glass. Credit: Christopher Rafael/Netflix.

Returning army officer Eddie initially wants to extricate himself from this criminal underworld, but as the show goes on, the allure of the gangster lifestyle only grows.

Eddie is “a moral man” who never believes he will fall into the gangster lifestyle, James, 39, says.

“But by the end, he is totally seduced and overcome by it.”

Ray Winstone as Bobby Glass in The Gentlemen. Credit: Christopher Rafael/Netflix.Ray Winstone as Bobby Glass in The Gentlemen. Credit: Christopher Rafael/Netflix.
Ray Winstone as Bobby Glass in The Gentlemen. Credit: Christopher Rafael/Netflix.
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James was particularly taken by this idea of the upper classes playing just as dirty as run-of-the-mill criminals.

“The aristocracy are the original gangsters, in the sense that they set up a system where they could control wealth intergenerationally,” he says.

And there is a reason the gangster genre is so beloved, James suggests.

“I think we all love the idea of bending the law to our will – and also ascension stories are really interesting.

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“The idea of coming from nothing and building yourself up to status in a way.

“That’s what Guy (Ritchie) is saying – to be pretentious about it, because it’s essentially a fun show.

“But the idea that the infrastructure and architecture of gangster crime families isn’t that different from high society.

“That’s why they call the royal family ‘The Firm’, don’t they – it’s the same kind of idea.”

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Max Beesley, who plays a promoter with a dark side on the show, adds: “We do love a gangster story.

“There is something very appealing – you look at movies like Goodfellas and you like those guys.

“Someone was talking to me the other day about Griselda (a recent Netflix show about a Colombian drug lord played by Sofia Vergara) and saying, ‘Wasn’t she amazing’.

“I’m like, ‘Yeah, but she did shoot two-year-old children to death. So not that amazing’.

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“When you really peel the onion back and look at the core elements of these sociopathic psychotics, they’re not that appealing.

“But the glamour – they’re quite sexy in some way.

“I think it’s the power – when I was a youngster I used to meet some quite unsavoury characters.

“I was always quite impressed by the power, but then you get older, you realise no, they don’t stand for what I want to be.

“I want to be kind and gentle to people.”

Skins star Kaya Scodelario, who plays crime boss Susie Glass in The Gentlemen, says Britain’s obsession with class is central to the show.

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“The class system in the UK is so fundamentally British, it’s such a part of the fabric of our society and it goes back as long as time,” she explains.

“It’s the idea of exploring who the real gangster is, each side is judging the other, when in reality, they’re on an even keel.

“They’re just as bad as each other. It’s just about how each side can utilise that better and take advantage – they both need one another, it’s a symbiotic relationship.

“That’s something we can all understand.

“We live in a country where we see that, we see the haves and have nots and we have this obvious class system that we’re all a part of. It’s interesting to explore all the sides of that.”

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Ritchie created, produced and wrote the show, while also directing the first two episodes, and it sees him treading familiar ground: the British criminal underworld seen in his first two films, Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch.

But for Scodelario – whose character is in charge of the criminal operation while her father, Bobby Glass, played by Ray Winstone, is in prison – there’s a major difference to some of those early films.

“I was excited to see what Guy and the producers were going to do with a female character that we probably haven’t seen before in his universe,” she says of why she wanted to join the project.

“I really liked the idea of her being the smartest person in the room and the scariest person in the room without anyone knowing.”

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There are some familiar faces from Ritchie’s cinematic universe, such as Vinnie Jones, 59, the former footballer at Leeds United (which he helped win promotion to the First Division in 1990) and Sheffield United, whose first acting role was in Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels. This time round he takes on the mantle of Geoff, the country estate’s gamekeeper.

He says: “It’s my world: the boxing, the travellers, the posh geezers, the Londoners and all that – that was my first movie, so I’m well at home.”

But not everyone was so familiar with Ritchie’s approach. “Working with Guy is quite a unique experience and it took a couple of days to trust myself and trust his process, because it’s a different way of working – changing the lines on the day, coming up with the story as you go along,” Scodelario, 31, says.

“He’s usually quite close to the camera and feeding you lines as you’re in the performance and that can be quite jarring, but it was cool – it was like a crash course in a completely different style of acting. Not being formally trained, I love learning anything I can about this craft and this skill.”

The Gentlemen comes to Netflix on March 7.

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