‘Our Flag Means Death’: Leslie Jones on Her Pirate Transformation for HBO Max’s Comedy
TV watchers have come to know Leslie Jones in various roles over the years, whether it’s her many sketches on Saturday Night Live or her game show hosting gig with Supermarket Sweep, but she’s taking on a new part in HBO Max‘s Our Flag Means Death.
The pirate-centric comedy introduces viewers to Spanish Jackie, a hardened but charismatic woman with many husbands and a bone to pick with one of Stede Bonnet’s (Rhys Darby) crew. Already introduced in the show’s first round of episodes, Jones will continue to entertain as Spanish Jackie with the addition of new installments on the streamer.
Below, Jones opens up about her role, preparing for fight scenes, and transforming into a pirate.
How did you first become involved with the project and what made you want to play Spanish Jackie?
Leslie Jones: Well, they hit me with the script and they told me I get to play a pirate and I was like, “Oh, definitely sign me up.” She had a wooden hand and she was going to have 20 husbands. I was like, “Come on. I got to be on board with that. Got to be.” And Taika, I definitely wanted to work with him.
Spanish Jackie is quite the character. How did she get that nickname? Is there a backstory to that?
That’s going to have to probably be something that they explain down the line because everybody asks me, “[Are] you Spanish?” I think it has something to do with a dude, with one of her ex-husbands or something, because I don’t think she’s Spanish.
Speaking of husbands, Fred Armisen plays one of your many. What was it like getting to work with him and build that dominating dynamic?
I think that’s something that Fred and I always wanted to do anyway because we’ve worked together before. So him being my husband, it was just a sweet setup for us to work off each other. It was just so fun. I think that’s going to be something that people love. People are going to be like, “They love each other. She just has to be mean to him. But she loves him.”
Spanish Jackie’s bar has some interesting cocktails. If you had to pick a jar to drink from, which one would it be?
Definitely not from the nose jar. Spanish Jackie is drinking the hardest ale from the father’s land. She might get scotch when she robs some rich people, but she gets the good stuff.
Along with getting to act alongside Armisen, you’re also playing in a pirate’s world. What were the sets like?
It was so dope. I think they built this commune in the middle of the valley. It was kind of crazy. It was already castle-like, and then they went in there and just made a whole [world]… it was incredible. They spent time on it.
And will Spanish Jackie be gracing the screen again soon?
Oh, yeah. She’s definitely going to show up again. I love the fight scenes that we have. Our stunt coordinator, Steven Brown, was so awesome. He made us look like we knew what we were doing. But yes, definitely, she shows up down the line.
Thinking about action, there’s a definite grudge between Jim (Vico Ortiz) and Spanish Jackie. Does it run deeper than revenge?
I think it’s a little bit of everything. It’s that thing of like, “Well, if you kill one of my husbands, then now you’re threatening my superiority. Now I’ve got to go and avenge him because if I don’t avenge him, I’m going to look soft.”
With that in mind, will that grudge turn into the action sequence you teased?
We had to definitely train for a little while to learn how to do knife fights and fighting movements. [Steven Brown] was so good because I was very scared that I was going to look like an idiot. He was like, “No, you’re not.” Vico and I rehearsed a lot for our scene together.
Spanish Jackie also wears a sweet pirate outfit. Did the costume designers collaborate with you on the look?
[The costume designer] was already prepared to make Spanish Jackie appealing and sexy and charming because she has 20 husbands. So how else would I get that if I wasn’t showing that I had a nice body? So all of the stuff is very bohemian with the ruffles and the shaping, like the vests that shaped me at the waist and then the boots that came all the way up. The colors that I got to use… I had a purple one at one point. I have some great wardrobe. She killed it. I was so happy because I thought they were going to have me looking like a rugged pirate, which I wouldn’t have minded, but I was like, “How’s a rugged pirate get 20 husbands?” She was like, “This is how.” So it’s very nice. I love the wardrobe.
Jackie’s outfits are certainly stunning. And in a show that’s loosely based on real-life figures, is your character also based in history?
I’m not really sure about that, but I would not doubt that there wasn’t a strong female pirate out there doing her thing too.
There had to have been.
That’s the backstory I went with, that she’s probably the only black female pirate out there intimidating other pirates, making them scared. I was just telling somebody else, she’s a female Blackbeard.