The FX limited series Pistol, which will be released on Hulu, explores the story of a working-class young man with an imagined future that was so harsh and chaotic it changed culture and culture forever. While the band was far from ready for the spotlight, the world was prepared for the rage of punk rockers who didn''t just want to shake up the Establishment, but to set it on fire and burn it to the ground.
During this 1-on-1 conversation with Collider, co-stars Louis Partridge and Emma Appleton, who play Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen, talked about how much band camp facilitated them to learn cast chemistry, explore the individual behind the persona, performing live on set, and discussing how their characters each had a relationship with Chrissie Hynde (Sydney Chandler) and how it was like to leave these characters behind.
Collider: How did you prepare for these roles?
LOUIS PARTRIDGE: We had the luxury of having a two-month band camp where we focused on everything we could, accepted information, and learned more about our lines, our accents, and our movement. For Danny, that was something he always wanted to do, because he wanted that authenticity throughout. It all took place, then. Emma came in with a banging accent and triggered the tone. We all went away and did our homework.
EMMA APPLETON: These months of rehearsal were so essential to all the chemistry on set, and the visceral quality, and the energy that you get. No one was second-guessing themselves. Usually, you turn up and its your first day on set, and youre meeting people for the first time, and everyone else is attempting to find their feet. But wed discovered our feet by then, in terms of settling into our characters.
PARTRIDGE: We were all truly friends. We all got on, and we had the time to get on. It was during the epidemic, so the bond was true.
Emma, what was it like to be able to discover this character? How did you think about how you wanted to depict her?
APPLETON: It was a challenging process. It turns out I knew nothing at all. I read her mother''s book because she was really interested in understanding her beginnings and how she ends up in the theater where she sees her smiling. All of that was important, as was the voice and the physicality. It was also important to be aware that I was not going to imitate, but be able to compose Nancy''s character as part of my upcoming episode five.
One of the most interesting things about Sid Vicious is that even if you have never heard a Sex Pistols song, you still know who they are, Sid vicious. Louis, what was his intention to embody someone like that, and what made you most nervous about learning about his appearance?
PARTRIDGE: It''s fascinating how that happens. It blows my mind how you know that one of their songs has died, but that you have not experienced them yet. It''s wild, the way that he was preserved. It felt like a massive challenge. At that time, I was contemplating a script and studying the lines. It was then down to all of these elements. It''s true that a person is not only a character, but also a character. It''s really quite simple.
APPLETON: Exactly. The key was getting the script. Basically, when you look at the script, it''s just a human being. You''re saying these words, and then everything else is created around it. If youre being truthful, then the rest [falls into line].
So did you guys have a set in which it felt less like, Okay, im an actor playing this role, and more like, Oh my God, this is the Sex Pistols, or this is Sid and Nancy?
APPLETON: It''s the most immersive acting experience I''ve ever had, to the point where we would accidentally go into the voice. Even if we were on stage, Id ask [Louis] to pass me something and the voice would happen. It was so much fun, and everyone was totally certain that they would attend it. And the gigs were fantastic. You would be completely lost in it, however.
PARTRIDGE: Because you couldnt be, cameras would be in the crowd, so you just had to do your thing for two minutes or whatever time the scene took. When you were there on stage, you werent really thinking about character. It was amazing.
APPLETON: You weren''t thinking, you were just doing it. There were long hours that youd just get lost in. It was a fantastic moment.
Louis, did you feel that you had to go through a process to determine who he will be on stage and how he would run himself off-stage?
PARTRIDGE: Both people are amazing because of their personalities and their fun. I liked to do all of Sid''s cool things. I got to do all of the cool things that Sid did, but it was a real pleasure to have one without the other, so I was happy to be able to play the other side and feel he was doing him so.
Emma, how did you ultimately see Nancy as a person? She is someone we remember the tragedy of, but what are the things you want people to know about her outside?
APPLETON: The key thing for me was that we have never seen her before; there are so many things weve learned, and many stories you hear. I just wanted to make and demonstrate a different side to Nancy, rather than the stereotypical Nancy that we have seen. I can only say that we have more people than ourselves. I felt like it with Sid. There was the persona on stage, and then theres who you are when youre lonely or scared. Emma was also an inspiration. I wanted to bring all of
When we get the moment between her and Chrissie Hynde, we see another side of Nancy that we haven''t really seen until that moment. What did you like about this dynamic?
APPLETON: It was an easy film to see Sydney [Chandler], who plays Chrissie, was just amazing. It was really important to me to see these two extremes when she first comes in. Shes always operating on a high level, and she''s got a lot of energy when she comes back in. She feels comfortable, wants to have friends, and she wants to be understood. I hope all of that was discovered in the film.
Louis, that moment with Chrissie visiting Sid in the hospital is really joyous. What was it like to discover that dynamic and really discover the vulnerability behind Sid Vicious''s persona?
PARTRIDGE: From what I collected, he was quite a sensitive soul or quite a fragile soul. It was a very good feeling. I really loved these scenes, especially that one with Chrissie in the hospital. So much is implied there, about their friendship, without even having to see them beforehand. It was always a pleasure to meet her at the bed next to me, but she was also very helpful. She told us to be kind, compassionate and supportive.
We know how the Sex Pistols behave about Malcolm McLaren, but how did you feel about him and what he did with the Sex Pistols?
APPLETON: It''s a fantastic character, and what Thomas [Brodie-Sangster] does with it is amazing. He is an adept dodger, but is adept at manipulating and teasing feathers, like a provocateur.
PARTRIDGE: Hes so many things at once.
APPLETON: Various things, as well. You cant quite put your finger on it with him.
PARTRIDGE: Yes, that''s a character to take on. Hats off to Thomas.
He appears to be the guy you want on your side, until you want to get rid of him.
Yes! PARTRIDGE: Yes!
APPLETON: All of these characters are so impressive, and they have a lot of things at once, which is what makes them so special as individuals.
How did you just let these characters go at the end of the rehearsal, the band camp, and all the time you spent living with them? Was it more difficult than usual? How did you remove them?
APPLETON: Although I spent less time in my character than [Louis] did, I also went straight onto another job. That meant that she had to leave. I think there will always be a little bit of Nancy. I am sure the character will always be strong. It was very simple for me to transition.
PARTRIDGE: I felt awesome because I did not have any difficulty dealing with something immediately pressing. I did have a strange phase. I have never been so broad into character, and it helps that he was a real person, as well. I feel a lot for Sid. It''s the most rewarding thing when people who knew him say, "We did a good job playing them." So, I think there will always be a little bit of Sid there.
Because people do not have a lot of respect for him, did you feel like the guardian of the character and the individual?
PARTRIDGE: Yeah, and quite a lot of people I meet. I was in a taxi cab once and I told him that I was putting Sid Vicious bass down. I was like, you did what? I thought it was bollocks, but many people have things to say about him. I bet that Emma also feels quite protective of Nancy.
APPLETON: When you play a real person, there is a part of me that is protective. I would say that I feel like a guardian over her as a person, because I cant claim that I know her. In that respect, I have had to distance myself. I feel as though I am a guardian for character and interpretation.
Pistol is available at Hulu.